October 19, 2019 – Kerhonkson, NY
Length: Approximately 7.3 miles
Max elevation: 1,812 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 1,147 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Fee: $10.00 per vehicle – Empire Pass Accepted
Trailhead parking: Upper Awosting Lot 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, NY 12446
Located in Ulster County, NY Minnewaska State Park Preserve is situated on the dramatic Shawangunk Mountain ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike and simply enjoy. And, all this within an hour and a half drive from New York City.
Arguably the most picturesque vista in the Shawangunks, Gertrude’s Nose is a geologic snapshot of the destructive natural forces that are slowly ripping apart the Shawangunk conglomerate and leaving behind some of its most intriguing features. Gertrude’s Nose is a prominent cliff escarpment that projects outward, like a nose high above the Palmaghatt Ravine. “The Nose” itself is shaped like the prow of a great stone ship, because of the near-45° angle that affords great views to the east and south. The spectacular cliffs that lead to this distinctive promontory, are littered with glacial erratics and intricate joint cracks that widen into deep crevices, with massive blocks of conglomerate lying at random angles below.
Local traditions link the name to Gertrude Bruyn, a settler of Dutch descent, who settled on the west bank of the Shawangunk Kill, directly opposite of this unique geographical feature. Gertrude Bruyn’s deed for this land is dated January 24, 1682 and she was an important local figure in her day. It has been said that the mountain was named “from the fancied resemblance of the shadows of some of the massive rocks that stand on its brow, to the nose of Gertrude Bruyn.”
This is one of the more popular and scenic hikes in the Hudson Valley. Even with the length and level of difficulty, people flock to Gertrude’s Nose on a nice day. Most hike descriptions that I have seen online are in a counterclockwise fashion, which is the route most people take. That means taking the carriage roads in the beginning and then doing the more difficult Millbrook Mountain Footpath at the end. I prefer to do the more difficult sections at the start and save the easier sections for the end, when I am beginning to tire. This is a sound strategy, but it is a longer route to get to “The Nose.” It is approximately 3.75 miles to reach the “The Nose” when doing the loop clockwise and 2.8 miles counterclockwise. The elevation gain is nearly identical in both directions.
By doing the hike clockwise, you can avoid the early crowds and mostly anyone you encounter will be going in the opposite direction. The drawback is that by the time you get to “The Nose,” there are huge crowds camped out at the main spot already. I felt a little overwhelmed when we got there as I have never seen so many people in one spot during a hike. It almost felt like Jones Beach on the 4th of July weekend. In all fairness it was also the last week of peak fall foliage. Speaking to a Trail Steward at Gertrude’s Nose, he said that this was the busiest day of the season. The park opens at 9 am which means that you can’t really get an early jump. Once past Gertrude’s Nose, we passed so many hikers going in the opposite direction, that at times there were log jams on the more narrower sections of the trail.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great hike, but the huge crowds did diminish the enjoyment somewhat. In retrospect, this is a hike that is better done on a weekday and if I ever return, I will take the carriage road up at the start just so I can get to Gertrude’s Nose before everyone else.
Please note: The distances shown in parentheses are the approximate distances traveled during this hike and not necessarily the total length of the actual trails.
Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road – red-diamond-blazed (1.8 miles) – This old road loops around the lake, with moderate changes in elevation. On a nice day there is a lot of foot traffic on this road.
Millbrook Mountain Footpath – red-blazed (1.2 miles) – This interior trail accessed from the end of Lake Minnewaska, leads to scenic views from the summit of Millbrook Mountain. This trail is used by many in conjunction with the Gertrude’s Nose Footpath to create a popular, although tough loop hike.
Gertrudes Nose Footpath – red-blazed (2.7 miles) – This popular trail begins on Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road, at a point 2.1 miles from the parking area at Lake Minnewaska.
Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road – yellow-diamond-blazed (1.2 miles) – This old road leaves the end of Lake Minnewaska, passes by Hamilton Point Carriage Road as well as the Gertrudes Nose Trail and continuing back to Lake Minnewaska as the Millbrook Mountain Footpath. Many use this old road as a loop hike to Gertrude’s Nose.
From the end of the parking area, bear left on a dirt road, then turn left on the red-diamond-blazed Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road that encircles Lake Minnewaska. As the road gently descends, there is a rock outcrop to the right, with views overlooking the lake.
The 34-acre “sky lake” is approximately one mile long by one-quarter mile wide at its widest point. A sky lake is a pristine and often unusually clear lake that is fed only from rain water.
The carriage road climbs gradually along the eastern side of the lake. Soon the carriage road comes to a fork with another gravel road. You may want to follow this road towards the lake to a nice viewpoint from the cliffs. The cliffs to the right is where the hike began.
Continue past a park building and look for a narrow footpath that leads back toward the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road and walk over a picturesque wooden footbridge, known as the “Dry Bridge.” Continuing uphill, the road leads up to the former site of the Cliff House, now a picnic area, that overlooks the lake. Opened in 1879 at an elevation greater than that of the Lake Mohonk Mountain House, Cliff House boasted even more expansive valley and mountain views.
Continue on the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road as it heads south and gently descends. Just before the trail turns sharp right, there is panoramic east-facing view from a rock ledge to the left of the trail.
The Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road continues downhill to the southern end of Lake Minnewaska. Just to the left is the start of the red-blazed Millbrook Mountain Footpath. It is a 1.2 mile long somewhat rugged trail.
The Millbrook Mountain Footpath is marked with red blazes and connects Lake Minnewaska with Millbrook Mountain. Although it is the shortest route between these two popular locations, it is not the easiest one. The trail descends approximately 372 vertical feet in 1/2 a mile, then regains the elevation lost as it climbs Millbrook Mountain.
The trail leads down over a mass of boulders and descends steadily into the valley of the Coxing Kill. This section of the trail is usually wet and you should be alert for slippery spots. As the trail passes through an open area, you’ll pass a broad viewpoint to the north, with the Sky Top Tower dominating the horizon.
The trail levels off briefly, then continues to descend. At the base of the descent, you’ll cross the scenic Coxing Kill. After rock hopping the stream, the trail enters the Mohonk Preserve, but it is not necessary to obtain a day-use permit from the Preserve to continue the hike.
Beyond this point, the trail is often very wet, and at times resembles a stream. You should exercise caution to avoid slipping on the wet rocks. The trail begins a steady climb of Millbrook Mountain for the next 0.7 mile. You’ll pass a junction with the blue-blazed Coxing Trail, which begins on the left, but you should continue ahead on the red-blazed Millbrook Mountain Footpath. The trail ends just beneath the summit of Millbrook Mountain.
When you reach the end of the trail, continue ahead a few feet to the summit of Millbrook Mountain. At the top of the rock ledges, there are outstanding views to the north and east, with the Sky Top Tower visible on the ridge to the north.
Turn right and continue along the ridge, now following the red blazes of the Gertrude’s Nose Footpath. You’ll notice that the Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road parallels the trail just to the right, then veers away. The Gertrude’s Nose Footpath continues along the edge of the cliffs with open views to your left. After a relatively level stretch, you’ll emerge onto an area where pitch pines grow out of long expanses of bedrock.
In about 3/4 of a mile, the Gertrude’s Nose Footpath descends steeply. A short distance ahead, you’ll notice an unmarked trail on the left. Follow this trail a short distance to a deep crevice in the rock. You can feel the cool air escaping from this crevice, quite refreshing on a hot day!
Return to the main trail and turn left. The Gertrude’s Nose Footpath now begins a steady climb and crosses beneath a power line. At the top of the rise, the trail now passes through a relatively flat section with a number of good viewpoints over the Wallkill Valley to the east from rocks to the left of the trail.
Continue to follow the red blazes and you’ll eventually come out at Gertrude’s Nose, the southern tip of the ridge, which features broad views to the east and south. On a nice day expect to see a fair amount of people milling about in this area.
You have now hiked approximately 3.75 miles up to this point and may want to take a break and enjoy the views.
The peak in the distance, near the center of this image is Sam’s Point.
Across the Palmaghatt Ravine are the cliffs of Hamilton Point with Castle Point just above.
The trail now travels along bare rock ledges, with sheer drops of several hundred feet just to the left of the trail. This trail section is one of the most scenic in the entire Shawangunks, with many views over the Palmaghatt Ravine to the west. Glacial erratics perched near the cliff edges, deep crevices in the rock, and the pitch pines growing out of these crevices make the hike even more interesting. The trail is sometimes a little difficult to follow (most of the blazes are painted on the rocks), and it detours away from the edge and heads through the woods in a few places. You’ll want to take some time to savor the beauty of this magnificent area. Keep in mind, though, that the unprotected cliff edge can be dangerous (children should be kept well away from the edge). This hike is not recommended for those who are fearful of heights!
After about 1/2 a mile from “The Nose,” the trail leaves the ridge and enters the woods as it descends and crosses a stream under a power line. After crossing the stream on rocks, the Gertrude’s Nose Footpath ascends steeply through a dense evergreen forest to reach another west-facing viewpoint over the Palmaghatt Ravine.
Soon after the viewpoint, the Gertrude’s Nose Footpath ends at a junction with the yellow-diamond-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road. Turn left and follow this easy walking carriage road. Views soon begin to open up in this area with many ledges to the left of the road.
In just under 1/2 a mile, the Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road reaches one of the interesting geologic features at the park, Patterson’s Pellet, a large glacial erratic perched atop the cliffs above Palmaghatt Ravine.
Continue down the Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road, staying right at a Y-intersection with the Hamilton Point Carriage Road. A short distance later, turn left at a T-intersection with the red-blazed Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road. Follow this carriage road which now begins to descend, with views of Lake Minnewaska visible through the trees. Soon the carriage road reaches a beach area with expansive views of the lake and cliffs on the opposite side.
The Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road then climbs towards the northern end of the lake. Turn left on the dirt road that leads back to the parking area, where the hike began.
The hike to Gertrude’s Nose offers some of the best views and dramatic cliffs in The Gunks. This is definitely one of the Hudson Valley’s “must do” hikes. It is also a hike better done on a weekday to avoid the huge crowds. It is long and challenging, but the scenic landscape along with the outstanding views make it worth the effort.
Scenic landscape, outstanding views, The Gunks, easy to follow trails.
Crowds at Gertrude’s Nose.
Take a hike!
- New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- Shawangunk Place-Names by Marc B. Fried
- Scenes & Walks in the Northern Shawangunks by Jack Fagan