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The Ices Caves are a geological phenomenon created under the unique circumstances of the Shawanagunk Ridge. They aren't caves in the truest sense of the word but are actually cracks and fishers in the talus fields created by the weathering and erosion of the ridge. In the winter, the caves drop to freezing temperatures, ice forms and snow collects in the crevasses. As spring starts to warm the surrounding area, the rocks retain the freezing temperature. Because cold air sinks and no direct sunlight enters the cracks and caves, snow and ice remains well into April and May.
At one time the caves were a tourist attraction with parking at the top of the cliffs where the Ice Cave Trail begins. Today, you must park in the preserve's parking lot at the base of the ridge. Don't forget to pay the $7 for the parking (although it is not clearly marked that you must do so). The preserve is run by the Open Space Institute who purchase land to preserve it in it's natural or historic state.
The trail to the caves and back is approximately a two mile round trip. Make sure to wear shoes with good traction. Wear rain gear or clothes you can get wet and dirty. Bring something warm to wear; it may be 65 degrees outside, but in the caves it can be 20 degrees colder. Gloves are also a good idea as you will be supporting yourself on the cold rocks. The exit to the caves is a tight fit and you will get wet and dirty there.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: Sam's Point Dwarf Pine Preserve
Phone: (212) 290-8200
We have been learning to hang glide in Ontario where the options are to be towed up by an ultralight or by winch (see my Orangeville, Ontario, Canada tip). We were curious to see foot launching off of a mountain.
In Ellenville, one can take lessons in hang gliding (not off the mountain to begin!) or one can simply observe the flights on low / light-wind days. We had spoken to an instructor at the school and he had given us directions to the launch site.
Upon arriving at the gate there was a sign to obtain waivers before entering. So observers should contact the flight school or visit the landing zone prior to driving up the mountain to the launch site.
If you want to try hang gliding without lessons, ask the instructors about tandem flights where passengers enjoy the ride alongside a licensed tandem pilot.
Directions to the launch site at the top of the mountain (1380 feet above sea level and @1000 above ground level): FIRST attend the landing zone to receive permission or call the school (contacts below). Then, return into Ellenville and follow 52 East as it passes 3 lookouts as you climb the mountain. After the largest lookout, go a bit further keeping an eye out for a parking loop on your left side with a gate and a big USHGA sign. It is on the foresty side of the mountain and you may pass it. If you start into a general descent, you've gone too far. A rapid descent? Too not-on-the-road! The road is winding and quite busy, so use caution. Park at the gate and walk in. The path to walk on is rocky and climbs higher - maybe takes 10 minutes to walk in.
Written May 29, 2006
Address: North-West face of the mountain in Ellenville