Lake Minnewaska Weekender
Finally, I was able to get my bike cleaned and prepped for my fall trip up to Lake Minnewaska. It was just a day trip but I’ve been itching to get out and tread over some dirt and gravel. It’s a different feeling than road cycling. The feeling of the soft and heavy crunching of the tires rolling over a fast track and the bouncy feeling of the tires when there’s a change in speed and when going over bumps and roots on the trail. There is no rush, but just fast enough to get a thrill.
I woke up early at 5:30 am which is difficult to do when your bed is warm and you have to walk into a cold room, I’m sure you know the feeling. It was quite and blue outside. The kind of blue you’d normally see on a fall day here in New York, the kind of blue that makes you want to hit the snooze button on an early Saturday morning. My train was in another hour so I quickly made a cup of coffee and oatmeal to start the morning for the miles of riding I had ahead.
There’s something great about taking the train before the start of a bike tour. Apart from being eco-friendly, it’s the feeling of dependency of just the train and bike to get you where you need to go and the calmness you get before starting a ride. It’s always going to get you to your station rain or shine. I love it. I can remember the first bikepacking trip I did was Kokopelli Trail. I took the train from NY to Colorado which took me three days. While this train ride is only an hour I get the same feeling every time.
Being a native New Yorker I find joy in getting upstate. It’s a chance to get away from the fast pace melting pot concrete jungle and get lost in observation for the day or a long weekend. Aboard the Metro-North train from the 125th Street station, I had a 1 hour and 45-minute train ride north of New York City to Poughkeepsie. Once I arrive I’ll be riding west to New Paltz where Lake Minnewaska lays right in the town’s backyard.
It was cold once I arrived. I’m glad I brought two pairs of gloves although, I could have used a second pair of wool socks. The ride across the Walk Over The Hudson bridge is the official start of the ride. This path will bring you through Lloyd, NY, a small town in Ulster county and lead you right into New Paltz where the climbing begins.
New Paltz is one of those mountain towns you would normally find close to popular state parks and national forest. It reminds me a lot like Woodstock, NY in that you’ll find a lot of local restaurants, boutique shopping, bakery’s, bars and more. It’s a good place to stop if you plan on making this trip a multiday because you have opportunities to stock up on food and supplies.
The road climb into Lake Minnewaska is about 14 miles. If you’re familiar with the climb here on the East Coast you would know they’re long unlike the west coast where they can be shorter and steeper. Since my bike wasn’t fully loaded and I wasn’t in any particular rush, I took my time stopping to take photos because it’s impossible not to.
When hitting the gravel inside the preserve you’ll find peace and quiet. Some of the sections riding up to the lake are steep and can be accomplished on 35mm tires or greater. Riding into Awosting Falls was a treat although part of it was frozen over with icicle making me feel even colder just by looking at it. My route passes by Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting. Almost equal in size both offer amazing views and lookouts. About a mile after Lake Awosting is the high point with panoramic views of the Palisade region. Many camping opportunities in this area but will be quite brisk during November.
What makes the ride all the more exciting after the climbing is the 14-mile downhill ride back into New Paltz. This ride can be made into a single day trip or multi-day adventure if you have the time to spend in this region. There are many other trail networks to ride here and can be accessed on all sides of the preserve.