From the top of the white Shawangunk Conglomerate known locally as Bonticou Crag on a clear day, you can, to paraphrase, see forever. From the summit, studded with ever-present pitch pines, there are on that clear day spectacular views of the Catskills to the northwest, to the Stissing Mountains and Dutchess County to the northeast, and to the Hudson Highlands to the southeast. New Paltz village sits below.
Though It’s a great climb, it ain’t easy. The Bonticou ascent path goes over giant talus fragments and steeply ascends the jagged rock face of the crag, requiring climbing over ledges and through crevices. This rock scramble, which takes the use of both hands and feet, should not be attempted by those who lack agility and confidence. It’s considered to be the most difficult rock scramble in the Mohonk area, and climbing to the summit will probably take close to 20 minutes. For an easier route to the top there is an alternate ascent path. Follow the yellow markers, which follows a more gradual route to the top of the crag.
The entrance to the access point to the Bonticou Crag is from Spring Farm on Upper 27 Knolls Road off Mohonk Mountain Road (on the backside of the mountain house toward High Falls and Alligerville). At the Spring Farm parking lot a ranger at the trailhead kiosk will direct you to the crag trail, provide you a map, and collect the $10-per-person fee for the Mohonk Preserve. From there, you’re on your own.
You have to go to Awosting Falls to believe it. Situated below the fabled Lake Minnewaska, now state-owned, the 75-foot falls can be reached either from the top, via the entrance way to the lake and a pleasant walk down along a carriage road, or in a more spectacular way requiring a half-mile walk through the verdant forest of laurels and pine along the same carriage path (in the opposite direction and from a secluded entrance blocked by a big stone a quarter-mile before the lake entrance, headed to Kerhonkson on Route 44/55). At first you hear the crashing falls, and then you see them, the water cascading into the pool below. It’s a great introduction to a veritable paradise.
There is a $10-per-person fee to the falls from the Minnewaska entrance. You might be able to avoid the fee by using the alternate route, but the rangers do come around.