From the end of the parking area, descend on the red-blazed Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road that encircles Lake Minnewaska. This descent is rather steep for cross-country skiing, but it is not typical of the grades you’ll encounter the rest of the way. After a short descent, you’ll reach a junction with the green-blazed Upper Awosting Carriage Road (a swimming area is on the left, and restrooms...
From the end of the parking area, descend on the red-blazed Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road that encircles Lake Minnewaska. This descent is rather steep for cross-country skiing, but it is not typical of the grades you’ll encounter the rest of the way. After a short descent, you’ll reach a junction with the green-blazed Upper Awosting Carriage Road (a swimming area is on the left, and restrooms are on the right). Bear left, continuing to follow the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road, which now begins to climb. About 0.4 mile from the start, you’ll reach a junction with the blue-blazed Castle Point Carriage Road.
Turn right and follow the Castle Point Carriage Road, which continues to climb gradually. Soon, you'll reach an open area, the site of a former golf course, with views of the Catskills to the north. After passing a side trail on the left, which leads to the Hamilton Point Carriage Road, there are views to the left over the Palmaghatt Ravine. Soon, you'll reach Kempton Ledge, with excellent views across the ravine and over the Wallkill Valley beyond. The large boulder visible on the other side of the ravine is known as Patterson's Pellet.
The carriage road continues generally uphill, with some short descents and one twisting curve. About two miles from the start, you'll pass under a power line. A short distance beyond, you'll reach a series of open ledges that afford broad views over Palmaghatt Ravine, with the rocky face of Gertrude's Nose - the tip of the escarpment across the ravine - clearly visible.
After some more twists and turns, the carriage road comes out at Castle Point, a steep promontory with panoramic views to the south and east. Lake Awosting is below to the west, and Sam's Point may be seen directly ahead to the southwest (near the communications towers visible in the distance). The elevation of Castle Point is 2,200 feet, and you've climbed over 500 vertical feet from Lake Minnewaska. If it's not too windy, this is a good place to take a break.
The carriage road, now joined by the Sharwangunk Ridge Trail, turns right and begins a steady descent, immediately passing the southern end of the Blueberry Run Trail (marked by a sign). In the next three-quarters of a mile, the carriage road makes several sharp turns (skiers should exercise care). At a hairpin turn to the left, the orange-blazed Rainbow Falls Trail (along with the Shawangunk Ridge Trail) leaves to the right. After passing under the dramatic ledges of the overhanging Battlement Terrace, the Castle Point Carriage Road arrives at a junction with the Hamilton Point Carriage Road. Bear right, continuing to follow the Castle Point Carriage Road.
Soon, the Wolf Jaw Trail leaves to the left, and a short distance beyond, you'll reach a junction with the Lake Awosting Carriage Road. To the left, this carriage road leads in about half a mile to a swimming area on Lake Awosting, open during the summer. If you would like to take a swim, turn left at this junction; otherwise, bear right, now following black blazes instead of the blue blazes that have marked the route up to this point. You'll soon reach a beautiful viewpoint to the left over Lake Awosting - another good spot for a break.
At the next junction, the black blazes turn left, but you should continue straight ahead, now following the green blazes of the Upper Awosting Carriage Road. As the carriage road bends to the right ahead, you'll see the impressive cliffs of Lichtfield Ledge. The carriage road soon begins to follow along the base of these cliffs, which often feature hanging icicles in the winter.
The carriage road crosses the orange-blazed Rainbow Falls Trail near the end of the cliffs, and it continues ahead, soon recrossing the power line. From here to the end of the carriage road at Lake Minnewaska, the route is less interesting, but the carriage road passes through pleasant woods and follows a gently descending grade - a good way to end a cross-country ski trip.
A little over a mile from the power line, you'll reach an open area known as the Orchard (some old fruit trees from the former orchard may still be seen). Then, after a short, gentle climb, you'll pass an excellent north-facing viewpoint to the left, with the Catskill Mountains visible in the distance. Just beyond, the Upper Awosting Carriage Road ends at the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road, near the swimming area on Lake Minnewaska. Turn sharply left and follow the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road uphill, back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 02/10/2004
This loop hike, suitable for cross-country skiing, runs along dramatic cliffs of Shawangunk conglomerate, with many fine views.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.