Skiing at Minnewaska

Photos of Skiing at Minnewaska
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cross country skiing at 
Minnewaska State Park
 in New York

Ken Roberts and 
Sharon Marsh Roberts

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ski route map
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what's here 

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Overview : What Minnewaska offers | Where is it? | Cost how much? 

- - Facilities and Services | Parking options | Contact info 
- - Risks and Dangers 

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Routes and Terrain - - [ Ski Map ] - - [ Photos ]

- - Getting Started | Intermediate | Advanced | other 
- - Maps 

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Conditions for skiing | Events | Getting Here
 

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more . . . 

see also

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Photos -- a day of Skiing at Minnewaska

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Getting Here -- Driving Map 

bullet Equipment for skiing -- Rental or purchase 
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more on Minnewaska Park 
 

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Discuss XC skiing in the Mid-Hudson area

Overview 

What Minnewaska offers for skiing 

Dramatic rocks, interesting trails, big views, unique trees, and mountain lakes make Minnewaska very special for skiers who can handle going up and down some hills. 

For a fit and skilled skier who can also handle ungroomed trails, when the snow is good and the skies are clear, Minnewaska is one of the great cross-country skiing experiences in the world. 

But . . . 

bulletThe Park is not intended to be a cross-country skiing center, and may not offer services you might expect at a "normal" cross-country skiing center: for example a base lodge for getting warm and putting on equipment, rentals of equipment, food + drinks.
bulletSometimes the snow isn't so good or not enough to ski. The Park has no "snow-making" facilities to manufacture snow.
bulletSometimes the grooming of the snow isn't so good.
bulletOnly limited terrain is available for skiers who can only handle very gentle trails. 

Restrictions on use:

bulletPets are not permitted on the groomed trails. 
bulletNo hiking or walking on the groomed ski trails. 
bulletNo sledding or tobogganing. 
bulletNo snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles. 
bulletThere are no ski lifts available.  

Where is it

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is west of New Paltz in Ulster County in the mid-Hudson valley area of New York state, on Route 44.  It's around two hours drive from New York City.  See 

Getting Here : Driving Map + Directions 

Cost -- how much? 

In January 2010 we've heard from Park staff over the phone that there is a

$6 per person fee for skiing -- if they are open for normal skiing (which normally means that they've done some grooming of the ski routes)

Juniors -- $5 per person.

That's what we heard from Park staff on the phone back in January 2010.  If you want more recent information about the current fee schedule or exactly what the Park is charging on a particular day, be sure to contact the Park 

When the Park is not charging this per-person fee for skiing (usually because the ski routes are not groomed, or not enough snow), we heard from Park staff that there is still a fee for parking: 

parking fee:  $6 per vehicle

This parking fee is not charged to skiers who pay the per-person fee for skiing -- that's what we've heard from Park staff -- and what we've experienced ourselves when we've been there for skiing in previous years.

Any questions about fees or the most current information, be sure to contact the Park.

Facilities and Services 

Keep in mind that Minnewaska is not a normal state park -- it's a Preserve.  So its primary mission is not to provide facilities. 

What we've usually found are (as of January 2010): 

bulletTrail maps 
bulletGrooming of the non-backcountry trails 
bulletHut by the upper parking area to get out of the wind, but it's not heated. 

Bring your own food and drink.  

Equipment Rental:  If you do not have your own ski equipment, you can rent it before you go to the Park -- see 

ski equipment stores near Minnewaska.  

We have heard there will be no concession inside the Park for renting or selling skis or related accessories for the 2005-2006 winter season. 

Carry out your own garbage. 

Parking options 

Upper parking area:  Most folks drive up the steep and curvy access road from the main entrance to the upper parking area by Lake Minnewaska (see Map) -- the prettiest place to start skiing -- but not the easiest.  There are two or three different levels of parking lots in this upper area. 

In icy or snowy conditions, you may find the steep access road too difficult or dangerous to drive.  In that case, you can usually park in the bottom parking area

Or if the trails from the upper parking area look dangerous or intimidating for you, could try the bottom parking area instead. 

Bottom parking area:  This parking is right next to Route 44, just west from the main entrance (see Map).

Seems like this is intended as the parking lot for non-skiing hikers (as of January 2010)

It does provides access to the longest section of trail (northern section of Lower Awosting) that does not require you to get up or down steep hills - (but as of January 2010 this trail is not normally groomed for skiing).  If you are able to handle steeper hills, you can eventually get access to all the ski routes -- but it takes a lot more work to get to the most spectacular spots from this bottom parking area -- and there are some steep hills between the bottom parking and the prettier views -- too steep for most non-expert cross-country skiers.

