New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Old Minnewaska Trail

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-24

My last day in Hudson Valley was spent hiking. I started the morning off early with the Walkway Over the Hudson trail and then continued on further west to Minnewaska State Park. This hike was longer than the others I did, because I afforded myself more time, since all I planned on doing that day was hiking and then heading straight to the airport for an evening flight out.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-3

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-11

It was fairly easy to get to Minnewaska State Park, though it is a bit of a drive.  From New Paltz, head west on Route 299.  Follow 299 until it dead ends into Rt. 44/55, where you’ll make a right turn.  Follow 44/55 past the hairpin turn under the Shawangunk cliffs and past the Trapps parking area on your right.  Continue another 3 miles past the Trapps parking area to find the well-marked entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your left.  Stop at the guard shack, pay the fee, then make an immediate right turn to make the short drive over to the Lake Awosting parking area, where you’ll leave your car.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-4

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-5

I had planned on doing the Minnewaska Park trail as listed in Hike the Hudson Valley website. This particular hike was not just one trail, but a series of different trails designed to maximize your viewing opportunities in Minnewaska State Park. This trail was a 6.4 mile, sort of loop trail, with not too many hills (especially with the modified version of this hike I did).

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-7

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-8

The directions for this particular trail instructs to park your car at the parking area near Lake Awosting and then hike partway out on the Awosting Trail to view the Awosting Falls and then return and hike up the Orange Trail to Minnewaska Lake. The intention was to hike up the road all the way the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot and then complete the rest of the hike from there. However, it slipped my mind where I was actually supposed to park, so I ended up driving up to the upper parking lot, and since I was already there, I decided to park and walk from there. For the most part, I shouldn’t have missed many beautiful sights, so I didn’t feel that I missed out on too much.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-10

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-12

Once at the parking lot, I followed the rest of the hiking directions, and it was fairly straightforward. Of course I first had to take in the beautiful lake views, though the view wasn’t QUITE as beautiful as it could be, because it was cloudy and overcast that day. At least it wasn’t too crowded, since I was there on a Monday morning. The trails in this park are actually fairly well marked, with different colored signs indicating what trail you are following, along with the occasional posted map to see where you are.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-26

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-1

The first part of this hike was following the Red Trail down to the lake shore.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-23

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-22

A few minutes on the Red Trail past the lake shore, I took a right on the blue sign-posted trail for the Castle Point Carriageway. This trail goes miles down the road, but this particular hike had me turn around at Kempton Ledge. Apparently back in the day, there was a very clearly marked sign. However, by now there is no sign, but you will pretty much know you are in the right place, because the view on the left side of the trail opens up into a panorama of the surrounding valley.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-15

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-18

I was hiking in mid October, and it was pretty much peak autumn foliage. It was awe inspiring to see all the colors ablaze in front of me. It really looked like a pastel painting, and frankly this would be a perfect site for plein air painting.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-25

After taking in the view for as long as I could, I turned back around the followed the Blue Trail back down to the Red Trail via the Yellow Trail, the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-13

The Red Trail hugged the Minnewaska Lake and then eventually headed up the hill. I took a brief detour to another beautiful viewpoint (seriously, there are just so many beautiful views during this hike- as witnessed by the abundance of gorgeous fall photos in this post).

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-20

The Red Trail took me back to the parking lot overlooking Minnewaska Lake where I drove back down to the entrance to park in the Awosting Trail parking area. This allowed me to complete the first part of the hike I missed, because I went all the way up to the upper parking lot.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-27

This walk was just part of the Awosting Trail and took me out to the overlook over the waterfall. I followed the trail down to the bottom of the waterfall, took in the nice view and then hiked back up to the parking area. It is only about a five/ten minute walk out to the top of the waterfall and about five more minutes to the bottom of the waterfall.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-34

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-33

While this particular hike involves different trails in Minnewaska State Park, it is still fairly easy to follow. The different trails are fairly obviously marked with different colors. The views of beautiful nature and autumn foliage definitely make this trail worth it. If you hike the trail, it is pretty flat in most areas, with the only major hill from the Awosting Trail park area to the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot, which I missed, because I missed the turn to the Awosting Trail parking area. Honestly, if you are pressed for time, or just aren’t a big fan of hills, you can easily drive to the upper parking lot and start the hike from there.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-29

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-19

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Poet’s Walk

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-9

Once I read about the Poet’s Walk hike, I just knew I had to fit it into my hiking schedule. It was a bit off the beaten path for my planned itinerary, but not so far off that I could not swing by and do this walk in the later afternoon.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-4

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-11

This is a great and easy walk to do on a late sunny autumn afternoon, because you have an expansive view of the Hudson Valley, and can see the sunset if you want to wait that long (I didn’t). The trail is only about 2.4 miles if you do the entire loop trail, and flat or gentle hills most of the trail.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-6

