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.

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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.

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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.

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-1

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-19

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Leaf Peeping

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This past fall was my first full autumn experience since 2010. The previous three years I was living overseas so I missed out on the wonder that is American autumn. Granted the past two years were in South Korea, where their own fall is amazing. But it was nice to get back to the States where autumn is not just beautiful nature, but practically an industry in and of itself.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-17

There are so many wonderful places to see autumn in America, but I chose to visit the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. I had been wanting to visit it for years now after I read about all the things to see and do there. I mean, there is such a plethora of beautiful nature and of fun Halloween/autumn activities. I was in the area for a long four day weekend, and even then, I didn’t get to see everything I wished I could see.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-9

I was actually a bit surprised when I did my research and realized that the Hudson Valley is only about a 90 minute drive north from LaGuardia Airport. For some reason, I thought it would be farther north. Originally I had planned to fly into Albany, because I thought it would be closer to my destination. And while yeah, it technically was, but it also would have taken about twice the time and an airline ticket would have cost twice as much as flying into NYC.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-2

I flew into LaGuardia in the evening, and once I got off the utter madness and traffic jam of the Long Island Expressway, it was surprisingly easy to get on the right interstate highways. The Hudson Valley is well served by more than one interstate, so it is pretty easy to get around.

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I was absolutely lucky to hit the Hudson Valley in peak fall foliage. That is something that is nearly impossible to predict every year. I was there in mid October, but I heard the previous year, that by mid October 2013, the leaves were already on the ground, because the cold came early. But this year, the weather was (near) perfect and the trees were swollen with leaves in all shades of red, orange, and yellow.

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I had a very packed weekend schedule of local farms visits, winery tours, haunted houses, short hikes, and leaf peeping (all subject to future blog posts). There was just so much to do and so little time. When traveling on my own, I am a hardcore planner, and I spent a lot of time in advance of this trip researching different things to see and do and narrowing down what was possible in the time allowed. I even calculated all the driving times and directions in advance, and basically wrote out an itinerary that enabled me to maximize my time there, while still providing a variety of experiences.

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I had a few absolute must do’s, but everything else was evaluating what was possible. I mean, I was only there for four days, and given the distance between some of the places I originally wanted to visit, I had to let some things, so I didn’t spend a ton of time in the northern part of Hudson Valley, and sort of centered my activities within a reasonable driving distance of Poughkeepsie.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-10

There is so much beauty in this part of New York. So many times I was driving through the valley and wanted to pull over and gawk at the beauty around me. Sometimes I could do that, but other times, there was just no room, because some of the road lanes were rather narrow with no shoulder space.

Hudson Valley leaf peeping-12

I will say this though. While driving around New York is beautiful, it is not exactly cheap. I haven’t been to every state in America, but I had never encountered a place that had as many road tolls as New York. It wasn’t every interstate, but it was definitely some key ones. Most of the tolls were calculated based on the distance traveled on the toll road, so it was not a flat fee.

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However, none of those upstate tolls compare to the tolls for driving into New York City. I chose the shortest route back to LaGuardia and didn’t make my choice based on tolls. So imagine my surprise when I got the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, and it cost $13 dollars to cross the bridge into New York City. And then about 15 minutes later, I was shelling out $7.50 to cross the RFK bridge. So yeah, I spent over $20 dollars in road tolls to basically skirt the city and drive back to the airport. Definitely know before you go, and make sure you had enough in cash, because the toll booths don’t accept credit cards. I nearly got the cops called on me, because I forgot I was carrying large bills and asked if I could use my credit card. The toll booth operator called the Port Authority on me (all while the traffic backed up behind me), before I remembered I had a $100 bill that she could thankfully break. Whew.

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All in all, this was one of the best weekend trips I have been on in America. There just was so much to see and do in upstate New  York. If you like beautiful autumn nature, you definitely want to make a visit to upstate New York at some point. Even though there are other places to see and do for American autumn, I am still highly tempted to go back to the Hudson Valley this year.

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Seoraksan National Park Day 2- A Hike in the Cheonbuldong Valley

Seoraksan day 2 title picture

My second day at the Seoraksan Nation Park dawned early, sunny and cold. Walking into the park, I admired the sun rising over the mountains. The rising sun painted the the rocks in a reddish-gold light and it reminded me a bit of Zion National Park.

