Minnewaska State Park is a 21,106 acre preserve. It is a very popular area for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, picnicking, swimming (in designated areas only), horse riding, snowshoeing and even scuba diving (by permit only). Camping is not allowed. Because of this popularity, parking in the park could be challenging – an early arrival is a must!
During my weekend visit, not only all parking areas were full, but road NY 55 was packed with cars on both sides, for at least a mile! Crowds usually gather around beautiful Lake Minnewaska where there are picnic tables, open fields to play, and public restrooms. There is a hiking trail along the lake which offers beautiful scenery, but it could get crowded. Once you leave this area, you will see fewer people and occasional mountain bikers.
Castle Point Trail
I chose to hike the Castle Point Trail (Minnewaska hiking trail map) towards Lake Awosting and I came back on the Upper Awosting – all together 7.7 miles. To access this loop, park at Lake Minnewaska Parking on NY 55. When facing the lake, follow red trail on your right until you reach blue blazed Castle Point Trail. This is an old carriage trail, wide and easy – no hiking boots required. For me, the Castle Point is a quintessential Minnewaska trail. It offers incredible views of the valley, panoramic vistas and beautiful overviews of Mud Pond and Lake Awosting.
When visiting Minnewaska, most visitors focus on Awosting Falls. This 60-foot waterfall over Peter’s Kill Creek is one of the most beautiful in the state, as well as one of the best hikes in Minnewaska. Depending on how far you want to hike and where you can find parking, there are several ways to get to Awosting Falls. Keep in mind that swimming is always prohibited at the falls.
During my visit, all of this beauty was framed with vibrant colors of autumn! There are numerous easily accessible overlooks to take it all in. These rocky areas are perfect to take a break and have a meal with a view! The Upper Awosting, unlike many other trails in the park, does not offer anything out of ordinary. For me, it served its purpose – getting back to the car as soon as possible. Other than that, I recommend it only for those who would prefer to reverse my path in order to avoid climbing the Castle Point Trail.
Lake Minnewaska Loop Trail
The Lake Minnewaska Look is a simple, well-kept trail that follows the spectacular cliffs that surround Lake Minnewaska. There is parking at the Lake Minnewaska Nature Center. The trail can be accessed from the rear of the nature center. This 1.9-mile loop follows the lake’s shoreline through evergreen pitch pine forests and across picturesque cliffs.
Lake Minnewasksa is one of three “sky lakes” in the area, carved by glaciers from the Shawangunk ridge of quartz rock.
Near the Nature Center, the Loop trail intersects with the Sunset Carriage trail. Combine the loop trail with Sunset Carriage trail to Awosting Falls for a back-to-back tour of the park’s most well-known attractions.
Minnewaska State Park is a wonderful day trip from neighboring New York City and Albany, but if you do have time, spend the weekend nearby exploring all of Minnewaska’s best hikes. The state park has no camping or forms of accommodation. There are, however, a number of options very near the main park entrance.
Minnewaska State Park is a must-see for anyone looking for breathtaking views and beginner-friendly hikes within two hours of New York City. I hope my handbook to the best hikes in Minnewaska has motivated you to get outside and explore all that New York has to offer.