Geology of the New York City Region

29. Minnewaska State Park

Minnewaska State Park covers nearly 12,000 acres along the crest of the Shawangunk Mountains (see Figure 65 on the Shawangunks page). The entrance to the park is located on Route 44 about three miles west of the Trapps Bridge; parking is limited and requires a modest fee per car on weekends. Although the park reserves some trails for hiking only, the park is particularly used for mountain biking, and for good reason. The distances needed to travel on foot to all the park sites is much more that can be typically covered on foot in a day. Old carriage roads lead to many scenic overlooks along the ledges formed by the escarpment of the Silurian Shawangunk Formation. In addition, the park is host to two glacier carved lakes, Minnewaska Lake and Lake Awosting, and has two very scenic waterfalls along Peters Kill. Awosting Falls is about a quarter mile east of the parking lot near the park entrance. Rainbow Falls, near Lake Awosting, is about a seven mile walk to and from the parking area.

The eastward view from the ridge top escarpment of the Shawangunk Formation is spectacular on a clear day. It is possible to see across the broad Great Valley around New Paltz to the Hudson Highland to the south and the rows of high hills of the Taconics and the mountain tops in the Housetonic Mountains in Connecticut. As the southward moving Pleistocene glacier moved along and over the crest of the Shawangunk ridge, it plucked away large blocks of the stone. In places, these great blocks have only moved a distance of several feet, creating deep fissures and fractures along the ridge. This is particularly well developed further south of the park in a region known as the Ice Caves. During the winter snow and ice accumulate in these fractures. Because of shale and lack of air movement it isn't uncommon for some ice to remain trapped in these fissures until late in the summer.

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Last modified: 3/11/2019