Minnewaska State Park
If the idea of spending $10 per person to hike the Mohonk Mountain House preserve sounds a bit steep, head farther west through fertile farmland to Minnewaska State Park (off Rte. 44/55, 845/255-0752, 9 a.m.–dusk daily). Also located high in the Shawangunks, the park is filled with panoramic views, hiking trails, paved carriage roads, waterfalls, and lakes—all available for a $7 parking fee in summer and on weekends, free on weekdays the rest of the year.
Near the center of the park is deep-blue Lake Minnewaska—Iroquois for floating waters—surrounded by white sandstone cliffs. The lake was created during the Ice Age when a glacier sliding by pulled out a hunk of soft sandstone. On Lake Minnewaska is a sandy beach area where swimming is permitted, but if you like your bathing more secluded, hike the three-mile trail to Lake Awosting. This mile-long lake can only be reached on foot and is an idyllic spot surrounded by dark, piney woods.
Just minutes away from Minnewaska State Park is the deservedly popular Minnewaska Lodge (3116 Rte. 44/55, Gardiner, 845/255-1110, www.minnewaskalodge.com, $135–319 d). Catering to outdoors enthusiasts, the 26-room hostelry features rooms with cathedral ceilings and decks overlooking the Gunks, along with Mission-style furniture, oversized picture windows, and a wood-burning stove. Works by local artists hang on the walls.
Getting to Minnewaska State Park
To reach Minnewaska State Park from New Paltz, take Route 299 west to Route 44/55 and turn right, up the mountain. After visiting the park, you might want to step into the old-fashioned, family-owned Mountain Brauhaus (Rtes. 299 and 44/55, Gardiner, 845/255-9766, $14) for a frothy mug of German beer and a plate of rouladen or kassler rippchen. The roadhouse sits at the base of the Shawangunks, and offers spectacular views; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition