Minnewaska State Park Preserve is famous for its world-class rock climbing. But you don’t have to be a pro “trad” climber to enjoy the thrill of scaling these beautiful white cliffs near New Paltz, New York.
The Peter’s Kill area offers plenty of crags suited for the novice climber.
Watch the HD video! Filmed with a GoPro Hero 3.
It had been a very long time since we last went rock climbing outdoors. So we jumped at the chance to go with our friends Nicole and Alex from Kitchawan Farm in Ossining, New York.
We didn't really have a plan. We just knew we wanted to go climbing at the Gunks!
After a bit of research online, we chose the Peter’s Kill area because it’s beginner friendly and one of the few places at Minnewaska State Park that supports top-roping.
(Top roping is a relatively safe and easy method compared to “trad” climbing.)
The Peter’s Kill area is also appealing because, if you're short on time, you can reach the first crags in just a minute's walk from the parking lot.
When we arrived, after a scenic journey along Route 44/55 through New Paltz, we were surprised to see so few cars in the lot. We practically had the whole place to ourselves! Luck, I guess.
I'd say there were maybe 10-15 other climbers there that day, which was a relief because we read that the park turns people away after reaching their capacity of 100 climbers.
As I said earlier, the first crags are a minute's walk from the parking lot. But, if you’re not in a rush, I suggest exploring the area a little. It’s a pretty spot and would be a shame to miss it.
We whipped out the maps given to us at the parking booth and decided to climb the Dickie Barre crag (#4) - the one furthest from the parking lot. To get there, we took the Red Loop >Yellow Connector > High Peter’s Kill > Bull Wheel trails.
The first highlight was reaching the banks of the Peter’s Kill (kill means stream in Dutch). This stream eventually falls over a cliff creating the famous Awosting Falls, elsewhere in the park.
It was a hot day in June, and the sounds of nature lulled me into a state of child-like happiness. Sunlight was trickling through the Hemlocks and spilling onto wild Rhododendrons underneath. What a beautiful hike!
We turned right at the stream, and right again, onto the High Peter’s Kill (blue) trail, and ascended through a forest of Swamp Chestnut Oak trees. Those big hairy gypsy moths covered many of the trees and I accidentally squashed one with my hand. Gross!
Following the brief, but strenuous incline on the HPK trail, we came to a clearing along the cliff’s edge with monster Catskill Mountain views.
Here we stopped to eat a snack and take some pictures.
One thing to note are those little, crooked pine trees that grow up here. They're called Dwarf Pitch Pines, and at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, they are some of the last to remain in the entire world!
In total, there are 4 different rock climbing areas at Peter’s Kill: West Cliff (#1); Middle Cliff (#2); East Cliff (#3); and Dickie Barre (#4). They are all close to each other and linked via the scenic and easy-going foot paths. All climbs are single pitch, top-ropes and vary in difficulty.
As I mentioned, we set out for the Dickie Barre crag, which we reached, using the HPK > Bull Wheel trails. (Look out for the Blue/yellow markers - those will take you to the wall itself.)
Alex and I found a little path off to the side that would lead us to the top. Once up there, Alex got busy setting up the rope, securing the carabiners, and tying the knots. He then repelled down and I walked back to meet them at the base.
I lost the original trail on my way, so I just blazed down hill, being careful not to disturb any lichen or anything, and descended past massive fissures of fallen and cracked rocks the size of dump trucks.
Back at the site, Nicole was already making her first advances up the wall. Ana was on belay.
Eventually, we all had a turn climbing the wall. It was a fun climb - not too difficult, but tricky in a few spots.
I don't know the name of this route, specifically, but we were climbing the first one on the south east face off the the Bull Wheel Trail. It felt like a 5.8.
Before leaving we also did an over-hang climb on the Middle Cliff (#2) crag - a 5.7. (We'll have to try the others on our next trip!)
All in all, the Peter's Kill climbing area is a great place for top-roping at the Gunks. It was the perfect choice for us. We were looking to get out on the rocks quickly, and we didn't have all the professional trad gear.
HD video of the climb:
From New Paltz take the scenic Route 44/55 about a mile east of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve main entrance.
It should take about 15 minutes from the downtown area.
Look for the small parking lot with a sign for Peter’s Kill.
At the booth you pay $10 for a climbing/bouldering pass, plus a small parking fee.
They'll give you a trail map and climbing guide at the booth.
Let Mountain Skills Climbing Guides take you out! Doug Ferguson and his expert team have been in business for 30 years and are the pre-eminent climbing guides in the Shawangunks. Just fill out the form below to contact Doug directly.
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The Peter's Kill area at Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a great for the novice climbers like us. See HD video of our rock-climbing adventure here!