Climbs -- Up the Hills

The Hudson river valley has plenty of hills, and some of them have interesting  climbs.  These are some which are memorable for us. For riders with something more to prove, we have a special page: Very Steep climbs.

There are also some fun descents -- down the hills. 

what's here

see also


Bear Mountain

Perkins Memorial Drive is normally open in non-winter seasons for riding a bicycle all the way to the top of the mountain.  When you make it there you get great views of the Hudson River and surrounding hills and beyond -- also a tower with interesting historical photos on the walls.  Actually our favorite views are to continue past the top and down the other (East) side a little. [ see Map ]

The road up is mostly not real steep.  The main climb is called Perkins Memorial Drive, about 650 vertical feet in 2 miles, for an average grade around 6%, with one short section around 10%. Or if you start from Route 9W down by the Hudson River, the total is about 1250 vertical feet in 4.5 miles, average grade around 5%.  Going past the top down the East side for the extra nice view requires an additional 250 vertical feet of climbing in order to get back.  [not checked by us since 2008]

traffic: Perkins Memorial Drive itself is not wide and has some at least one curve with questionable visibility, but most drivers don't drive real fast on it because they don't know it well. The road connecting main Bear Mountain Park activities + lodge has some curves but is reasonably wide. Both of those sections can get lots of traffic on summer and fall-foliage weekends, but usually not much on non-holiday mid-week days. The lower section between the main Bear Mountain Park activities and Rt 9W South is not wide and has some curves, but it generally gets less traffic than the road between the Park activities and Perkins Drive.

getting there:  From the west end of the Bear Mountain Bridge or near the north end of the Palisades Interstate Parkway, look for signs for Bear Mountain Park and Perkins Memorial Drive.  But perhaps it's more fun to combine Bear Mountain with a larger route.  It is reached on these routes:  Seven Lakes to the River and NYC to Bear Mt Adventure, and near to Bear Mt to Newburgh-Beacon Bridge Loop and GWB to Bear Mt Bridge Loop.

Parking: There is no parking at the bottom of Perkins Memorial Drive at its intersection with the obvious road (? is it officially called "Seven Lakes Drive"?) between Palisades Interstate Parkway and the main Bear Mountain State Park sites + activities by Route 9W -- so you can't just park at the bottom of the main climb. There is limited parking at the top of Perkins Drive at the top of mountain -- but the main idea is to ride up to there, not drive it. The obvious large parking area (usually pay) is at the main Bear Mountain State Park sites and activities + lodge near Rt 9W and the Bear Mt Bridge. It's straightforward to get to Perkins Memorial Drive (by long uphill) from there. Or to do the longest climb, first descend to Rt 9W South from the main Bear Mountain Park area. There is also some limited parking by Rt 9W south of the main Park area, near Iona Island marsh on the Hudson River, and additional parking reached by a narrow road east from Rt 9W through the Iona Island marsh.

Mohonk West

Memorable for the beautiful surrounding country, and the unremitting final grunt.  Ride Ulster County Route 6 Eastbound from Alligerville to the Mohonk Mountain House gatehouse.  It's on these routes:  New Paltz to Ashokan and Great Shawangunk Hill Loop. [ see Map ]

size + steepness: From the low point where Clove Rd it crosses the Coxing Kill up to the underpass at the gatehouse is about 850 vertical feet.  The final slope after the last big curve right keeps getting a little steeper, with around 400 vertical ft averaging over 9-10% grade, including about 150 ft around 11%.  

traffic: The section above (east from) the intersection of with Rt 6A can have significant east-bound vehicle traffic (especially around morning rush hour). That includes the steepest section (which has curves). The road is not real narrow, but it's not especially wide either, and there's no marked shoulder. Not the place for weaving or losing control -- so consider walking the steeper section it it's not well within your capabilities.

Minnewaska East

Actually three climbs with little rest intervals in between.  Not the steepest or longest, but with interesting curves and beautiful scenery in the Shawangunk ridges in Ulster County.  This climb is on Route 44, southwest of New Paltz in Ulster County. Start from its intersection with Ulster County Route 7 and ride Route 44 West up to Minnewaska State Park. It's on these routes:  New Paltz to Ashokan and Great Shawangunk Hill Loop. [ see Map ]

size + steepness: From the low point on Route 44 up to the Park entrance is about 1300 vertical feet of climbing.  And if you continue the labor by turning Left and climbing the park road (steeper than the other sections) up to beautiful Lake Minnewaska, the total gets up to about 1550 vertical feet. 

  • climb 1: low point on 44 up to under the Trapps iron bridge:  775 vertical feet, including 420 ft around 7% grade.

