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Gertrude's Nose Loop/Millbrook Mountain
This loop hike runs along dramatic cliffs of Shawangunk conglomerate, with exceptionally fine views.
Moderate to Strenuous
Allowed on leash
Views, Swimming, Fees, Cliffs
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Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). After paying the toll, turn left onto Route 299 and continue west through the Village of New Paltz. When you cross the bridge over the Wallkill River at the west end of the village, continue ahead on Route 299 (do not turn right towards the Mohonk Mountain House). In another 5.5 miles (from the Wallkill River bridge), Route 299 ends at a T intersection with Route 44/55. Turn right here and follow Route 44/55 as it negotiates a very sharp hairpin turn and climbs to pass under the Trapps Bridge (a steel overpass). Continue for about three miles past the Trapps Bridge to the entrance to Minnewaska State Park, on the left side of the road. A parking fee is charged at the gatehouse. Continue uphill for 0.4 mile to the parking area at Lake Minnewaska.
Bus service to New Paltz from New York City, Nanuet, Newburgh and Kingston is available via Adirondack Trailways, www.trailwaysny.com (800) 776-7548. Limited weekday bus service to New Paltz from Kingston and Highland is available via Routes R and H of Ulster County Area Transit, www.co.ulster.ny.us/ucat (888) 827-8228. Ulster County Area Transit also offers bus service from the Metro-North station in Poughkeepsie to New Paltz via their Ulster-Poughkeepsie Link. Taxi service from New Paltz to Minnewaska is available from New Paltz Taxi, www.npztaxi.com (845) 255-1550.
From the end of the parking area, bear left on a footpath, then turn right on the red-blazed Lake Shore Carriageway that encircles Lake Minnewaska. After a short descent, you'll reach a junction with the Awosting Lake Carriageway (with a swimming area to the left). Continue ahead on the Lake Shore Carriageway, which now begins to climb. Soon, you'll reach a junction with the blue-blazed Castle Point Carriageway. Again continue ahead on the carriageway that goes around the lake.
About 0.8 mile from the start, you'll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriageway. Here, you should turn right onto the yellow-blazed route. Soon, you'll come to another junction. The Hamilton Point Carriageway continues straight ahead, but you should bear left, continuing to follow the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway.
In another 0.3 mile, you'll reach a glacial erratic to the right of the trail known as Patterson's Pellet. Here, there are views to the west over the Palmaghatt Ravine - a pristine wilderness valley that separates the Millbrook Mountain-Gertrudes Nose ridge that you are following from the main ridge to the west. Continue ahead along the carriageway, passing more views of this beautiful, unspoiled ravine.
Soon, you'll notice a sign to the right of the trail marking the start of the red-blazed Gertrudes Nose Trail. Turn right and follow this trail, which climbs through a dense evergreen forest to reach another west-facing viewpoint over the Palmaghatt Ravine. The trail now descends, first moderately, then more steeply, and crosses a small stream at a power line. The stream crossing features an overhanging canopy of dense vegetation, so it's hard to realize that you're actually under a power line at this point.
The trail now climbs along bare rock ledges, with sheer drops of several hundred feet just to the right of the trail. This trail section is one of the most scenic in the entire Shawangunks, with many views over the Palmaghatt Ravine to the west. Glacial erratics perched near the cliff edges, deep crevices in the rock, and the pitch pines growing out these crevices make the hike even more interesting. The trail is sometimes a little difficult to follow (most of the blazes are painted on the rocks), and it detours away from the edge and through the woods in a few places. You'll want to take some time to savor the beauty of this magnificent area. Keep in mind, though, that the unprotected cliff edge can be dangerous (children should be kept well away from the edge). This hike is not recommended for those who are fearful of heights!
You'll eventually come out at Gertrudes Nose, the southern tip of the ridge, which features broad views to the east and south. Here, the trail curves around and begins to run north along the eastern side of the ridge. This part of the ridge is not as dramatic as the western section that you just traversed, as it lacks the many open rock slabs. But there are a number of good viewpoints over the Wallkill Valley to the east from rocks to the right of the trail.
After a relatively flat section, the trail descends to once again cross beneath the power line. It then climbs - steeply at first, then more gradually - to reach an area where pitch pines grow out of long expanses of flat bedrock. About half a mile from the second power line crossing, you'll notice that the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway begins to parallel the trail just to the left. Soon, you'll reach the end of the carriageway, just below the summit of Millbrook Mountain. To right, at the top of the rock ledges, there are outstanding views to the north and east, with the Sky Top Tower visible on the ridge to the north.
The Gertrudes Nose Trail ends here, but you should briefly continue ahead on the blue-blazed Millbrook Ridge Trail. You now enter lands of the Mohonk Preserve, but it is not necessary to obtain a day-use permit from the Preserve to continue the hike. Watch carefully for a sign pointing to Lake Minnewaska. This sign marks the start of the Millbrook Mountain Path, which leaves to the left in only about 200 feet.
Turn left here and follow this red-blazed trail as it descends steadily into the valley of the Coxing Kill. In about a quarter of a mile, the blue-blazed Coxing Kill Trail leaves to the left, but you should continue ahead on the red-blazed Millbrook Mountain Path. Beyond this point, the trail is often very wet, and you should exercise caution to avoid slipping on the wet rocks.
At the base of the descent, you'll cross the scenic Coxing Kill. The trail now begins a steady climb up to Lake Minnewaska. This section of the trail is generally drier than the section south of the Coxing Kill, but you should still be alert for slippery spots. As you near Lake Minnewaska, you'll pass a broad viewpoint to the north, with the Sky Top Tower dominating the horizon.
After crossing the lake's outlet stream, you'll reach the end of the Millbrook Mountain Path. Turn right onto the Lake Shore Carriageway, and follow it in a counterclockwise direction along the northeast shore of the lake. When you reach a fork in the road, take the left fork, which leads up to the former site of the Cliff House, now a picnic area, that overlooks the lake.
From the Cliff House site, continue downhill along the carriageway. Just beyond a junction where a road to the right leads to an old barn, continue straight ahead on a footpath as the carriageway curves to the left. This path leads over a picturesque wooden bridge (known as the "Dry Bridge"), passes in front of the park office, and continues ahead to join the main carriageway, which leads back to the parking area.