Contact the Park

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 

Website:  [ official Park web page ] 

if this link does not work, try 
New York State Parks page 

Risks and Dangers 

Warning:  Cross country skiing has some dangers of serious bodily harm.  Skiing at Minnewaska has special dangers in addition to those at other skiing areas, because some of the roads, carriageways, trails, and skiing routes at Minnewaska have sections very near to cliffs and exposed rocks where an accident or mistake could result in serious injury or death. 

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

Ski Routes and Terrain 

Once you get your trail map when you pay the entrance fee at the entrance gate, the question is, "Where to ski?".  Here some ideas: 

bulletGetting Started:  Practice Area | Beacon Hill | ?Lower Awosting?
bulletIntermediate:  Test hill | Upper Awosting | Around Lake Minnewaska | Millbrook Mountain | Castle Point
bulletAdvanced + Athletic:  Castle Point loop | Hamilton Point loop | Lake Awosting | Sunset 
bulletbest bet for best snow: Upper Awosting

Getting Started 

Practice Area:  Right by the upper parking area is a gentle open area overlooking the lake.  This is usually groomed, and a good place to get the feel of your skis.  

This is one of the coldest and windiest places in the Park, so if that's how it feels when you arrive, keep in mind that it usually feels nicer on most of the ski trails. 

Beacon Hill:  At the end of this route is a special view of Sky Top and the ridges northeast from Minnewaska.  It's a gentle downhill most of the way out, but has one steeper section -- so if that looks like too much for you, turn around before you go down it. 

This route goes East from the motor vehicle road from the main entrance up to the upper parking area by Lake Minnewaska.  It starts a little ways down the road from the upper parking area -- so you have to walk and carry your skis in order to get to it.  It doesn't connect to any other ski route. 

When planning your tour, keep in mind that you will have to go uphill all the way back to the motor vehicle road, and uphill all the way back to the upper parking area.

? Lower Awosting ?:  As of January 2010, this trail is not normally groomed for skiing. It might still be good for skiing if you're able to do the work of breaking your own track just after a snowstorm -- but soon people start walking on it, and then it often gets difficult for skiing.

This route on the Lower Awosting "carriageway"  provides the longest skiing without requiring you to get up or down any steep hills.  Eventually it does reach a steep hill, but when you get to it you can just turn around and come back. 

"carriageway" is the Park's term for a single-lane unpaved road which is closed to motor vehicle traffic.

It is accessed from the bottom parking area.  Head south, directly away from Route 44, on what looks like a single-lane road, about 8 feet wide. When you decide you've gone far enough, just turn around and go back the way you came.  If you keep going a long ways, you reach a very steep and long hill to climb.  

Warning:  Before trying to get up that hill, bear in mind that you'll have to be able to get down it also -- and that once you climb up this hill, there is no way to ski back to the bottom parking area without going down some long steep hill. Keep in mind that if the snow warms up above freezing in the middle of the day, by 3pm or 4pm it will cool down again, and this hill could re-freeze into a dangerous icy surface.

If you decide that you can handle that hill, you can go all the way to the shore of Lake Awosting.  

After the lake, the road climbs again until it ends at the junction with the Upper Awosting carriageway.  If you've made it this far, it's worth turning Right and following the Upper Awosting road up south-ward a little ways to reach a great viewpoint over Lake Awosting. 

bulletMaximum total distance 6 miles with 500 vertical feet of uphill (10 km and 150 vertical meters), if you turn around somewhere before you reach Lake Awosting. 
 
bulletIf you turn around just before the big hill climb, the round-trip distance is about 5 miles with 330 vertical feet of uphill (8 km and 100 vertical meters).  

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

For experienced "Intermediate" skiers 

All of the trails and roads below require the ability to handle steep uphills and steep downhills.  

Test hill:  A key test for all of these trails and roads is the first downhill from the far southwest corner of the upper parking lot down to the level of Lake Minnewaska -- marked in Red on the Map of routes

If you walk from the top level of the upper parking area straight toward Lake Minnewaska, you come to a walkway with a wooden fence between you and the lake.  As you are facing the lake, that key first downhill is the continuation of that walkway to the Right (southwest).  

Warning:  As this walkway goes down the steep hill, there is a rock wall on its right, and a steep drop to the lake on its left.  At the bottom of this downhill is the junction of two popular ski routes, often with people standing there not paying attention to you or your possible collisions.  So think about whether you really have the skiing capabilities and techniques to handle all this before you start going down it. 

