New Paltz Biking launches dropoff service to Shawangunk Ridge

(Photo by Erin Quinn)

If you’re one of those people who may like to bike, is interested in adventure, and wants to explore the Shawangunk Ridge without investing in all the gear, helmets, car racks and attire that it requires, there is now another option.

In an effort to get more people — local residents and visitors — to enjoy the century-old carriage trails that wind their way through the Gunks, New Paltz Biking is providing rentals and transportation from the Open Space Institute’s River-to-Ridge (R2R) trailhead in New Paltz to the West Trapps Parking Lot at the Mohonk Preserve on the weekends. The opportunity begins and ends at the R2R parking lot just off Mountain Rest Road, wedged between the Wallkill River, the blankets of cornfields and the foothills of the Shawangunks.

Craig Chapman, owner of New Paltz Biking and New Paltz Kayaking, provides the mountain bikes, helmets, day passes and transport to the West Trapps Parking Lot at 9 a.m. The renters are met back at the R2R trailhead at noon.

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This service has several benefits, says Chapman, including reducing parking at the West Trapps lot, which is often full to capacity on the weekends It helps people who might not have bike racks or vehicles transport bikes. It helps promote the preserve, which offers more than 8000 acres of protected land for nature-lovers to enjoy.

Since Chapman already has a trailer with his bike rentals already at the R2R trailhead (as well as a kayak rental trailer at Sojourner Truth Park along the riverbank in the Village of New Paltz), he can provide the proper-sized bikes and helmets to outdoor enthusiasts and then load up his van and take them to the top of the mountain.

Two of his recent clients were a father-and-daughter duo from central New Jersey who had been up for the weekend and went kayaking and hiking and camped at the Sam Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground. They were provided with a map of the preserve, day passes and Chapman’s contact number in case anything went wrong or they had questions — or wanted to alert him that they’d arrived back at the R2R trailhead. The father said that they had checked out of the campground and were looking for a way to sample rock-climbing without spending the entire day on foot. They found an ad for the New Paltz Biking expedition.

Once cyclists are dropped off at the West Trapps parking lot, they can ride or walk their bikes up the steep path to the intersection of the Undercliff/Overcliff Carriage Road loop. From that point, they can easily just wind down the mountain and take in the scenes of the climbers scaling the cliffs or boulders chalking up large chunks of conglomerate rock and then falling onto colorfully decorated pads.

They can see sweeping vistas of the Hudson Valley from Undercliff or the Catskill Mountain range along Overcliff, and then come to even more intersections where they can wind up toward Laurel Ledge and Humpty Dumpty, getting closer to the mountain house, or simply take the Oakwood Drive Carriage Road towards Glory Hill past Duck Pond to Pine Road and back up and down River-to-Ridge.

“You can make it as easy or as physically challenging as you want to,” said Chapman. One can easily just ride down the mountain, enjoy the woods and the shade and the views, and not exert oneself too much except for a few hills, or use the map and wind one’s way through endless miles of carriage roads over to the Split Rock watering hole, Cope’s Lookout, Awosting Falls. The variety of options is endless.

While Chapman transports people together, the experience is not a tour. There is no tour guide, so people can go their own way at their own speed. One local resident at the parking area thought what a great idea this would be when she had family visiting from out of town. “This is a great way for me to have them see why I love the area so much and to experience some of the beauty without me having to do all of the work,” said Sarah Miller. “I only have two bikes and I don’t own a bike rack, so this would be perfect.”

The cost is $50 per person, which comes with the day pass, bike rental and transport. Chapman, like the other local bike shops such as the Bicycle Rack and Bicycle Depot in downtown New Paltz, also provide regular bike rentals by the hour or day.

“This is the third weekend I’ve been doing this, and people have loved it. What’s most surprising to me is that this parking lot is not packed,” Chapman said, looking at the West Trapps lot, which was not even a third filled at 9 a.m. “Usually it’s at capacity by 10 a.m. I think the heat is really keeping people inside, but what they don’t realize is that when you get up here it’s a good ten degrees cooler.” The carriage roads are almost all shaded until one hits the meadows filled with wildflowers on Glory Hill or the River-to-Ridge Trail’s views of Skytop Tower and the waving farm fields.

Once cyclists have moved past the hub of rock climbers along the Trapps, the trails become suddenly cool and quiet, with only the occasional hiker, runner or cyclist whispering by. Mostly it’s just the sound of your own heartbeat, the dirt being kicked up by tires, and the darting of animals, or the cacophony of birds stringing notes together, forming a song as subtle as silence.

To learn more, go to www.npbiking.com or call 594-6353.

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