By Matthew Young
Lake Minnewaska Loop & Awosting Falls
2.9 miles roundtrip
Though not a particularly challenging pair of hikes, the Lake Minnewaska Loop and the Awosting Falls trail pack a scenic punch. With an easily accessible parking area, and well maintained trails, these two trails are great for a solo hike or outing with the whole family.
The fee to park a car in Minnewaska State Park is $10 per car, but as with Sam’s Point and other hikes I’ve covered, the experience is worth the entrance fee. The Awosting Falls trail has it’s own designated parking area with restrooms. To get to the trailhead, you will have to walk for a bit down the paved park road until you get to the Awosting Falls Carriage Road. However, even the road walk is lined with picturesque views. Mountain Laurel grow along side the trunks of evergreens and oaks, showcasing their summer bloom.
The Carriage Road works it’s way down the ridge, making a pit stop at the top of Awosting Falls before leading you to the pool at the base. A much smaller waterfall careens off the smoothed stone as it flows towards the 65 foot drop. Exploring the top of the falls is exhilarating as you peer down at the river’s plunge.
After you’ve explored the top section, make your way down the trail to the best view of the falls. As the water crashes through the carved out stone, and into the deep, seemingly bottomless pool, you can feel the cooling spray of the mist (a welcomed reprieve on a humid summer afternoon). There are plenty of large rocks to sit on along the base of Awosting, though you may end up sharing the view with a bunch of other hikers on busy summer weekends.
The short hike back to the parking area from the falls is slightly more strenuous, as you trek back up the mountainside, though nothing too serious. The loop hike around Lake Minnewaska also has it’s own parking area.
The 1.9 mile loop trail follows the rim of the lake, providing a bunch of scenic overlooks, offering different perspectives of the clear mountain lake. There are a few sections of elevation gain and loss along the loop trail, but overall it is a pretty mild and extremely rewarding hike.
Not only are you graced with lake overlooks, but there are several viewpoints that peer out over the expanse of the Hudson Valley, with the looming bluish tinted Catskills as the backdrop. From one viewpoint I could make out a plume of white smoke rising from the canopy, which at first I thought may have been the start of a wildfire, but fortunately it dissipated within a few minutes.
As you continue around the lake, you’ll find some solitude amongst the pitch pine and birches. The world quiets down, and the gentle lapping of the water at the lake shore is the main soundtrack. Its a relatively short trail, so take your time to enjoy the Minnewaska wilderness. Once it’s over, you’ll be wishing it was longer.
After working up a sweat from the trail, Lake Minnewaska offers another luxury. There is a small but refreshing swimming area, with an on duty lifeguard, making it a fun option for families with kids. The water is cool, but not unbearably cold. Stepping out from the lake, onto the beach, and into the warm air is a feeling unique to summer. It stirs up memories from childhood; comfort and contentment.
These two short but powerful hikes are some of the best quick day hikes in the Hudson Valley. The weathered white stones that rise from the tree line are front row seats to a beautiful natural scene, high atop the ridge.
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