Getting there is pretty easy. From the intersection of Market St (Rt 308) and Rt 9 in the village of Rhinebeck, head north on Route 9.  In about five blocks, bear left onto Montgomery Road. Keep going straight and Montgomery Road becomes Mount Rutsen Road which becomes River Road (County Rd 103).  Take River Road for a few hundred yards and you’ll come to a stoplight at the intersection with 199.  Go straight here and find the well-marked Poet’s Walk parking lot on your left in about half a mile.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-7

This is another one of those trails you can’t get lost. Park in the parking lot and follow the signs out to the trail. After a very short walk in a wooded area, you emerge into a wide open field and can see for quite a distance.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-1

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-8

The first thing that caught my eye was beautifully designed gazebo off a short distance away. The gazebo is right on a tiny loop trail in the field and offers a very beautiful view of the Hudson Valley foliage and its elaborately designed gazebo.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-2

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-3

There really isn’t much to this walk, except to enjoy the views from the many well-placed benches. There is a loop trail that takes you closer to the Hudson River, but once the loop takes you from the river, there isn’t much else notable to the walk, though the wooded views are nice and peaceful. While there were many people in the open field enjoying the view, there were much fewer people on the loop trail, so I practically had it to myself that time of day in the later afternoon.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-10

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-5

I was glad that the weather held out and the afternoon light on the foliage provided some great autumn leaf peeping. This walk is super easy to do since it is basically strolling for the most part on an easy path (a tiny bit of rockiness if you walk the loop trail). But if you are in the area, it is certainly worth your time.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-12

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Kaaterskill Falls

 

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-2

Last fall when I visited New York’s Hudson Valley, I planned on doing as much hiking as possible. Since the Hudson Valley is so beautiful in the autumn, I wanted to maximize my communing with nature time. The hardest part actually was choosing which hikes to do. I wanted hikes that gave me the most bang for my buck leaf peeping-wise, but I also didn’t want to JUST hike all weekend. I only had four days, and my travel list was long, and the more I read about the Hudson Valley, the longer it got.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-3

I found a really great website that laid out most, if not all, of the available hikes in the Hudson Valley. From there it was deciding which ones were closest to where I was staying-particularly in relation to all my other planned activities, which ones were relatively easy, and which ones offered great views. While I enjoy hiking, I was looking to keep MOST of my hikes to no more than two miles, which would allow me to complete multiple hikes and do all the other autumn activity I love so much.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-9

 

I chose to do the Kaaterskill Falls hike, because it was only 2.o miles round trip, not THAT far off my beaten path, and the website teased a huge waterfall. I am a sucker for waterfalls, so off I went.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-5

Kaaterskill Falls is off Route 23A, and it was a bit of a drive from the interstate. The road is two lane and well paved, though rather curvy out to the waterfall site. This particular hike is very popular, so it is a bit surprising there isn’t more convenient parking. There is a parking lot about .3 miles past the trailhead. Of course that means you need to walk along the road to get to the trailhead, though the drivers seemed to be used to all the hikers.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-6

So much about this hike reminded me of autumn hiking in Korea. The trail isn’t the best, though it is easy to follow. Basically you just walk from the trailhead  one half mile until you hit the falls. It really can’t be any simpler than that. However, the trail isn’t just some flat stroll in the park, but it is rather steep in parts and rocky in other parts. Definitely make sure you have some comfortable, sturdy shoes.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-7

But other aspects of this hike made me think I was in Korea. The whole valley, the waterfall, the autumn foliage, all of it looks very much like many of the places I hiked in Korea. It was almost uncanny in spots.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-8

Once you get to the falls, you will see a yellow sign telling you to go no further. While people in the past have climbed up to the top of the falls, it is definitely not recommended, because it can be very dangerous and people have fallen to their deaths over the years. In response to that, new fencing has been put up to prevent people from hiking past the yellow sign.

 

While I can be a risk taker in some aspects of my life, I tend to be pretty safety conscious and try not to risk my life and limb on stuff like this, particularly since falling and breaking a limb (or dying) would have put a serious crimp into the rest of my autumn weekend plans. So I enjoyed the view of the falls from the bottom, and turned around and walked back to the trailhead. Again impossible to get lost.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-1

 

The entire hike only took me around 1.5 hours and that included time to relax and enjoy the view at the bottom of the falls. Like I said, the hike to the falls from the trailhead is only .5 miles, though that length is a bit deceptive due to the challenging nature of the trail in parts. But if you are used to any sort of hiking and in moderate fitness, it really shouldn’t be a problem. Definitely expect crowds, particularly in the fall. I went later on a weekend afternoon, and while the falls weren’t overrun with people, I certainly did not have the place to myself. But if you like beautiful nature, particularly in autumn, and love waterfalls, this is a good hike for you.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-4

Jirisan National Park- Piagol Valley Autumn Hike

Piagol Valley colorful foliage river title picture

I did a lot of reading to plan my autumn hiking season in Korea, and one of the places I kept coming across was the Piagol Valley in Jirisan National Park. This quote was frequently sited on articles about this valley, “People who have not seen the red-tinted leaves in Piagol dare not say they know red-tinted leaves.”- Jo Shik, a Confucian scholar of the Joseon Dynasty. A popular autumn leaves festival is held in the Piagol Valley around peak foliage time (supposedly 24 October 2013).

