Welcome to my article on Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New York! My name is Karina Benninger from @kb.hikes. I’m in my early 30s and I live and work in New York State. I currently reside in the Capital Region (near Albany) but grew up about four hours west, close to Rochester.
I work in marketing and have recently started a business on the side with my own brand of steeped coffee products for backpacking and hiking. I have been immersed in the outdoors since I was little, although I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. My parents are both lovers of the outdoors. We would spend summers at our family cabin in northern New York going fishing and boating on the lake or biking and exploring the rural areas.
In my 20s, I began taking interest in hiking local trails and waterfalls and would always try to get friends together to go out and explore with me. By the time I was in my 30s, I had filled up my life with so many other things including a family, a full-time career and a myriad of other responsibilities.
I would look longingly at photos on social media of people doing cool things like climbing mountains, wondering when I would be able to convince my friends to do those things with me. Then, one day, it just clicked. I realized that I couldn’t wait for anyone. If I wanted to get out there and explore, I just had to make a plan and do it – even if it meant going alone. I have been taking adventures in New York State ever since!
Exploring Minnewaska State Park Preserve for the Second Time
I’m very enthusiastic about exploring everything in New York State, since that is where I am located. New York is a beautiful state and many people don’t realize how much diversity there is in the landscape. I’m also a fan of the state parks here. We have some amazing places with interesting geological features. My goal is to visit each of the state parks in New York.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of the more highly rated state parks in New York State – so it had been on my list for a while. I have been to this park twice now. The first time I visited, I only had about an hour or two to explore, since we were in the area for a completely different reason. I loved what I saw so much that I swore I would return again someday.
More recently, I visited the state park for a second time – this time with a full day of exploring at my disposal. There is quite a bit to do in the park and there are many fantastic trails to choose from. We opted to do two of the scenic hikes that day. Firstly, we decided to take the Lake Minnewaska Loop Trail, which is the trail that takes you completely around Lake Minnewaska.
It was about a two mile trail all the way around, providing access to some scenic ledges overlooking the lake and also a ledge area overlooking the opposite direction at a vast view toward the mountain ranges beyond. Our second scenic area was Awosting Falls. This waterfall has its own parking lot and trail that leads past the top of the falls, down to the bottom of the falls.
Why you Should Visit Minnewaska State Park Preserve
This park is located in the middle of a geologically interesting area. From the standpoint of pure awe, this place is a must-see. It’s located near mountains and if you like mountain views, you have them. Lake Minnewaska is an incredibly beautiful lake and will appeal to the people who love being around water. The lake is surrounded by bright white rocky ledges that are beautiful to do a photoshoot in front of or just to marvel at.
The park is much larger than just the two places we explored. There are miles of trails leading to beautiful viewpoints. Some of the trails are harder and meant for more experienced hikers, but many of the trails are perfect for beginners or even people that have never hiked a day in their life.
There is a swimming area that is open in the summer and many picnic areas – so it’s a perfect place to spend a day with your family. If you are really adventurous, there is a section of the park a little way down the road from the main entrance called Peter’s Kill that allows you to do some real-world rock climbing. It’s also a very accessible park. About an hour and a half north of NYC, and an hour south of Albany, it’s fairly easy to get to.
My favorite area of the state park are the steep cliffs overlooking Lake Minnewaska. The rocks are this bright white color giving the place a truly magical glow. I absolutely love vast views overlooking beautiful areas, so standing on those ledges left me feeling awestruck. I could sit there all day and take in the endless stunning scenery and lovely sunshine.
Top 3 Attractions of Minnewaska State Park Preserve
- Lake Minnewaska: The main lake was my favorite feature of the park because it’s so beautiful to look at, explore and climb on the ledges around it. There is swimming available and a lot of little picnic areas.
- Awosting Falls: This is a popular waterfall in New York State which can be viewed from both the top and the bottom of the falls. It’s quite a tall waterfall and is absolutely breathtaking to look at and explore.
- Sam’s Point: Another interesting area of the park. I haven’t been here yet myself because it’s in a different section. It’s located at the highest point of the Shawangunk Mountains and contains a rare section of high-altitude pitch pine barrens. There are caves you can explore, cliffs and scenic views.
Best Memories from my Trips to Minnewaska State Park
I have a couple of favorite memories from my trips to Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The first time I went was the day we picked up our new puppy, Ellie. My husband came with me on this hike and it was special because he doesn’t typically enjoy hiking but he had a great time climbing around on the rocks and ledges with me. It was a wonderful experience.
The last time I went was with my daughter and a good friend of mine. We explored as much as we could. My favorite part about this trip was that my daughter secretly stowed a beautiful dress in her pack. When we got to my favorite location overlooking the lake, she pulled it out and asked me to help her put it on so we could take photos. It was fun to do a photoshoot in such a scenic spot and it made me happy to see her enjoying the outdoors!
Where to Stay at the State Park
New Paltz is the nearest “city”, which is maybe a 15-minute drive from the preserve. It has tons of shops and restaurants along with well-known big box stores and chains. If you are looking to stay closer to the park, there are options ranging from primitive tent camping to high end resort locations.
One popular place is the Samuel Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground which is five minutes away from the main entrance of the park. It’s tent camping only. If you are looking at a more high-end experience, take a look at the Mohonk Mountain House which is a resort hotel 20-minutes away from the park with access to a lake of its own and a lot of outdoor activities.
Other Points of Interest in the Area
Minnewaska is located in the middle of a ton of cool places. It’s next to the Mohonk Preserve which has some of its own trails. You can take a longer, easy trail up to a gorgeous stone tower that allows you to overlook the surrounding areas in a 360 degree range. A more challenging route is the Labyrinth Trail which has some intense rock climbs to get you to the top.
To the south are Bear Mountain State Park and Harriman State Park – both offer some amazing exploring opportunities and views. To the north are the Catskill Mountains which includes the Catskill Forest Preserve. The Catskills are full of remote and wild areas for hiking and outdoor endeavors including a scenic rail trail, but also has a rich culture of food and arts.
Need to Know Before you Go
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is part of the New York State Park System and is one of the more popular parks due to its features and accessibility. It has something for everyone and for people of all skill levels and abilities. Being very popular, parking lots fill up quickly – so it’s important to keep an eye on the website and NYS Parks App for updates on capacity.
Where possible, try to visit either earlier in the morning or much later in the afternoon when it’s less busy. It also helps to visit during the week or during the off season. Although there are a lot of hiking trails to choose from, keep in mind that some get closed for maintenance or seasonally. Swimming is also only open seasonally. Make sure to check back on the website for more information about any closings so you aren’t disappointed when you arrive.
Even if something you want to see is closed or parking is at capacity, there are still a ton of things around the area to do. Try checking those areas out first and come back to the park later in the day. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your visit to the amazing Minnewaska State Park Preserve!