Located in the heart of the Shawangunk Mountains in Ulster County, New York, Minnewaska State Park Preserve offers some of the most dramatic scenery in our area. This five-mile, four-hour moderate hike passes a spectacular waterfall, reaches a panoramic viewpoint over the Catskills, descends to cross the cascading Peters Kill, then climbs to a ridge high above the stream and follows along the ridge, with more views. It begins on a well-graded carriage road, but the second part of the hike follows narrow footpaths, with some relatively steep descents and ascents. The trailhead is about 80 miles from Teaneck, and it should take about one and one-half hours to get there.
To get there, take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Route 299 and continue west through the Village of New Paltz. When you cross the bridge over the Wallkill River at the west end of the village, continue ahead on Route 299 (do not turn right towards the Mohonk Mountain House). In another 5.6 miles (from the Wallkill River bridge), Route 299 ends at a T-intersection with Route 44/55. Turn right here and follow Route 44/55 as it negotiates a very sharp hairpin turn and climbs to pass under the Trapps Bridge (a steel truss overpass). Continue for 3.0 miles past the Trapps Bridge to the entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve, on the left side of the road. After passing the entrance booth (a $10 parking fee is charged), continue straight ahead to the Awosting parking area.
From the parking area, head east on a wide gravel path, following the sign to “Trail to Awosting Falls.” When you reach the access road to Lake Minnewaska, the trail curves to the right, then crosses a concrete bridge over the Peters Kill. On the other side of the bridge, turn left onto the Awosting Falls Carriage Road.
The carriage road you are following was built in 1907 to link the Mohonk Mountain House with Minnewaska. It is marked with occasional red diamond blazes. The road descends on a broad curve to reach the base of the 65-foot-high Awosting Falls, which are particularly spectacular after heavy rains. Below the falls, the carriage road continues to parallel the scenic Peters Kill.
In about half a mile, the carriage road approaches Route 44/55. Here you should bear right at a fork to continue on the carriage road. In another half mile, bear left at the next fork. Soon, the white-blazed Awosting Falls Connector Trail begins on the left. Turn left and follow this trail.
After briefly paralleling a power line, the trail turns right and reaches Route 44/55. Cross the highway and continue onto the paved road leading downhill towards the park office. Just past the gatehouse, turn left and descend to the lower parking area. At a sign on the left for the “Red Loop Footpath,” enter the woods and head north on a gravel road, following this red-blazed trail.
At the top of a rise, a sign and a triple-white blaze on a tree on the right mark the start of the Bull Wheel Footpath. Turn right onto this trail, which climbs gradually on an old carriage road. After a short descent, the trail bears right at a fork and continues to climb on a rougher route.
After narrowing to a footpath, the trail reaches the crest of the rise, where it passes a concrete slab, with steel bolts protruding. A tower that was anchored to the slab via the bolts once supported a pulley for a ski lift – part of the Ski Minne downhill ski area, which operated from 1964 to 1978. The pulley is commonly referred to as a “bull wheel” – hence the name for the trail.
The trail now descends gradually, passing through mountain laurel thickets and blueberry bushes, with stands of white pine. Several side trails for rock climbers leave to the left. After passing the cliffs of Dickie Barre on the left, the Bull Wheel Footpath ends at a junction with the blue-blazed High Peters Kill Trail (also the route of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail). Turn left onto this trail, which climbs briefly to cut through a notch in Dickie Barre (notice the tilted blocks of conglomerate rock on the left), then begins a long, gradual descent through mountain laurel thickets and blueberry bushes.
In a quarter mile, you’ll reach an open area with pitch pines growing on exposed rock ledges. Here, the High Peters Kill Trail turns sharply right and begins a steady descent. You should continue straight ahead along the rock ledges to a dramatic viewpoint from the edge of the cliffs, with the Catskills visible in the distance. You’ll want to spend some time here to rest and enjoy this beautiful spot.
When you’re ready to continue, return to the blazed trail and turn left, beginning a rather steep descent over exposed rock ledges. At the base of the descent, you’ll reach the picturesque Peters Kill. A yellow-blazed trail leads left to the Peters Kill parking area, but you should bear right to continue along the blue-blazed High Peters Kill Trail, which crosses the stream and a tributary on wooden truss bridges and then begins a steady climb through rhododendrons, mountain laurel and hemlocks.
After bearing left and heading southwest, parallel to the Peters Kill, the climb moderates. Soon, you’ll reach a rock outcrop with pitch pines that affords a panoramic view over the valley of the Peters Kill and Dickie Barre. The trail follows the ridge high above the Peters Kill, continuing to climb gradually, with many views from rock outcrops overlooking the valley below. Although the stream itself may not be visible, the roar of the water can be clearly heard. At one point, the trail goes through a narrow passage between rocks.
After a while, Route 44/55 comes into view, and the trail begins to parallel the road. When there are no leaves on the trees, the ruins of an old stone building (built in 1922 as a powerhouse for the hotels at Lake Minnewaska) may be seen below. As the Peters Kill curves to the left and passes under Route 44/55, the High Peters Kill Trail continues through dense mountain laurel thickets.
In another three-quarters of a mile (about 1.8 miles from the crossing of the Peters Kill), the High Peters Kill Trail ends at Route 44/55. Cross the road and follow a blue-blazed path to the parking area where the hike began.