New York State Parks keep amazing us with their abundant waterfalls, mountains, hiking, and gorgeous scenic views! On our quest to explore more of the state’s natural wonders, we planned a visit to Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley– New York’s largest state preserve at 22,000 acres! Our spring visit was full of rushing waters, icy rocks, snowy foot paths, and a frozen lake. Our summer visit was a motivating exploration of the trails that led us to the highest scenic overlooks.
About the Preserve
Minnewaska State Park Preserve sits on the breathtaking Shawangunk Mountain ridge, “which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike and simply enjoy. And, all this within an hour and a half drive from New York City.”-NYS Parks Website
The park features scenic overlooks of the nearby Catskill Mountains.
This view is from the Millbrook Mountain overlook. The park features 24 hiking trails of varying length and difficulty. Trails range in length from .5 miles to 4.3 miles, but you may find the area you want to reach is a greater distance since you will have to combine trails to reach certain destinations. Millbrook Mountain is one of the trails combined to reach Gertrude’s Nose.
There are three spectacular waterfalls at the park.
- Verkeerder Kill Falls at 187 feet! (Sam’s Point Preserve)
- Awosting Falls (pictured)
- Rainbow Falls
You can also find Stony Kill Falls, Sheldon Falls, Peter’s Kill Falls and an un-named fall near Sanders Kill within the preserve.
We were very fortunate to visit in the spring to see Awosting Falls in full force.
Rock Climbing and Hiking are serious business here.
Minnewaska is a world-class rock climbing site! The Shawangunk Ridge is a 500 foot tall cliff made of extremely hard quartz that rises out of the Hudson Valley. The Shawangunk Mountain (aka Shawangunk Ridge, aka The Gunks) is a ridge of bedrock that extends from the northernmost point of New Jersey to the Catskill Mountains. The Ridge is part of the western border of the Great Appalachian Valley and is the easternmost section.
The trails through the park are nature-filled.
Ice decorates the park’s landscape along the carriage roads.
Three Sky Lakes (pristine and unusually clear lakes fed only from rain water) are within the preserve.
- Lake Awosting
- Lake Minnewaska
- Lake Maratanza
The Minnewaska State Park Preserve is full of unique, rare and even historical finds!
Unique ecosystem communities
Ice cave talus, a pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit, and an extensive chestnut oak forest all host a variety of plants and animals that are not typically common in New York State.
Wildlife residing in the preserve
- timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
- bobcat (Lynx rufus)
- New York State’s only documented occurrence of the noctuid moth Zale curema
Sam’s Point Area
The southernmost section of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve is home to Sam’s Point Preserve. This is the highest section of the Shawangunk Mountains and is also known as Sam’s Point Dwarf Pine Ridge Preserve. Dwarf pitch pine trees grow along the ridge top. Lake Maratanza, the highest lake on the ridge, can be found here along with the Ellenville Fault Ice Caves.
Bird Conservation Area (BCA)
2,000 feet above sea level on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge is the Minnewaska Bird Conservation Area. Its unfragmented forest supports a large and diverse forest-dwelling bird species. The Nature Conservancy designated this entire ridge as one of the “Last Great Places.” This area is one of the “highest priority areas for biodiversity conservation in the northeastern United States.”
Birds Found Here
- Breeding Northern Saw-whet Owl
- Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler
- Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Flicker and Scarlet Tanager
- Breeding shrub/scrub species Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Indigo Bunting and Prairie Warbler
- A pair of Peregrine Falcons (Endangered) that nest on the cliff face.
During our hike around Lake Minnewaska we came upon this nifty house built on the overlook. Of course we ventured over and took a tour to see what it could be for. The home was locked and abandoned. It looked as though there had been some unwanted guests. There was some damage inside maybe from hooligans or even some critters. There was no furniture and the colors and architectural style gave the house a dated appearance (I was thinking 1970’s). We couldn’t help but wonder why this home wasn’t being used for a vacation cabin, parks office, or even maintenance building (it has a sizable garage). We had to know what was going on with this awesome home so we did some research when we returned home. Here’s what we found…
Ken Phillips Sr. was the owner of the Minnewaska Preserve property before New York State acquired it at auction. He tried valiantly to modernize the area for tourism, but fell prey to financial difficulties. He had maintained the original hotel that stood on the cliffs until it was lost to fire in 1978. When New York State acquired the property they allowed Ken Phillips Sr. and his wife to remain at the home they had built themselves, Windsong. They were given a “life estate” for this magnificent home. In 2001 the lease expired with the passing of Ken Phillips Sr. The house has been abandoned since.
Here’s a link to a really interesting first-hand account of the experience if you want to see photos of the original hotels and read more detail: History
National Register of Historic Places
The Trapps Mountain Hamlet Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. This was the site of a rare community of settlers that lived here from the late 18th century to the mid 20th century.
- NYS Parks Website
- 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, NY 12446
- Park Entry Fee $10 per car
- Empire Passport Accepted
- Interesting Park Details
- Dogs are allowed in areas of the park if they are on a leash no greater than 6 feet and you clean up after them. Dogs are not allowed at the beach, in the water, or on open and groomed cross country ski trails.
- The tent-only campground site- two tents (and four people)
- 24 drive-in spots (one vehicle per site)
- 26 walk-in spots
- pavilion and cooking area
- bathhouse and restroom facilities
- circulation trails
- Open mid-May through mid-November, weather permitting
- Boat Launches
- Bridle Path
- Museum/Visitors Center/Nature Center
- Picnic Tables
- Swimming Beach
- Biking * Helmets required
- Scuba Diving
- Rock Climbing
- Recreation Programs
- Snowshoeing Trails
- X-Country Skiing
Family Adventure Rating ❤️❤️
Cost– Your only set costs for this adventure are travel and the park entry fee of $10 per car. You can bring your own water and energy snack or even pack a picnic lunch. If you’re interested in more of the outdoor recreation that would incur equipment, rentals or permit fees check out their website.
Parking & Transportation– The park offers plenty of parking at various locations and it is conveniently located off of major routes and highways. There are 12 potential access points. Your best bet is to drive your own vehicle or plan a carpool with friends. There are train stations that will get you near the area, but not close. There is a bus depot in Kerhonkson, but you still need to figure out the connections you need to get there and it won’t get you directly to the park.
Location– Minneswaska has a solid location. It’s a natural wonder that’s part of the Appalachian Valley and only 90 minutes from New York City. It’s remote enough to stay amazingly beautiful and close enough to be a viable day trip for millions.
Day Trip or Overnight– This park offers camping and you can find small local accommodations in the area. Staying overnight will allow you to explore the many large areas of the park and get in some solid outdoor recreation time. However, if you’re within driving distance, this is a perfect day trip to explore some pre-planned areas.
Experience– We are always impressed by Mother Nature and Minnewaska is one of her more elaborate achievements. The natural landscape is so varied here that you are drawn in further and further to see what’s ahead. Adventure and exploration really bonds our family and this preserve met our demands and kept us motivated.
Combination– The Hudson Valley is full of interesting adventures! If you planned on a long day or staying overnight, you could add another stop to your agenda. Some of the other adventures in the Hudson Valley area that we’ve enjoyed are Fishkill Farms , Blue Mountain Reservation and Kaaterskill Falls (The Mohonk Mountain area is also right next door to the preserve and is a top tourist destination.)