This particular morning, I woke up a bit tired and sore, but pressed on nonetheless with my planned hiking itinerary. I was determined to see as much autumn foliage as possible, and everything I read about hiking in the Cheongbuldong Valley promised a steady stream of autumn colors.

Seoraksan day 2 yellow leaves on trail

Seoraksan day 2 valley with prominent leaves

The first part of the hiking trail was fairly easy. After the extremely steep hike of Ulsan Bawi, a trail with an initial 6% gradient felt like a piece of cake and a stroll in the park. The path was relatively even, and it was just enjoyable to walk along the trail and enjoy the view of the woods around me and not have to stare at the ground so I didn’t trip and fall.

The first major viewpoint on the trail, and a popular turnaround point, was the Bisondae Cliffs (Fairy Rock).  The bridge traversed this very beautiful valley and natural pools of water formed in the rocks via erosion.  I just had to stop, stare and take in the beauty around me.

Seoraksan day 2 Bisondae sunny valley

Seoraksan day 2 Bisondae pools

The trail continued for another few more kilometers up to the Yangpok Shelter. Truthfully, the trail continued much farther and deeper into Seoraksan National Park, with the next major viewpoint Daecheong Peak, several kilometers away. However, I made the decision to turn back at the shelter after a nice break. The gradient more than doubled to around 14%, but the spectacular natural view more than made up for any muscle soreness in my legs.  When I hike in Korea, I have to balance maintaining my footing on the trail, and maximizing the reason I go hiking- enjoying the colorful wonder of beautiful nature of me. Thankfully, there were plenty of man made stairs and boardwalks, so it wasn’t all just me stumbling over large, uneven rocks.

Seoraksan day 2 canyon river

Seoraksan day 2 rocky shale river

Seoraksan day 2 soaring colorful valley

Sometimes the view was so soaring, that I kept having to remind myself that this was all real. This wasn’t some movie. This wasn’t some memory, but real life, happening all around me.

Seoraksan day 2 valley river

Seoraksan day 2 running river

This particular hike is one of the most popular hikes in Seoraksan National Park, and it is easy to see why. The trail isn’t THAT difficult (by Korean hiking standards that is). You can hike as far out as you want and turn around when you want.

Seoraksan day 2 overhead river pools

Seoraksan day 2 river with red and green leaves

Because the elevation seemed to be greater, and the weather a bit cooler in this part of the park, I found plenty of autumn colors on today’s search.

Seoraksan day 2 colorful overhead shot

Seoraksan day 2 red and yellow leaves valley

Seoraksan day 2 red leaves valley

Even though this trail was much easier than the Ulsan Bawi trail, I definitely felt it, particularly on the hike back. That was probably because I was still feeling it from the day prior. There were scores of people on this trail, because it was a Saturday and the busloads of Korean hikers descended on the park. Even though I’m reasonably fit, I was passed by nearly every one in sight, particularly while trying to negotiate the rocky descents. So many Korean hikers were light of foot and they walked confidently, hopped, or even a few cases, ran down the uneven rocky hills, while I gingerly picked my way down, afraid if I didn’t, my spindly ankles would give out and I’d fall down, down, down the rocks. I am absolutely not as sure-footed as most of the other hikers. And thanks to my sore muscles, I was passed by nearly every one on the trail, with the exception of the elderly and infirm. And when I say elderly and infirm, I mean so old and sick, they probably shouldn’t have been on the trail to begin with.

Seoraksan day 2 rocky valley with trees

Seoraksan day 2 steep valley

I did enjoy the hike, and it felt so sweet when I finished and I could just relax, eat lunch and then go back to my hotel for a nice, warm nap. In those two days, I saw all the main sights in Outer Seorak. That is the eastern part of the park, the one closest to the town of Sokcho. It is the most popular with the craggiest hills. A person can easily do this part of the park on the normal, two day weekend. Of course I highly recommend taking a bus out to the park on a Friday night to start hiking early Saturday morning. Even with my relatively slow hiking pace, I was still done by early afternoon. I could have been on a bus back to Seoul that early evening if I so desired.

Seoraksan day 2 rocky valley

Seoraksan day 2 pool with red leaves

Again, if you like beautiful nature, particularly in the fall, and you like hiking, I HIGHLY recommend Seoraksan National Park. Just don’t mind the crowds. And it’s probably best to bring some walking sticks to maintain your balance while hiking on the uneven pathways.