On the other hand, this is likely the steepest downhill you're going to see on any of the official groomed ski routes or "carriageways" all day.  So if you can make it past this one, you will gain access to many miles of mellower skiing (until you have to climb back up it to return to your car). 

But if that hill looks dangerous for you, better try something else -- possibly the Lower Awosting route, accessed from the bottom parking area.

Upper Awosting out and back:  From the bottom of the "test hill", the route which gets you the farthest out for the least work is the Upper Awosting "carriageway" (see Map). 

"carriageway" is the Park's term for a single-lane unpaved road which is closed to motor vehicle traffic.

To get to the start of the Upper Awosting way, you must first get yourself safely down the "test hill" (see above).  If that hill looks dangerous for you, better try something else.  But if you can get down that (and back up it on your return), there's nothing steeper than that on this route. 

The Upper Awosting way goes for a long distance gently through the woods.  But eventually it starts climbing -- not real steep hills, but long ones.  If this is not for you, then it's time to turn around.  If you can handle more hills, you can get to the Litchfield Ledge cliff with its ice flows (which sometimes make the track too icy for safe travel past here). 

Eventually the road meets the Lower Awosting carriageway.  If you've made it this far, it's worth continuing straight past that intersection a little further, as the road climbs south to a great viewpoint over Lake Awosting. 

bulletMaximum total distance 6 miles with 330 vertical feet of uphill (10 km and 100 vertical meters), if you turn around somewhere before the end. [ Map
bulletIf you turn around at Litchfield Ledge, the round-trip distance is about 5 miles (8 km)
bulletIf you turn back before you get to the start of the uphill, the round-trip distance is less than 2 miles (3 km). [ Map ]  

 
Around Lake Minnewaska
:  The tour with the most spectacular views in the shortest distance is to go all the way around Lake Minnewaska.  But it's got some steep sections -- not for beginners (you can first check yourself out on the "test hill" -- see above). 

If you do this in the clockwise direction (start out past the Park Office -- to the Left as you're facing toward the Lake from the upper parking area), you avoid taking the two steepest sections in their fast downhill direction, and you get the trickiest navigation past buildings and a bridge over with at the beginning. 

bulletAll the way around the lake is about 1.7 miles with 170 vertical feet of uphill (3 km and 50 vertical meters). [ Map | Photos

Millbrook Mountain ?:  (as of January 2010, not sure if this is normally groomed for skiing -- so perhaps now it's an "advanced" ungroomed trail).
Going out to Millbrook Mountain and back is a pleasant tour to add on to going around Lake Minnewaska.  Some views of cliffs -- and going alongside the edge of a cliff while passing by the "Patterson Pellet".  The route ends at a little turnaround loop, and if conditions are favorable there is the possibility taking skis off and carefully climbing up a little to a big view over the Hudson valley.  Then you take the same way to go back to the Lake, and then you can continue on around Lake Minnewaska.  Nothing on the Millbrook Mountain carriageway is any harder than some of the hills and turns going around the Lake. 

Oddly, this "mountain" is actually lower than Lake Minnewaska.  So be ready for some uphill work on your way back. 

We find it easier to start by going around Lake Minnewaska (see above) in the clockwise direction (past the Park Office -- to the Left as you're facing toward the Lake from the upper parking area).  After coming down to the level of the water of the Lake, and then climbing steeply, take the Left turn onto the route to Millbrook Mountain.  After a ways the Hamilton Point carriageway turns off right, but you pass by that and bear Left toward Patterson Pellet and Millbrook Mountain.

In non-icy conditions, it is possible to climb from the turnaround up the rocky slope to a big view from the top of the highest overhanging cliff in New York state.  Be aware that many ski boots have slippery soles, not well suited to climbing up on hard rocks, especially when glazed with ice and snow.  Do not go too near to the edge of the cliff, since the result of the wrong kind of slip will be very permanent. 

bulletout and back to Millbrook Mountain and around Lake Minnewaska is about 6.2 miles and 520 vertical feet of uphill (10 km and 160 meters). [ Map | Photos

Castle Point out and back:  The Castle Point "carriageway" has lots of exposed rocks beside it, overlooks at the edge of cliffs, big views across the Hudson river valley, and interesting curves and dips.  It makes a wonderful long run, mostly downhill, from south to north. 

The problem is that first you have to climb up it, north to south.  The good news is that most of it is not real steep -- just long.  When you decide you've done enough hard work, you can just turn around and head back the same way you came.  (First at the start check yourself out on the "test hill" -- see above). 

