A trip to Minnewaska State Park isn’t complete without a short hike down to Awosting Falls, a 60-foot waterfall that roars in the winter and spring and thins out in hot, dry summers. The most beloved waterfall of the Shawangunk Ridge is a popular spot to visit, but far fewer hikers make the trek through the park to the lake where it all starts.
The trip to Lake Awosting is a lot easier and quicker on a bike, and the carriage road out to the lake is mostly flat. You can coast most of the way back, too, if you build up some speed.
Lake Awosting isn’t quick to get to, and that’s part of its charm. While you can basically park your car on the edge of Lake Minnewaska’s white cliffs, you’ll have to put in a little more effort for Awosting, a 1.5-mile-long glacial lake that offers a unique “beach” and swimming area with gorgeous views. The lake feeds the Peter’s Kill, a stream that runs through the park and over the waterfall near its entrance. Lake Awosting began drawing swimmers in 1900 when America’s oldest boys camp—Camp Awosting—was founded. Campers broke up their days with swims in the lake, and while the cabins and tents are gone, you can still enjoy a cool dip in the glacial lake’s clear waters. There are a few different routes you can take to reach Lake Awosting, but the quickest and straightest option is the Upper Awosting Carriage Road trail that begins near the Lake Minnewaska beach area, which is also a good swimming spot.
There’s a $10 parking fee for Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and you’ll want to park near Lake Minnewaska for this hike. Head to your right toward the swimming area and bathroom cabin for the trail—a wide, gravel road that meanders gently through the forest for 3.1 miles to Lake Awosting. At the end, you’ll turn around a corner, see the trail marker sign, and immediately want to jump into the shallow, clear water.
The lake has a designated beach about a half-mile further up the Lake Awosting trail if you stay to your left (walking to the right will put you on a trail that goes around the rest of the lake). The “beach” is the Gunks’ version of tropical white sand: large, flat, white rocks slope gently into the lake. Swimming is permitted in the roped-off area between 11am and 5:30pm, when lifeguards are on duty. Bring towels, some drinks, and a lunch and be sure to carry out whatever you carry in. Enjoy the secluded location and sun—often you’ll only hear birds and the breeze in this remote spot. Groups from New York City now charge around $100 for guided meditation trips to experience Lake Awosting’s calm scenes.
When you’re done swimming, make sure you walk up to the top of the rocky cliffs overlooking the lake for a sprawling view of the area—it's on the way back anyway. Head back toward the same trail you took for a return back to Lake Minnewaska. The trip to Lake Awosting is a lot easier and quicker on a bike, and the carriage road out to the lake is mostly flat. You can coast most of the way back, too, if you build up some speed. Be sure to wear a helmet as per park regulations.
For a little more adventure, hikers can also check out Rainbow Falls, which is marked on the side of the trail just before you reach Lake Awosting. A footpath through the forest quickly leads you to a small waterfall that you can stand directly underneath. This one is best to visit after a rainy day or you may only see a trickle of water. Also consider wearing pants as there may be poison ivy here.
While the trail is mostly flat, it may take an hour or so to walk the three miles at a leisurely pace. Leave yourself enough time to walk back to your vehicle before the park closes at sunset. For the full Awosting experience, drive back down to the entrance and stop by Awosting Falls before you leave.
More info: parks.ny.gov/parks/ 127/details.aspx
at a glance
Location: Minnewaska State Park Preserve (outside New Paltz)
Length of hike: About 7 miles roundtrip from the parking area
Difficulty: Easy but long
Amenities: There are no bathrooms or park facilities at Lake Awosting, but restrooms are available at the Minnewaska parking area
What to bring: Water, sunscreen, snacks, towel
Price: Parking fee is $10, or you can use an Empire Pass