Want to leave the city behind for a few days and explore one of the most lovely state parks in all of New York? Want to pitch your tent in gorgeous 42-acre vineyard, experience a local, Hudson Valley wine tasting, and let the crickets sing you to sleep at night? I don’t live in the city, but when spring is due in Vermont and has decided not to show, we head south. Last weekend, heading south meant packing up the car and the guide dog puppy, and zipping down to Minnewaska State Park for some hiking, followed by a night under the stars at Robibero Winery in New Paltz.
Minnewaska is a day-use only park, which means we had to get creative when deciding where to stay. Thanks to Hipcamp, we were able to create a fabulous weekend of camping, hiking, and chilling with a glass of wine under the stars.
Minnewaska State Park
Minnewaska State Park is less than two hours from New York City, encompassing more than 22,000 acres of the Shawangunk Mountains in Ulster County. It’s a paradise for rock climbers, hikers, photographers, mountain bikers, and cross-country skiers. If you’re looking for solitude, however, you may need to be creative when choosing the trails you hike on. Minnewaska isn’t exactly a hidden gem. On a beautiful weekend day in April, we shared the carriage roads with quite a few hikers and bikers, but some of the less popular trails were 100% deserted, and so breathtakingly beautiful! Here are some highlights from our weekend in Minnewaska State Park.
Awosting Falls are pretty famous and easy to get to, well worth the ¼ mile walk on a wide, gravel path. There are a few small cascades that make up the upper falls, but it’s the lower Awosting Falls that look like they should be in a movie. They plunge over a beautiful rock outcropping 65 feet into a small, deep pool. You can photograph Awosting Falls from all kinds of angles, but unfortunately, you can’t swim in pool below the falls. This rule is strictly enforced.
After enjoying Awosting Falls, head back the way you came and hop on the Sunset Carriage Road, and hike another .8 miles to Lake Minnewaska. This gorgeous glacial lake is surrounded by steep white cliffs. Swimming is permitted at a small, roped-off swimming area, but only when lifeguards are on duty. The Lake Minnewaska carriage road circles the lake, providing a nice two-mile walk with awesome views all the way around.
Upper Awosting and Castle Point Carriage Roads
From the Lake Minnewaska carriage road, you can take either Upper Awosting or the Castle Point carriage Road and hike further up for some really amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Both roads will bring you to Lake Awosting, another incredible glacial lake worth visiting. The shortest route is the Upper Awosting carriage road, which is 3.1 miles from lake to lake. Lake Awosting is bigger than Lake Minnewaska, but because it’s a bit harder to get to, you won’t run into as many people. Another option is to take either of the two carriage roads to the nature trails just west of Lake Minnewaska. The trails criss-cross all over the place, taking you through meadows, around ponds, and through acres and acres of high-bush blueberries. I can’t wait to head back up in August and indulge!
Visiting Minnewaska State Park
Getting There: Minnewaska State Park is a short drive from New Paltz, New York, which is located off of exit 18 on I-87. Take route 299 west through downtown, and turn right on route 44 east, which will bring you right to the main entrance of the park.
Parking and Fees: The cost to enter the park is $10 for your car and everyone in it. There are four main parking areas, but I recommend the lower Awosting parking lot if you want to visit the falls and the lake. You can also skip the falls and park closer to Lake Minnewaska.
Dogs: Dogs are permitted, but must be leashed.
Other rules to make note of: No glass containers, no alcohol, and no overnight camping. Bicyclists must wear helmets and all trash must be carried out.
Official website: New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
As I mentioned above, camping is not permitted in Minnewaska State Park. Luckily, we were able to pitch our tent at Robibero Winery in New Paltz, just a short drive from the park. The Robibero family has been running the vineyard and winery since 2007, creating outstanding whites and reds on 42 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley. Campers can visit for a wine tasting between Thursday and Sunday, and then pitch their tent in the field behind the winery. This experience was a first for us, but I’m thinking wine tastings and camping are a perfect match.
We booked our stay through Hipcamp, an online camping platform that matches landowners across the country with campers looking for unique experiences. (disclaimer: I’m a Hipcamp field scout, which means I get paid to take photos when we go camping ) You can pretty much choose your spot in the huge field behind the vineyard. There’s running water, bathrooms, and a communal fire ring at the winery, and dogs are totally welcome.
There’s not much in this world that can compare to sipping wine in a field with your favorite person (and your favorite dog) as the sun kisses the world goodnight. We watched the stars appear one by one, played a little fetch with Flash, and Eric tuned his guitar for a little night music. All in all, a perfect weekend in the Hudson Valley.
Visiting Robibero Winery in New Paltz, NY
Getting There: Robibero Family Vineyards is located at 714 Albany Post Rd. in New Paltz (exit 18 off of I-87). It’s less than two hours north of New York City.
Hours: The winery is open from Thursday – Sunday, 11 – 6 pm.
Cost: Wine tastings are $12 per person. Bottles start at around $17 (we really like the Rabbit’s Foot Red)
Camping: You can reserve a night at Robibero Winery through Hipcamp for $50 per night.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the grounds and in the winery, but should be kept on a leash.
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