Piagol Valley orange river reflection

Piagol Valley branches with red leaves

Piagol Valley bright red, orange and yellow leaves

So as you can imagine, I had grand visions of awe inspiring beauty for this hike. I imagined the entire trail tinted red, and looking through my pictures, I am reminded how beautiful this hike can be, and how many shades of red and orange percolate through the valley and glow in the bright sunlight. However, I also look back on this hike as exemplifying two other concepts: the gap between expectation and reality, and knowing your own limits.

Piagol Valley shaded valley view

Piagol Valley river pool with red foliage

Piagol Valley river waterfall with red and yellow leaves

Last Sunday when I hiked this, the day dawned very early for me, since my train left from Yongsan Station at 0520. It was a three hour train ride to Gurye-gu Station. I could have taken a bus from Seoul to Gurye, but aside from my preference for trains, I was actually able to start hiking sooner than if I had taken a bus. I knew there were local buses that went from Gurye to the Piagol Valley trailhead, but none of them originated from the train station to my knowledge. So to save time, I elected to take a taxi from the train station to the trailhead, which only cost me 30,000 won (negotiated fare, not meter fare), and it was a roughly 30-40 minute ride. It was still pretty early in the morning when I started hiking, so there weren’t TOO many hiking groups out on the trail.

Piagol Valley bridge with red and orange leaves

Piagol Valley orange and green trees

Piagol Valley red and green leaves

I had planned in advance to only hike to the Piagol Shelter and back, and not push all the way up to the Piagol Samgeori (forked road). While it was only two kilometers from the shelter to the pass (1.2 miles), I could tell from online maps it was pretty steep, as the estimated travel time was two hours one way. This was confirmed for me when I looked at the map at the trailhead, and it had that portion of the trail at a 32% gradient. I remembered, and my legs remembered, the Ulsan Bawi hike which had nearly the same level of steepness, how long it took me, and how much my body ached afterward. Combine that with the distance being twice the distance of Ulsan Bawi, and it reinforced my desire to just to go the Piagol Shelter. I knew my limits of my body, the limits of my hiking speed, and the limits of the return trip to Seoul (since I already had a train ticket booked), and elected to only do the eight kilometer round trip hike to the shelter and back. That hike was only projected to take four hours round trip and the gradient was described as only 6% by the map, so I thought it would be a pleasant and easy hike. However, in my opinion, that map spoke lies. Maybe the AVERAGE gradient of that hike was only 6%, but there were plenty of times throughout that hike that it was much, much steeper.

Piagol Valley orange and yellow leaves river

Piagol Valley shelter

Piagol Valley colorful leaf trees and river

Parts of this trail were very well-maintained that reminded me of American hiking trails. Other parts of this trail were supremely uneven with big rocks substituting for an actual path. If I didn’t actually know what some Korean hiking trails looked like, I might think I was lost in the middle of the woods. But I would never get actually lost, because I was never actually alone out there. This hiking trail is very popular, and I saw dozens of hiking groups. In fact most of them skillfully and quickly passed me as I trudged along the trail, carefully picking my way from one uneven rock to another to avoid falling or spraining my ankles. I forgot to bring my walking sticks (AGAIN!) and my body (particularly my thighs and my knees) definitely felt it by the end.

Piagol Valley swing bridge with colorful leaves

Piagol Valley river pool and red leaves

Piagol Valley red and orange overhead foliage

This brings up the gap between my expectation of this hike and the reality of this hike. I thought this hike would be easier than it was, and I admit to feeling a bit dispirited by the end, and supremely grateful when I completed the hike. I kept thinking that what do Koreans have against even, well-maintained trails. Maybe it’s part of the fun to not only enjoy a colorful view, but also to lightly hop from one rock to another.

Piagol Valley colorful rocky river

Piagol Valley red, orange and green leaves

Piagol Valley orange and yellow overhead foliage

In any case, while I don’t regret going on this hike, if I had known all of this in advance, I might not have done the hike. There are very beautiful views on this hike, but I didn’t see anything so unique that I haven’t seen on other Korean hiking trails. Though looking back at all these pictures, I do marvel at the colorful beauty I saw. So honestly, if I was more fleet of foot and didn’t stumble on uneven trails, I probably would have enjoyed it more. My opinion of this hike is colored by the fact that I can be a graceless klutz at times.

Piagol Valley small waterfall and red leaves

Piagol Valley red orange leaves

Getting to and from Gurye is pretty easy. Like I said before, you can take a train or a bus. Both of them travel from Seoul to Gurye on a regular basis. If you take a bus to Gurye, you can easily transfer to a local bus to Piagol (approximately one per hour) directly from the bus station. Or you can easily take a taxi to the trailhead. Getting back from Gurye was a bit more painful, because all the direct trains were full and I ended up having to make some transfers, and what is a three hour direct KTX train between the two cities, became a six hour journey over slower trains. So if you take the train back, make sure you book your train ticket well in advance, particularly on popular weekends, like the height of autumn and spring.