New York’s Hidden Gem: The Minnewaska State Park Preserve
For the minimalist outdoor enthusiasts out there who are constantly in search of sheer and pristine nature, you can add the 21,106-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your bucket list! The preserve opened just a few years back and currently, it continues to amaze tourists and campers from around the world.
The spectacular preservation area is a popular recreational place for New Yorkers. It features three major mountain lakes and is situated on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge which stands at 2000 feet above sea level. It’s surrounded by a rugged terrain and dense forest.
Aside from the scenic views of the preserve, it also offers a hefty 50 miles of hiking trails, carriage roads for bikers, boating activities, deer hunting areas (seasonal), bird watching areas, diving and swimming areas, and recreational winter activities such as snowshoeing and skiing. The preserve is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts!
The path to the park alone is peppered with impressive landscapes and huge rock formations but wait until you come face to face with the park. The crystal clear streams, diverse hardwood forest trees, and outstanding waterfalls will surely take your breath away.
Readers, pack your reliable hiking boots and camera! The Minnewaska State Park will test your hiking mettle and bouldering capabilities while rewarding you with breathtaking sceneries at the same time. The sore feet is definitely worth it!
Going to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Lake Minnewaska is located on Route 44/55 in Ulster County, New York. Upon exiting the New York State Thruway in New Paltz (Exit 18) (north or south), make a LEFT on Route 299. Stay on 299 for approximately 6 miles. At Junction Route 44/55 make a Right. Park entrance is about 6 miles up winding mountain road on Left.
Things You Should Know About the Park
The Minnewaska State Park Preserve had stood human abuse and environmental degradation for centuries that’s why it became a “preservation area” because of its ecological and cultural importance. So if you plan to visit the preserve, bear in mind the beautiful quote below.
Let’s start off with the things, rules, and regulations you’ve got to have knowledge of before setting foot on the park.
Things You Can Do at The Minnewaska State Park Preserve
First things first, secure a trail map at the office before going off to your adventure.
Hiking is a favorite activity in the park. As a frequent hiker, I think that the trails are not as challenging as there are carriage roads everywhere, but you still need to be extra careful because the paths are adjacent to steep descents. Hiking here compares to a leisurely stroll in the park.
There are various well-marked trails in the park, making it perfect for first timers. You also won’t run into big boulders standing on hiking trails so expect no insane climbs. There are short trails which stretch for 0.8 miles to as long as 10 miles. The hike takes most tourists longer (including me) because they can’t stop taking pictures of the incredible scenery!
Mind you; there are at least 20 trails in the park. The most popular ones that are full of scenic views that I’ve tried are the Mossy Glen/Blueberry Run/Castle Point Carriageway Loop, Mossy Glen/Long Path/Castle Point/Hamilton Point Loop , Castle Point Carriageway/Lake Awosting Carriageway/Upper Awosting Carriageway Loop , Gertrude's Nose Loop/Millbrook Mountain, and the Beacon Hill and Lake Minnewaska Loop .
Among the five trails mentioned, only the Beacon Hill and Lake Minnewaska Easy Loop runs for a short 3 miles. The others take 6-8 miles. Don’t mind the distance because trust me; the scenery is very rewarding.
The Mossy Glen/Blueberry Run/Castle Point Carriageway Loop starts at the Mossy Glen Trail and descends to the Peters Kill through a footbridge.
You’ll pass through dwarfed pine forests, small boulders, cliffs, and grassy meadows on the way to the Castle Point Carriageway. Wear long-sleeved hiking clothes and apply sunscreen for this to avoid sunburns because the hike consumes 4-5 hours.
Another magnificent trail for me is the Gertrude's Nose Loop/Millbrook Mountain Trail. The hike traverses Gertrude’s Nose, one of the popular rock formations in the park. You’ll pass by the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road, the glacial Patterson’s Pellet, and some rock edges on the way to the Gertrude’s Nose.
You can cool down for a quick swim in the swimming area near the Minnewaska Carriage Road. Also, you’ll be amazed by the unspoiled views of the Palmaghatt Ravine along Gertrude’s Nose.
Guys, below is a video of hikers traversing some popular trails in the park. I swear, the views are awesome!
Lastly, we have the short yet wonderful Beacon Hill and Lake Minnewaska Easy Loop. You have the chance to capture the panoramic views of the Dickie Barre Mountain and the Sky Top Tower on our way to the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road.
Swim, boat, fish, and scuba dive
Anyone will surely enjoy basking in the greatness of the Minnewaska Lake through various aquatic recreational activities.
One could swim in the designated areas of the crystal clear lakes of Minnewaska and Awosting. The water isn’t too deep nor shallow – which is perfect for kids. Also, a lifeguard should be on duty first for you to be allowed to swim, which usually falls from mid-August to September.
On the other hand, boating and canoeing are allowed all year round, but only non-motorized boats are permitted to enter the lake. Also, there are designated areas for boat launching.
Fishing is another chill activity you can do at the park although it’s a miracle is you catch one or two because the acidity of the lake prevents aquatic creatures to thrive. Sadly, I didn’t catch one after an hour of hurling my fishing pole on the waters. But hey, a slim chance is still a chance, right? You might just get the surprise of your life! Lastly, we have scuba diving.
Everyone (including me) wanted to try this awesome activity, but sadly, only certified scuba divers can dive in the lake provided that they have a signal from the office.
Enjoy (virtual) boating in Minnewaska Lake below.
Horseback riding and hunting
Horseback riding and hunting are seasonal activities. For those wanting to tread the park riding a horse, you should bring your own and you must obtain a permit to ride on carriage roads and trails
Furthermore, the big woods of the park are ideal for deer hunting during hunting season (November to December), of course with a hunting permit. The use of bows and rifles are allowed in designated areas for hunting. You can only hunt deer, no birds, bear, and other wildlife. Lastly, you should report back to the office every after hunt.
Biking, picnicking, and camping
You can explore the grounds by riding a bike. Bring a helmet and cycling gear and you’re ready to go. You can cycle your way to the walkways but not on all the hiking trails as most of them are too steep and full of cliffs. It’s dangerous!
If you’re weary of biking, head to your campsite and join your friends in the picnic area. Raised portable grills are available, all you need to bring is the food.
After all the hiking and water activities, I’m sure all that's left to do is to retire your tired body in the comforts of your tent. There are designated camping areas in the park. RVs are not allowed, so the only option left is to pitch your tent. Also, there are no lodgings available in the park. The nearest would be 6 miles away, in the town of Kerhonkson.
Exploring off-the-beaten trails is the ultimate satisfaction you’ll get from the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. It’s always rewarding to see magnificent sceneries after seemingly endless paths.
After your long and tiring trail, what better way to cool off than to bathe at the cool waters of the Minnewaska Lake? Camping at the preserve will take you back to the olden times where exploration is the way of life.