  • climb 2: up to Peters Kill parking: about 230 vertical ft around 6% grade.

  • climb 3: up to Minnewaska Park main entrance: 300 vertical ft, including 150 ft at least 10%.

traffic: Rt 44 gets significant high-speed traffic, but it's reasonably wide in almost all the section on this climb [as of July 2008]. But most ways of getting to the climb from other places requires using some roads (e.g. 299 or 7 or 44) which have significant traffic on sections which are not so wide.

[ see also Minnewaska West climb ]

Great Shawangunk Hill Loop

Combines two great climbs -- Minnewaska East and Mohonk West -- with two descents in Ulster County, for a total of about 2500 vertical feet.

Also, for those who must, there is the "Great Shawangunk Double" which goes both up and down four memorable climbs and descents, for about 5000 vertical feet of total climbing.

Cragsmoor West

Long climb with interesting variations in steepness and curves, much on a very quiet road (and which links to a pretty descent). In southern Ulster county, on or parallel to Rt 52 going east from Ellenville up to Cragsmoor on the Shawangunk ridge. If done from the bottom, this is the climb with biggest vertical gain on paved roads I know of in the whole Hudson river valley south of Albany. [ see Map ]

also nearby: Rt 52 West descent | Vista Maria climb | New Paltz Ashokan variation B

views: There's some little views lower on Mt Meenagha Rd (and on Rt 52 if you start that low), then a bigger panorama (shared with houses) at the top of Laurel Mt Rd. (But the most dramatic views are if you choose to use Route 52 (with high-speed vehicle traffic) as a descent back to Ellenville). A way to get a better view at the top is to ride to the Sam's Point Preserve and then do some walking (see "Sams Point" below under Directions).

how big?   depends on where you define the start and finish.  Starting at the bottom on at Clinton St on the east side of Ellenville and climbing to the top of Laurel Mountain Rd is about 1770 vertical feet and 4.75 miles. For those who want to avoid riding on Rt 52, starting from the bottom of Mt Meenagha Rd to the top of Laurel Mountain Rd is about 1490 vertical feet and a little over 4 miles.

time trial? I've tried doing a personal "time trial" -- see how fast I can go from the bottom of Mt Meenagha Rd up to the dirt driveway on left side just before a red barn just before the end of Gully Rd where it intersects with Cragsmoor Rd (the driveway comes where Gully Rd goes flat just after a steep section). That's about 1225 vertical feet and 3 miles (average grade almost 8%, but with wide variations in steepness). I start timing myself at the start of Mt Meenagha Rd because I don't want to have any distraction on making the left turn across a major road like Route 52 -- and also I can use the lower section on Chapel St and Rt 52 as a warmup.

steepness --   From the bottom at Clinton Av up only to the intersection of Gully Rd with Cragsmoor Rd is about 1520 vertical feet at an average grade over 7.5% -- but with varied steepness including two or three short sections at least 12% (rather steep, lots of riders might want to walk those sections). Above Gully Rd it's generally less steep on Sams Point Rd -- until the final shot to the top of Laurel Mt Rd, which is something around 12% or more. The first climbing section on Chapel St is about 150 vertical feet around 8% grade, so there's no gentle "warmup".

For those who want to avoid the steep sections on Mt Meenagha and Gully Rd, could try climbing all the way on Route 52 up to Cragsmoor Rd. But much more time spent with high-speed vehicle traffic, and still need to make a Left turn across the highway onto Cragsmoor Rd. Also the big views from Rt 52 are toward the west, so not easy to see them while climbing east up from Ellenville. 

traffic -- Other than 0.4 mile on Route 52, the roads on this climb are normally rather quiet. Route 52 does get significant high-speed traffic. Route 52 east-bound is reasonably wide in the section from Chapel St to Mt Meenagha Rd.  (But the road is not wide if you start the climb lower down more directly on Rt 52 on Center St or Canal St instead of taking Clinton Av to Chapel St). A problem is the Left turn across Rt 52 onto Mt Meenagha Rd in the midst of a sustained uphill. The only way to avoid this is to not do the climb from the bottom, instead start above this point. Or if starting below this intersection, the safest way is to dismount, wait for a break in traffic, and walk the bike across.

