Minnewaska State Park Preserve spans 22,275-acres and offers fantastic opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, boating, picnicking, swimming, cross country-skiing and cross-country running. Located on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, New York, this rocky terrain rises more the 2,000-feet above sea level and hosts 25-miles of footpaths and 35-miles of carriage roads for all levels of skill and enjoyment. The park’s entrance is off of Route 44/55: You can park at the bottom of the mountain if you are making a visit to Awosting Falls or head to the top for the picnic area and beach. The Upper Awosting (UA) and Castle Point (CP) trails form a carriage road loop that’s approximately 10-miles long and takes you through miles of beautiful forests and breathtaking cliff-side views.
Begin at the Upper Awosting Trailhead by the Lake Minnewaska beach. This carriage road is regularly groomed for cross-country skiers and commonly used to reach the Lake Awosting beach about 3.5-miles away. The route follows a shallow and consistent grade for the first 3-miles and passes by the base of a steep rock-face known for its incredible icicle formations in the winter. Upon reaching the Lake Awosting Carriage Road, head right to get a glimpse of this long lake from its northeastern point or continue straight, up a steep hill, to a wonderful scenic viewpoint overlooking Lake Awosting, the surrounding Shawangunks, and the Catskill Mountains to the west.
Lake Awosting is approximately a mile long by a quarter of a mile wide, and it is roughly twice as large as Lake Minnewaska. From this overlook point, head south to the next carriage road intersection. Take the right path to reach the flat-rock Awosting beach that forms a unique and gentle slope into the water. The left path will take you to the Castle Point Carriage Road, which climbs to the top of the ridge and offers incredible views south to the Hudson Highlands and east to the Hudson River Valley. Return on this cliffside route back to Lake Minnewaska to complete your journey.
Minnewaska State Park was originally part of Albert and Alfred Smiley's Mohonk Mountain House Property. The Cliff House (1879) and Wildmere (1955) were two hotels that overlooked Lake Minnewaska and burned down in 1978 and 1986, respectively. New York State bought the property in 1987 and opened the Minnewaska State Park Preserve in 1993. In 1996 the Open Space Institute transferred an additional 5,400 acres to the park to include the Sam’s Point Preserve. In March 2006, an additional 2,500 acres were added to the preserve as a result of action by a coalition of conservation groups to stop commercial development. Today the park is managed by the Palisades Park Commission and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Some of the most popular scenic spots include Hamilton Point, Castle Point, Gertrude's Nose, Millbrook Mountain, Murray Hill, Verkeerder Kill Falls, Margaret Cliff, Awosting Falls, Stony Kill Falls, Beacon Hill, Litchfield Ledge, Rainbow Falls, and the High Peters Kill cliffs. There are a number of geological and ecological characteristics unique to New York State including ice caves, pitch-pine and chestnut-oak forests, timber rattlesnake, and bobcat. Exercise caution in all areas, and keep away from cliff edges.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.