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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bear Hill Nature Preserve(Shawangunks)

Visited the 50 acre Bear Hill Nature Preserve in Cragsmoor on a frigid morning, with temperatures hovering near zero.  The preserve is an unknown jewel tucked away among the much more well known view points in the Shawangunks.  To find the preserve, take Route 52 to Cragsmoor Road, which you will follow for 1.4 miles, and then turn left onto Dellenbaugh Road and follow it for about half a mile to the parking lot on the left.
The trail is not marked but easy to follow beyond the parking lot.  In the summer season there is a nominal fee to hike here.
It is a short .8 mile hike one way to the open rock viewpoints on Bear Hill.  There are fantastic views south and west from the wide open ledges.
 Southwest facing views.
South views towards the Shawangunk Ridge.
West views.
This is a really fun area to explore, with scenic vistas all around, but it can be dangerous if you are not careful.  The drop offs are very steep.
 A look down at the caves below the summit.  This is a very steep drop off here so good footing is essential. I had read that there is an unmarked foot path down to the caves, but the combination of drifted snow and ice made an easy decision to skip this.
I continued on past the view points through the woods to the 1970 foot summit area, which was covered in thick mountain laurel.  There didn't appear to be a trail of any kind, and the snow was fairly deep in this area.
Retraced my steps back to the car, for a total of about 1.75 miles RT.
I took Ulster County Route 7 back to New Paltz, thoroughly enjoying the incredible views.  The drive below the Gunks is always memorable, with their prominent cliffs rising above the valley below.
 Incredible view of the clifftops.

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