There are a number of places where this route goes very near to the edge of a cliff, or right next to a large protruding rock -- so stay alert and in control. 

Views

If you make it all the way out to the big view at Castle Point, on a clear day you can see East to the ancient Taconic mountains across the Hudson River, and South to Storm King Mt and Breakneck Ridge where the River cuts its way through the mountains toward the ocean.  To the Southwest are the radio towers by Sam's Point -- and the Shawangunk ridge you are standing on extends beyond those all the way to New Jersey (and continues on after that for hundreds of miles).  If you look carefully along the southeast horizon, often you can barely make out a distant tower, which is on the High Point of the state of New Jersey. 

Before turning around, it's also worthwhile to turn sharp right at the big viewpoint and continue on the carriageway into the woods past a couple of curves to another big view out to the West, where you can see Lake Awosting, some distant reservoirs, and the Catskill mountains. 

On your way back north to Lake Minnewaska, you will find some views northeast to the Sky Top tower which is near Lake Mohonk.

bulletCastle Point -- Maximum distance of 6 miles with 500 vertical feet of uphill (10 km and 150 vertical meters), if you turn around somewhere before the final viewpoint. [ Map
 

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

For advanced and athletic skiers 

Castle Point Loop:  The groomed loop favored by many advanced or athletic skiers is to go out from Lake Minnewaska on Upper Awosting "carriageway" and come back on the Castle Point "carriageway" (see Map). 

"carriageway" is the Park's term for a single-lane unpaved road which is closed to motor vehicle traffic.

There are a number of places where this route goes very near to the edge of a cliff, or right next to a large protruding rock -- so stay alert and in control. 

See the descriptions of the two routes above for more details. 

bulletUpper Awosting - Castle Point Loop -- about 7.3 miles with 530 vertical feet of uphill (12 km and 160 vertical meters). [ Map | Photos

Hamilton Point loop: (not groomed for skiing)  For an advanced and athletic skier who can handle the ungroomed, an interesting and pretty loop is to start out past the ski rental building and Park administration building and around the east side of Lake Minnewaska, then out on the Hamilton Point trail, and return on the Castle Point carriageway.

The trail surface is pretty rocky in some sections, so it needs more + deeper snow to cover the rocks than some other trails in the Park. Use skis that you don't mind getting scratched if you hit some rocks hidden under the snow. Also it's exposed to the sun and wind, so some sections lose snow quicker than the normally groomed ski trails.

Direction of loop:  I've always skied this loop in the clockwise direction (out Hamilton Point trail and return on Castle Point carriageway), which has two advantages:

(1) If there are any problems with the condition of the less-used and perhaps unpatrolled Hamilton Point trail, I can discover them earlier and decide to change my plans -- instead of later when the distance and time for turning around is much larger;

(2) If the snow does not sufficiently cover bigger rocks on the trail surface or damaged sections, it's more difficult to maneuver to avoid them, and the damage to my skis (or body) from not avoiding them is greater at the higher speeds going in the mostly-downhill direction (northeast on the Hamilton Point trail, counter-clockwise on the loop).
Taking the loop clockwise enables me to ski Hamilton Point going southwest in the safer mostly-uphill direction.

The Hamilton Point trail has lots of exposed rocks beside it, overlooks at the edge of cliffs, views across to the Gertrude's Nose cliffs and the Wallkill River valley. See Photos.

Special Caution: Hamilton Point trail has been closed to mountain biking since before 2007. Since then, on days when I was at the Park for skiing I remember seeing signs at both ends saying "Trail Closed".

On the other hand, when I visited the Park in December 2007 and January 2010, it seemed that Hamilton Point trail was now open all the way through for hiking. So in two different years with lots off snow on the ground, Sharon and I tried skiing it in the southwest direction, and it worked out fine. But be prepared to take your skis off and walk to get around possible damaged sections, and allow enough time to turn back if conditions prove too difficult.

There are a number of places where this route goes very near to the top of a cliff, or right next to a large protruding rock -- so stay alert and in control.

bulletHamilton Point - Castle Point - back to Lake Minnewaska -- about 7 miles with 900 vertical feet of uphill (11 km and 275 vertical meters). [ Map | Photos ]

visit Lake Awosting:  From the junction of the Hamilton Point and Castle Point carriageways, a worthwhile side trip is to make a curvy run down (west) to the junction with the carriageway around Lake Awosting.  From there you can continue North a little ways uphill to a great viewpoint over the lake, or you can turn Left (roughly southwest) and go down on the ungroomed carriageway and visit the rock beach on the east shore of Lake Awosting.  See Photos

around Lake Awosting:  For yet more great views on an ungroomed route, you can try skiing all the way around beautiful Lake Awosting. 

