Mossy Glen/Rainbow Falls/Castle Point/Hamilton Point Loop

Overview

This loop hike follows an attractive stream, climbs to panoramic viewpoints from dramatic cliffs, and passes by a fascinating waterfall.

Details
Time:
7 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate to Strenuous
Length:
10 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Waterfall, Fees, Cliffs
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Ulster
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Publication
First Published:
07/27/2004

Updated/Verified:
06/13/2013
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.742371,-74.199944
Driving Directions

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 5.6 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 Preserve, on the left side of the road (an $8 parking fee is charged at the gatehouse). Immediately turn right and proceed for 0.2 mile to the Awosting parking area.

Bus

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.

 

Description

Find the kiosk at the rear of the parking area, and continue past the gate onto the Lower Awosting Carriage Road (also known as the Peters Kill Road). Almost immediately, you’ll see a sign on the left that marks the start of the yellow-blazed Mossy Glen Path. Turn left and follow this trail, which passes through a beautiful forest of hemlock and mountain laurel. The trail soon approaches the carriageway, then turns sharply left and descends. In a short distance, it reaches the Peters Kill, which it crosses on a one-log bridge.

Follow the yellow-blazed trail as it turns right a short distance beyond the bridge and begins to run parallel to the stream. For the next mile or so, the trail remains close to the stream, at times coming out on open rock slabs which slope into the stream. Rhododendron and white pine may be found along the trail, together with hemlock and mountain laurel. At one point, the trail passes through a tunnel under dense rhododendron. Although this trail section is not particularly difficult, you’ll want to take your time to enjoy the scenery.

After passing through a relatively open area, with stunted pitch pines and an understory of blueberries, the Mossy Glen Path ends at the blue-blazed Blueberry Run Path (the junction is marked by a cairn). Turn right and follow this blue-blazed trail downhill, soon crossing the Peters Kill on an attractive one-log footbridge. The trail climbs rather steeply to cross the Lower Awosting Carriage Road, then continues through mountain laurel and hemlock. After another steep climb, the Blueberry Run Path ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Jenny Lane Trail.

Turn left and follow the Jenny Lane Trail, which soon begins to run close to the edge of the ridge, coming out occasionally on open rocks, with views over Litchfield Ledge to the east. (You’ll be following this ledge later on in the hike.) In about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach a power line. Follow the trail as it turns right, runs along the power line for a short distance, then turns left and continues on a wide path – the remnants of an old woods road. The trail soon begins to descend. As it goes down a badly eroded section of the old road, the trail has been rerouted onto a footpath to the left. At the base of the descent, turn left onto a grassy woods road, which soon reaches the Lower Awosting Carriage Road.

Turn right and follow the Lower Awosting Carriage Road, crossing a causeway and concrete bridge over Fly Brook. Just past the brook crossing, the orange-blazed Rainbow Falls Trail begins on the left. Turn left, leaving the carriageway, and follow the Rainbow Falls Trail, which descends briefly, then ascends steadily over slanted slabs of conglomerate rock dotted with pitch pines. It turns left, crosses a small stream, and continues to climb over slanted rock ledges. From the top, the Catskills may be seen in the distance.

After a short but steep descent, the trail comes out on an open rock ledge. To the right is Huntington Ravine, with Litchfield Ledge beyond. You’ll hear the sound of falling water, as Rainbow Falls is just below. The trail soon bears sharply right and descends very steeply, with cliffs to the right. At the base of the descent, Rainbow Falls comes into view. Here the water drops from overhanging rock ledges, forming a cool mist. You’ll want to spend some time at this beautiful site!

The trail now bears left, descends to cross a small stream, then climbs steadily to reach the Upper Awosting Carriage Road. It crosses the road, bears left to climb a ledge, then turns right and runs parallel to the edge of the escarpment. Soon, you’ll reach a rock ledge to the right of the trail that offers a panoramic view, with Huntington Ravine just below, and the Catskills in the distance.

The Rainbow Falls Trail continues through a dense forest of hemlock and mountain laurel, then bears left and continues through an area of sparser vegetation, with pitch pines growing from cracks in the conglomerate bedrock. There are some short, steep descents where you’ll need to use your hands for balance.

Finally, you’ll come out on a wide, open rock ledge, with a panoramic view of Lake Awosting, with Sam’s Point beyond. This is another special place where you’ll want to take some time to savor the view. When you’re ready to continue, follow the trail as it bends left and soon begins to run along the edge of a cliff. To the right, you can see Castle Point – your next destination.

Soon, the Rainbow Falls Trail ends at an intersection with the Castle Point Carriage Road. Turn left and follow the carriageway for about half a mile, passing numerous viewpoints to the right. Immediately after the Blueberry Run Path (marked by a sign) leaves to the left, you’ll reach Castle Point – the highest viewpoint in Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The view from here is spectacular, with the Wallkill Valley to the left and Lake Awosting to the right. Again, you’ll want to take a break and enjoy the views.

