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The Short Version: Since its establishment in 1963, Mohonk Preserve in New York has instilled in its visitors an appreciation for the natural world. The nonprofit’s nature trails, community events, and educational programming offer couples the opportunity to put on their hiking boots and set off on an outdoor adventure. Whether you’re enjoying a picnic under the sun or gazing up at the stars at night, you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the lush valleys and soaring peaks of the Shawangunk Mountains.
When they were dating, Amanda Rogers and her husband enjoyed going on long, leisurely walks through Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County, New York. The couple called them “dreaming walks” because they would often discuss their hopes for the future. As they walked, their minds would wander through many deep conversation topics, and they became closer to one another with every step they took.
One evening in January, Amanda’s then-boyfriend kept pausing along their dreaming walk even though it was freezing cold outside. Amanda tried to hurry him along, but he kept stopping and acting nervous. They were almost back to the car when he finally worked up the nerve to get down on one knee and propose.
“It was very romantic,” said Amanda, who now works as the Media Associate for the Preserve. “It’s a meaningful place to us, and now our 2-year-old walks with us on that same trail.”
Mohonk Preserve has been the backdrop for many romantic stories since its establishment in 1963 as a land trust in the Shawangunk Mountains region. The local nonprofit protects the natural ecosystem on over 8,000 acres of land and shares its beauty with visitors from all walks of life.
From its winding mountain trails to its spacious grassy plains, Mohonk Preserve offers a natural wonderland where active daters can explore, relax, and take in scenic views all year round.
“You learn a lot about each other by getting into nature and away from screens,” said Amanda. “The preserve has a lot to offer in terms of romance and recreation.”
Couples can enjoy a range of date activities at Mohonk Preserve. You can enjoy some peace and quiet in a secluded area, or you can get into the action and join a group activity — it’s up to you. The events calendar is always a great place to start if you’re looking for outdoorsy date ideas.
Many visitors explore Mohonk Preserve on foot via hiking trails through lush woodlands, but some go the extra mile and go on horseback together (visitors must bring their own horses to the Preserve). Observation points scattered along these trails offer lovely picnic spots with breathtaking views of mountain valleys and the Catskills in the distance. January weekend hikes take folks to the most iconic spots on the land trust.
Many of these hiking trails are beginner-friendly and not very arduous, so you need not be an athlete to spend a day in the foothills. Mohonk Preserve also prides itself on being wheelchair accessible, and it offers two wheelchairs for rent on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Anybody of any age and abilities can get out and enjoy nature,” Amanda said. “We have programs and events for everyone.”
Volunteering on the Preserve can be a fun way to make a difference and do something memorable with your partner. Every year, nearly 400 volunteers contribute over 13,000 hours of their time to make Mohonk Preserve a little more beautiful and sustainable. The nonprofit holds training sessions every spring to get new volunteers up to speed, and it hosts an annual Volunteer Appreciation Party in the summertime as a thank-you for all the hard work.
The Mohonk Preserve is also a premier destination for bird-watching, which is a favorite activity among retired lovebirds. You can often spot rare species, including the cerulean warbler and the bobolink, if you show up in the early morning hours. Those quiet moments in a grassy field can be restorative for couples looking to unwind together.
It’s easy to get your heart pumping at Mohonk Preserve. Thrill seekers can take advantage of the mountainous terrain by going rock climbing on a cliff side or mountain biking through the trees. The Preserve features over 80 miles of carriage roads to race along, stopping for the occasional water break and cliff-top view.
You can find the best rock-climbing cliffs on the West Trapps Trailhead. Climbers can access over 1,000 routes and climb five miles up for a breathtaking view. “It’s a great way to build trust with somebody,” Amanda noted. “There are local guide services registered with Mohonk Preserve that are available to hire so people who don’t know anything about climbing can come give it a try.”
Mohonk Preserve often challenges visitors to go farther and faster than they’d thought possible. The Rock the Ridge event is a good example of something that pushes people to get out of their comfort zones and enjoy the fresh mountain air together. This marathon stretches over 50 miles and lasts 24 hours.
“You can run, walk, crawl, or whatever gets you across the finish line,” Amanda said. “It’s an endurance challenge and a really fun way to get to know somebody at their best and their worst.”
Rock The Ridge is a beloved event where joggers, runners, and nature lovers can test their mettle and see how far they can go. It’s exhausting but oh-so-satisfying to reach the end of that 50-mile course. Plus, the marathon acts at a fundraising event for Mohonk Preserve. Since the first race in 2013, participants have raised a collective $1.2 million in support of the Shawangunk Mountains.
Mohonk Preserve is the ideal place to explore on a date because there’s so much to see and do. Daring couples can go rock scrambling at Bonticou Crag or the Labyrinth Trail and then take a triumphant selfie on a cliff. Or you can book a campground in the spring or summer and spend a couple nights roughing it with your partner. Adventuring by day and snuggling in a tent by night sounds pretty romantic to me.
Of course, not all daters are looking for heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping excitement in nature. Some would rather sit back and appreciate their surroundings alongside that special someone. In that case, Mohonk Preserve’s Stargazing at Spring Farm events offer the perfect peaceful escape from the everyday.
During warm spring and summer nights, people lay out blankets and sit together under the stars to watch meteor showers, spot planets, and learn about constellations. An astronomy professor acts as a guide to the cosmos on these nights and points out notable sights while providing interesting background information about the universe.
Some couples bring snacks or desserts along to enjoy as they gaze at the heavens. It’s a romantic and unforgettable date night. Cloudiness and storm conditions can affect the scheduling of these events, so keep a weather eye out come spring for your chance to lay out beneath the stars.
Truly nerdy couples may also enjoy Mohonk Preserve’s lecture series, which highlights the importance of environmental conservation. Every Thursday in February, it’s standing room only in the lecture center as experts discuss the history and preservation of the Shawangunk Mountains. Whatever the topic is, couples can bet on having an educational and engaging experience at these lectures.
Mohonk Preserve is a public treasure where thousands of people come and go throughout the year. However, many of its regular visitors create special memories along the footpaths or at the events, and they come to feel as if part of the park belongs just to them. Couples become particularly invested in those places where they’ve gone on dates, celebrated anniversaries, or even accepted marriage proposals.
Amanda experienced firsthand how dreams can become reality with the right person by your side for the journey. The Shawangunk Mountains now have a special place in her heart, and she brings her son to the nature preserve so he can share in the joy and wonder of this remarkable destination.
Mohonk Preserve fosters an intimate and gorgeous space where people of all ages can come together under a common love for the environment.
“We’re a local nonprofit, but we work to extend our reach far beyond our own borders,” Amanda told us. “We aim to protect our corner of the world and inspire visitors to care a little more about the environment. That’s what our mission is all about.”