Minnewaska State Park Preserve is located just about a two-hour’s drive from Manhattan if the traffic’s on your side- and quite a bit longer if it’s not. Since we’d left bright and early, we thought we’d been able to dodge the worst of it when we came across a complete stand-still just about a mile outside of the park.
Shockingly, this deadlock was actually a line of visitors waiting patiently to get into the park, which opens at 9am. In this case, the early worm gets the traffic. Still, once 9am rolled around, the line moved quickly, with park employees collecting a $10 parking fee from every car.
The parking was plentiful, though I was surprised by how quickly it filled up so make sure to arrive early- though not before 9am!
Since we’d planned a busy day, we weren’t able to explore the entirety of the 22,275-acre park and instead chose to do a gentle walk around Lake Minnewaska itself. The paved two mile hike takes about an hour to complete and showcases a kaleidoscope of Fall colors surrounding the titular lake. The height of the path can vary drastically- on this quick hike we went from the shoreline to the top of sheer cliffs between one end and the other!
There are a few viewpoints along the hike from which to admire the foliage, though keep in mind the steep drop and the lack of fencing. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather, because between the lake and the high cliff that wind can get brisk!
The lake path is circular and begins and ends at the Upper Parking Area which made for a convenient little loop to sample the park. We chose to start with the lower half of the trail, where we could explore some of the beaches and waterfront before making our way up to those higher viewpoints. The higher end of the trail did have some seating and picnic tables, so you can pick your direction based on when you’d like to eat.
Though we only saw a very small portion of the park, it was beautiful and definitely worth a visit. For those with more time, the park also offers camping sites, trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing, as well as life guarded swimming areas, rock climbing and permitted deer hunting- there’s something for everyone!
Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept on a maximum 6 foot leash at all times.
The park seems to be active in its attempts to involve visitors, so they have a robust schedule of events to explore. In the Fall, visitors can expect guided foliage hikes and and birding outings. Lake Minnewaska is a designated Bird Conservation Area located within a migratory corridor so lucky visitors can expect a real diversity of bird sightings.
In addition to Lake Minnewaska, there are three more lakes within its borders, and several waterfalls to explore. The cliffs make for stunning hikes, and Gertrude’s Nose is one of the park’s biggest attractions. Although we didn’t make it to this point on our visit, it’s listed as a moderately challenging hike so I look forward to exploring both this hike and the other lakes on a future visit.