A Weekend Spent Camping in Minnewaska State Park

MINNEWASKA STATE PARK, NY- As a city boy, I’ve never really spent that much time exploring upstate New York. It should be noted that by my definition, upstate New York is anything north of the Bronx, so this encompasses a fairly wide swath of the state—to me, Poughkeepsie is "upstate". In an effort to rectify this, this past weekend I went camping in Minnewaska State Park with my cousin Laura, intending to explore the New Paltz area.



Aside from a few family trips and an apple-picking session or two, this was my first time setting off in a car to explore the great outdoors of New York State on my own time. I had casually heard that New Paltz was a worthwhile destination for outdoor activity, and this was confirmed when looking for campsites: the only reasonable place to pitch a tent was run by the American Alpine Club, the national organization for rock climbers. Interesting.


The campsite itself turned out to be overly-well appointed—with heated bathrooms, running water, hot water, clean tent sites, and a tranquil setting despite having over 50 tent sites in a small area. Of course, at $38 for the night I was anticipating sleeping on a bed of gold, but I have to say that we were quite impressed with the facilities. Another plus to the Sam Pryor Shawagunk campground was that it is walking distance from many of the hiking trails in Minnewaska State Park—outside of the town of New Paltz, but close to where we wanted to be.



Autumn proved to be a fantastic time of year to visit—the vibrancy of the trees was absolutely stunning. We lamented that we were visiting on one of the best two or three weekends to visit—there was no way the leaves were going to turn more intensive hues of gold, red, and green without falling to the ground.


With 65+ miles of hiking trails, you don’t feel as if you’re two hours north of NYC. Minnewaska runs the gamut with trails, from easy, relatively paved roads along the 'Gunks (the large cliffs that rock climbers are so fond of scrambling up), to steep, remote trails on the other side of the mountain. We opted for a 12-mile loop of our own design that took us all around the park--It’s difficult to describe landscapes, so sometimes it’s better to just check out the photo album for a sense of the scenery.

New Paltz itself is a cute little town with a single main street, and a homey feel to it. Nothing like a traditional college town in my mind, it had a few brewpubs, quite a variety of ethnic restaurants, and an amazing hybrid guitar shop and coffeehouse named CAFEteria, which I would highly encourage anyone to check out after a long day in the park.



Traveling to exotic new destinations is always great fun, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to explore the places in your own backyard that you never knew  existed. For some people this might be going fishing in a small pond, or trying a new restaurant when you don’t eat out all that much. For Laura and I however, this meant camping out upstate—and loving what we found.