Gunks cAMPGROUND History

Since 2006, the Mohonk Preserve, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and the American Alpine Club partnered together to create a campground near the popular Shawnagunks climbing area.

The American Alpine Club and the Mohonk Preserve created 50 brand-new campsites below miles of world-class rock that soars up to 300 feet above rural pastures and the quaint Village of New Paltz.

The Palisades Interstate Park Commission completed construction of the campground in late 2014 and turned it over to The Mohonk Preserve and the American Alpine Club who now operate the facility in partnership.

This is a watershed moment for one of the most popular rock-climbing areas in the country.  For the first time since climbing in the “Gunks” began, hot showers and running water are available for climbers who want to camp within view of the cliffs.

Just 90 miles north of New York City, the vertical terrain offers about 1,200 routes, ranging from 5.0 to 5.14, with overhangs and spectacular views.  For years, this place lacked adequate campgrounds.  Luckily, the Smiley family and the Mohonk Preserve had the vision and foresight to keep more than 7,000 acres of preserved land as natural as possible, while managing its use so climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It includes 30 miles of carriage roads for mountain biking, horseback riding, skating, cross-country skiing and, of course, access to the cliffs.

As you walk these carriage roads you feel part of the climbing history that goes back nearly 100 years. The Gunks history starts with Friz Wiesssner, a European immigrant with extensive mountaineering experience.  He noticed the cliff from across the Hudson River and returned the next week to document the first technical climb.  Hans Kraus was the second immigrant with mountaineering experience to arrive on the scene.  Not only was Kraus an awe inspiring climber but a presidential Doctor.  It's hard to climb anywhere in North America without climbing one of Friz and Hans routes. Majority of the routes that they put up were done with women, who many had no experience and put their trust into these mens hands. The old mantra that the leader never falls was paramount.  Many of these women became dedicated rock climbers. For example, Bonnie Prudden has over 30 FAs  During the late 40s and early 50s climbers primarily were associated with the AMC.  In 1951 Jim McCarthy arrived on the scene, and met up with Hans Kraus.  Together, they put up several routes.  Over the next several years McCarthy became the leading climber in the area.  At the same time a noble peace winning physicist Bill Shockley showed up and put up one of the nicest outing in the park called Schockleys Ceiling.  The late 50s saw the cliffs first death and from this turmoil brought fourth two oppositional groups. Up until that time most climbers were were members of the AMC.

    The AMC were considered stodgy and uptight and wanted control over the Cliff and decided who would and would not climb.  The second group referred to themselves as the Vulgarians, whom were often fueled by drugs, alcohol and loud music.  They refused to follow the rules or recognize the AMC’s authority.  After several disagreements, the Vulgarians claimed victory and the presumed AMC dominance ended.  The sixties changed America and climbing was no different.  Phil Jacobus on sighted the first 5.10 in the Gunks called Jacobs ladder which to this day has a X rating.  Yvon Chouinard and several west coast men arrived with several new hand-forged chromoly pitons which turned out to be a game changer.  Chouinard freed the first pitch of matinee 5.10d and aided through the second. The only person who could follow the pitch at this time was Dick Williams.  He was still in the navy and could only climb on weekends. William’s back ground in gymnastics and dynamic style fit well into the horizontal nature of the rock. He gave us our first 5.11. called Tweedle Dum In 1967 John Standard sent the 8 foot ceiling known as Foops.  It took 5 days for him to send his project.  This was a great undertaking and changed the attitude of many climbers.  For the first time it was ok to siege a climb. It was understood that persistence and conditioning were needed to push the standard.   The weekend warrior period was over and if one could only climb on weekends, training was needed in order to push the standards.

With the seventies came the Clean Climbing Era.  Over the next several years pitons became out of fashion.  In fashion became sticky rubber and all nut accents, and a strict code of free climbing ethics.  Many more people started climbing, and the grade of 5.12 was established.  The mid 70s introduced Rich Romano to the climbing community.  Rich completed several X-rated climbs over the next several decades.  Most of these were done at Millbrook, where many people were scared to climb.  His accomplishments coined him the name the Bank Manager.  He had the cliff mainly to himself until this day.

In the eighties, Lynn Hill was thought by many to be best female rock climber. When she freed Yellow Crack 5.12r-x., the locals were impressed. She was also part of freeing the first 5.13. Jeff Greenberg got the first assent of Vandels, but it was a team effort.other members were Russ cline and Hugh Herr.

The early nineties brought back Jordan Mills and he gave us a 5.14 called Dream Land.   A new back pack called a crash pad started to be evermore present. Ivan Greene’s bouldering guide kicked off a renewal of bouldering activities and it seemed like a good number of boulders started showing up from all over the world; Obe Carrion, Chris Sharma Jason Keehl, to name a few strong boys.  The ozone went free at 5.14 in mid-2005 by Cody Sims.  2015 was no different strong locals like Whitney Bollard and Andy Salo who were pushing the limits all season long. Now its this generations turn to up the standards of the game.

And now, you have a comfortable place to crash during your stay.I cordially invite you to stay at our new campground. Each site has nicely padded camping beds, big enough for two small tents. We offer showers and sinks for cleaning your dishes, flushable toilets and handicap-friendly facilities. The buildings are new and well-built and the entire campground blends into the surroundings. 

It’s just a short walk from world-class terrain packed with single pitch top-rope routes and multi-pitch trad routes. The trail leading to the Trapps is a great warm up and you will easily beat any driver who must park before walking to the Mac Wall.