There are many great dayhikes at Minnewaska State Park in New Paltz, NY. We go there so often that I nearly forgot to write about it. The park has spectacular cliff views, and wide gravel carriageways for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. The hiker-only trails include some challenging rock scrambles. Minnewaska is part of the Shawangunks, a formation of tilted conglomerate with deep fissures and sheer faces with enough grippable surface to make them a favorite of rock climbers. “The Gunks” are well known to the Northeast’s climbing community.

It’s also a great place to see fall colors.

The park has three main entrances: Lake Minnewaska, Peter’s Kill and Sam’s Point. Lake Minnewaska is the most popular. A visit to this area should include a walk out to Castle Point, a large overlook with a sheer drop-off and sweeping views. Other attractions include Awosting Falls (an easy walk from the lower parking lot), Lake Awosting (a few miles from either lot), and of course Lake Minnewaska which is simply stunning in a cliff-surrounded area by the upper lot. You can swim at either lake in summer, but Awosting is the larger and less-crowded option. Awosting’s “beach” is not sand but a sloping slab of rock.

My favorite scramble at Minnewaska is to come up Castle Point via the purple blazed Scenic Path, seen below.

Fun fact: “Scenic Path” is part of the 80 mile Shawangunk Ridge Trail.

The Sam’s Point area has the best visitor’s center (and bathrooms for that matter). It also features the 187′ tall Verkeerderkill Falls, which is higher than Niagara. In the summer, a nice hike includes the falls and the Ice Caves, which are deep crevices that fill with snow in winter and usually don’t melt completely for the rest of the year. They often don’t open until mid-summer. A difficult trail that is often overlooked is South Gully. This 6 mile roundtrip (out and back) features numerous cascades and waterfalls and almost 2000′ of elevation change.

The Peter’s Kill area offers similar scenery to the other two, but doesn’t give up its “wow” areas as easily. This area is the only one where technical climbers with equipment are allowed to go at it. If you are willing to go deep into the area and explore without particular trails, there are the Dickie Barr and “Lost City” areas (technically part of the Mohonk Preserve).

The sign in this last picture has a wonderful understatement. If you miss this turn you will find yourself in midair, falling hundreds of feet.

Well, I think it’s funny.