Follow the lilac-blazed Scenic Trail as it descends precipitously from Castle Point over steep ledges. You’ll need to use your hands and carefully follow the lilac blazes. After a more gradual descent, you’ll reach the Hamilton Point Carriage Road. Turn left onto the road, which is marked with an "H" on yellow-diamond blazes.

In another half a mile, you’ll reach Hamilton Point – another fabulous viewpoint, with deeply-fissured rocks separated from the main cliffs. To the left, the wall of cliffs in the distance is the ridge of Gertrude’s Nose. Continue along the road for another two miles, passing more spectacular views to the left. In about a mile, you’ll cross under a power line and soon reach Echo Rock, a particular outstanding viewpoint. Just beyond, the road briefly splits into two routes, which soon rejoin each other. You’ll soon notice a line of cliffs to the left of the road.

Continue ahead (bearing right) at the next junction, and then bear left at the following junction, joining the yellow-diamond-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road. In another 0.2 mile, you’ll reach the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road, which circles Lake Minnewaska. Turn left and follow this road along the lake. When you reach the swimming area, continue ahead as the road climbs to an intersection with the Sunset Carriage Road. Turn sharply left and follow the Sunset Carriage Road, which descends on switchbacks, passing a broad viewpoint on the way. At the base of the descent, turn right, cross the bridge over the Peters Kill, then turn left at the gatehouse and follow the park access road back to the Awosting parking area where the hike began.

 

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Mossy Glen lower foot bridge has been repaced

The lower foot bridge was replaced by a solid construction of granite block and single log foot bridge.

where is Scenic Trail connection?

This is a great hike with spectacular views.  When you get to Castle Point, there is no lilac blaze or sign for the Scenic Trail which is to take you to the Hamilton Point Carriage Road.  Thus you would continue on the Castle Point Carriage Road which still gets you back to your beginning point.  My only thought in looking at the state park map is that maybe you have to backtrack from Castle Point on the Castle Point Carriage Road aways and then you might find the Scenic Trail.  Happy hiking!

Scenic Trail is blazed descending from Castle Point

I have been informed that the Scenic Trail descending from Castle Point to the Hamilton Point Carriage Road is in fact blazed lilac.  The start of the trail is marked by a triple-lilac blaze painted on the rocks, and it might not be that easy to find it.  We are thinking of asking the Park to install a sign so that the trailhead can be more easily found.

Aqua Blazed path

The Aqua blazed pathwe are told to be alert for after the earthen causeway is no longer aqua. It's def orange. Wasted about 45 minutes trying to figure this out. please update. This is a long hike to get mixed up on in the middle of your day in the middle of the woods lol.

Former Long Path route is now blazed orange

In 2012, the Long Path through Minnewaska State Park was rerouted, and most of the former Long Path route used by this hike was redesignated the Rainbow Falls Trail and reblazed in orange.  The hike description has been updated to reflect this change.  You may notice some old aqua blazes along the route, but the official blaze color of this trail is orange.

confirm trail color

Me and my fiance did this hike last weekend and am just confirming that the trail on the left after crossing the causeway is in fact orange not aqua.  Once on the trail we did notice it kept switching back and forth between orange and aqua blazes.  Also at the first stream crossing there is still no bridge.  Stream crossing is difficult but possible without getting wet.  But to me this adds to the adventure.  Awesome hike, very scenic with many great views.  definitely one I will be recommending to others.

Terrific hike!

I did this hike this past weekend with my 14 year old daughter and 16 year old son.  We used the alternate starting point from Jenny Lane Trailhead and hiked in Jenny Lane Trail.  My daughter was happy because of all the blueberries to pick and eat while walking in this way.

Getting down to the falls was a bit of a challenge for my daughter since she's the shortest of the three of us, but we managed and enjoyed the cooler temps and cool water off the falls.

When we got up to Castle Point, I showed my kids where the trail went over the edge of the lookout.  It had taken us 5 1/2 hours to reach that point and we were all feeling pretty tired, so we decided to skip the steep downward descent and hike over to Hamilton Point.  We took the Castle Point Carriageway back from there and still got to enjoy plenty of views on our way back.  It took us 8 1/2 hours to complete our hike.

I do hope to try to use the trail between Castle Point and Hamilton Point one day.  It looked like a great challenge!

Awesome Hike

This is an amazing hike to quieter and highly scenic sections of this very popular park. I took over 700 pictures - there was just too much to take pictures of. Here are some of them: http://gonehikin.blogspot.com/2010/10/minnewaska-state-park-preserve-ny....