Hike in Minnewaska State Park for scenic views of waterfalls

waterfalls in minnewaska

We have this friend named Tim who’s not the most outdoorsy of souls but who finally, after months of us sending him countless well framed Snapchats of our outdoor adventures, asked us to take him on a hike. We wanted to hook him on the idea so it was important we take him somewhere impressive. Our requirements were:

  • Hiking that isn’t too challenging but where there’s an option to jump on more moderate trails
  • Instagramable scenic overlooks
  • Plenty of cell service (Tim loves cell service)
  • Within a few hours from the city (We sprung for a Zipcar but we didn’t want to have to leave for the trip too early in the morning)

Enter Minnewaska State Park. About a 100 miles north of the city just outside New Paltz, NY, Minnewaska is is home to multiple waterfalls and lakes (think photo ops). The park offers tons of hiking that ranges from carriage roads (wide, maintained paths) to more narrow, technical trails. It’s a choose your own outdoor adventure dream—in addition to hiking, the park is also a good spot for trail running, biking, swimming and snowshoeing in the winter. There’s even an area designated for rock climbing.

We decided to focus our day on lakes and waterfalls. Awosting Falls is the easiest to get to—it’s right inside the park’s main entrance and is accessible via a carriage road. The area can get a bit crowded but the falls are so stunning that it’s worth at least a quick peek before setting off toward any of the other scenic destinations in the park.

From Awosting Falls, we hiked to Rainbow Falls which appeared on the map to be a little more off the beaten path. We followed the Lower Awosting carriage road (marked by black blazes) to the Rainbow Falls trail (marked by orange blazes). The trail was more moderate than the road but well marked and it eventually led us down a ravine where we started to hear the sound of falling water. After a few more twists and turns we arrived at the falls and immediately understood their namesake. The rock beneath the falls looked like it was painted in shades of red that worked into deep purples with spots that almost looked blue and green.

We continued on the Rainbow Falls trail to where it met up with the Upper Awosting Falls carriage road (marked by green blazes) and followed the loop back around so we could get a view of Lake Awosting before hiking out.

Tim took plenty of his own Snapchats which we considered an indication of a successful day trip. Minnewaska was one of the first places we explored outside of New York City years ago and we were happy to see it also excite someone else.

Note: Be sure to check before you go—the park is closed this week due to a forest fire in the area.

This adventure appeared in today’s edition of our newsletter. 

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