[overall climb not checked by us since July 2008]

Directions: From near the intersection of Rt 52 and Rt 209 in Ellenville in Ulster county, start east on Center St for 0.5 mile, and after crossing Sandburg Creek turn Right onto Clinton Av for 0.2 mile, and the start of the climb is the intersection with Chapel St.  Start climbing southeast up Chapel St for 0.3 mile to its end. Turn Right (in the midst of sustained uphill) onto Route 52 East (high-speed traffic, but reasonably wide in this section [as of July 2008]).  After about 0.4 mile (in the midst of a sustained uphill), turn Left onto Mt Meenagha Rd -- it starts steep. Later (in about a mile?) bear Right onto Gully Rd and keep climbing a long ways to its end at(unsigned) Cragsmoor Rd (Gully Rd gets real steep then flat just before the intersection).  To continue climbing turn Left on (unsigned) Sams Point Rd. After a short flat section it climbs up to a high point (just after dirt Losee Rd on the left).  Then a short downhill and turn Right onto Laurel Mt Rd, to a final steep shot to its top and a view. [ see Map ]

Sams Point: Beyond Laurel Mt Rd, Sams Point Rd goes over another ride, then downhill to the entrance and visitors center for the Sams Point Preserve. From there it's a walk of about a 250 vertical feet in 0.7 mile (15-30 minutes) up to the big view at Sams Point (a view not found on the roads) and some ice caves. Many years ago there was a road up to the Sams Point view, but now it's a dirt-gravel trail and bicycling is not permitted on it [as of 2008].

Driving to the climb: Ellenville is at the intersection of Rt 52 with Rt 209. From the New York Thruway take the Newburgh exit 17, then a little ways north on Rt 300, at one of the traffic lights turn Left onto Rt 52 West, go thru Walden and Pine Bush, then the big climb from Walker Valley up onto the Shawangunk ridge past Cragsmoor, then big descent into Ellenville -- about 26.5 miles on Rt 52 to Ellenville (or 22 miles to the turn for Cragsmoor). Coming into Ellenville this way normally puts you on Canal St, and then Center St is one block to the south (Left).

name "South Gully"?  Many maps say "South Gully Rd", but the signs actually out on the road say only "Gully Rd" [as of 2008]. The gully doesn't face south, the road doesn't go south  Although there is another gully north of it, there is no "North Gully Rd", so I guess some the local residents didn't see any point in using the word "South" to identify their road. Also while I'm riding it I don't get any sense that I'm in a gully. So neither the "south" nor the "gully" part of that name are very helpful to riders.

Mt Greylock, Massachusetts

The highest peak in the state of Massachusetts (altitude 3491 feet). [ see Map ]

Mt Greylock is in Berkshire county in northwest Massachusetts, near Williamstown, North Adams, and Pittsfield.  Most of Mt Greylock's slopes flow into the Hoosic River, which drains into the Hudson -- so this is properly a Hudson valley climb. 

south side: The climb from the south up Rockwell Rd (starting from Route 7 north from Pittsfield) is actually two sections of climbing, first

  • 1250 vertical feet (including about 500 feet near 10% steepness grade) and then

  • 1150 vertical feet (much around 7.5% grade)

with a long break (and even some downhill) in between.  Good views and a hut with food at the top.  (see Trip Reports).  It's on this route:  Mt Greylock -- Up, Down, and Around.

Since this road is so high and exposed to the weather, it frequently has damaged pavement. Be careful about riding down it, especially if you haven't checked it out first by climbing up it.

north side: The climb from the north up Notch Rd (starting from Rt 2 a little west from North Adams) is longer:

  • Total climbing around 2770-2800 vertical feet at an average grade about 6%, but ...

  • including 1200 vertical feet around 9% steepness grade, with some short sections even steeper.

Since this road is so high and exposed to the weather, it frequently has damaged pavement. Be careful about riding down it, especially if you haven't checked it out first by climbing up it.

[not checked by us since 2003].

As far as I know, it's the longest climb in the territory drained by the Hudson River.

Another hill up north near Mt Greylock is Petersburg Pass, between Petersburg NY and Williamstown MA. From the west side it has a total climb of about 1400 vertical feet, with most of it at steepness near 7%. From the east side it's about 1350 vertical feet with much around 6% grade. It can get a fair amount of traffic, so we're not all that interested in riding it again. [not checked by us since 1997]

more . . .

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| Road Condition reports | Descents | All Routes

more . . . 

see the More Climbs page 

back to Top | Road Condition reports | Descents | All Routes

concept words:  

places: Hudson river valley, New York state, NY

regions: Mid-Hudson Catskills Catskill region Wallkill area areas

counties: Dutchess Rockland Orange Ulster Greene Albany Westchester Putnam Columbia Rensselaer Bergen county

towns:  Poughkeepsie Rhinebeck New Paltz Woodstock Kingston Manhattan -- city town village

bicycling: bicycle bicycling bike bikes bicycles bicyclist cycle cyclist cycling touring riding rider riders

climbs: climb up hill hills uphill uphills vertical steep


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