Caution:  This route takes you out a long way from where you started, and not many other folks go this way.  So before trying it, make sure you've got the time and endurance to make it all the way back; and think about what you're going to do if something goes wrong for you way out there.

Direction of loop: I usually do this loop in the clockwise direction (out along the southeast side, return along the northwest side). I find two advantages in this:
(1) Sometimes there is exposed water covering the carriageway along the southeast side. Getting part of the ski into water or water-soaked snow often results in ice sticking on the ski base. If I discover it early it's much easier to change my plans and turn around and go back, but if I'm going counter-clockwise and decide I need to turn around for the water it's much longer to go back.
(2) There's a nice overlook viewpoint and the special experience of skiing on the beach early on the southeast side of the lake. If I feel when I've reached the beach that I don't have the time or energy to go all the way around, then at least I feel I got to see the "good parts".

bulletLake Minnewaska - Hamilton Point - around Lake Awosting - Castle Point - back to Lake Minnewaska. When conditions are right, this is Ken's favorite tour at Minnewaska.  About 11.7 miles total, with 1150 vertical feet of uphill (19 km and 350 vertical meters). [ Map | Photos ]
 
bulletLake Minnewaska - Upper Awosting carriageway - around Lake Awosting - Castle Point - back to Lake Minnewaska -- about 12-13 miles [ Map | Photos ]  

Sunset:  This route goes from the main entrance up to the upper parking area by Lake Minnewaska.  It crosses a road used by lots of cars and other motor vehicles -- so expect to take your skis off there and walk across carefully.  It is by far the longest hill on any of the ski routes.  One section in the middle has a rather steep slope, steeper than most of the other  we remember on any of the normal groomed ski routes.

We'd suggest that skiers not consider this route unless they're confident they have solid advanced downhill-skiing skills.  Even if you are confident in your skills, we recommend checking it out first in the uphill direction before deciding whether to try going down it.  

When planning a day's tour, note that if the snow warms up above freezing in the middle of the day, by 3pm or 4pm it will cool down again, and this route could re-freeze into a dangerous icy surface. 

bulletSunset -- between main entrance and Lake Minnewaska -- about 320 vertical feet in less than a mile of travel (100 vertical meters). [ Map

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

Maps 

You will normally be offered a map of the ski routes, carriageways, and trails when you pay your fee to enter the Park. 

Minnewaska Park is also on the "Shawangunk Trails -- South" map of the New York / New Jersey Trail Conference, which is available in many stores.  Note that the names of some of the carriageways and trails on this map may be different from those on the map handed out by the Park. 

We also show a rough overview map of ski routes on this website. 

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

Conditions of Snow + Weather 

Two key things about snow at Minnewaska: 

bulletSometimes there's not enough snow to ski here at all. 
 
bulletOften there's enough snow for good skiing up here on the ridge at Minnewaska, even when there's only a little down in the valley just a few miles away.  

Reports on skiing conditions

For the most current news on the scene at Minnewaska, contact the Park

Sometimes the Park posts a ski conditions + grooming report (but check the date) linked from this page.

For some unofficial reports on snow and trail grooming conditions at Minnewaska and other Hudson valley cross-country skiing places -- sometimes current and accurate, sometimes not -- you can try joining

MHXCSS discussion group

Weather 

bulletForecast NWS: [ nearby | Gardiner | Kerhonkson ] 
(but Minnewaska normally gets much more snow and colder temperatures, high on the ridge than those weather reports for place down in the valley)

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

more . . . 

bullet

Photos -- of skiing at Minnewaska
 

bulletHudson Valley cross-country Skiing info 
 
bullet Equipment for skiing -- Rental or purchase
 
bulletfurther info on Minnewaska State Park 
 
bullethistory -- ski brochures : winter photos
 
bullet

Discuss XC skiing in the Mid-Hudson area

back to Top | Map | Routes | Photos | Conditions | Getting Here

Warning:  Cross country skiing has some dangers of serious bodily harm.  Skiing at Minnewaska has special dangers in addition to those at other skiing areas, because some of the roads, carriageways, trails, and skiing routes at Minnewaska have sections very near to cliffs and exposed rocks where an accident or mistake could result in serious injury or death. 

This page is not part of any official website of Minnewaska State Park Preserve or any agency of the State of New York. The information on this page was prepared from experiences of ourselves and friends at the Park, and from Park brochures and conversations with Park staff.

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