Corey Morenz reminds us that you don’t have to race CX to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage and trails the greater New York area has to offer:
Minnewaska (aka the Gunks) is a world away from NYC but surprisingly easy to get to.. only a 40 minute drive from the Beacon train station, or one can ride an entire loop straight from the Poughkeepsie station as Don Nieva detailed here: https://www.strava.com/routes/6337196
Faced with a slow and meeting-free day at the office (and potentially a mild hangover from an epic Monday night Guns N’ Roses concert), I decided to play hooky and get in some quality father-son time by shredding in one of the most beautiful parks in the Northeast... Minnewaska.
Foliage also peaks a good two weeks earlier outside the NYC bubble, which means that you can extend your bicycle propelled leaf peeping with well-timed trips upstate.
As my train rumbled up the Hudson Line I sat refreshing the weather app on my phone, watching the temperature rise from 40, to 45, to 50 as we neared Beacon. Looks like I wont be needing the extra thermal layers today - weather for riding would be perfect! The warm autumn sun greeted me as I disembarked and greeted my dad, who drove west from Litchfield County, Connecticut to meet me.
Within an hour we snagged a primo parking spot near Lake Minnewaska (for anyone who has come to the park during the crush of fall weekends, this means not having to do an unpleasantly steep and monotonous climb from the lower lot) and were rolling towards Lake Awosting. One of the best parts about leaf peeping from a bike is the sheer diversity of terrain you can cover. By foot you would have to pick and choose which among the Gunk’s many picturesque spots to target for the day: Lake Awosting, Lake Minnewaska, Gertrude’s Nose, Castle Point, etc. By bike there is really only one option and it is D) All of the Above.
First stop was Lake Awosting via the Upper Awosting and Lake Awosting carriage roads. Most of the trails in Minnewaska that allow bicycles are relatively well groomed carriage roads. This trip we rode mountain bikes, but they are ideal for CX or gravel grinder bikes and passable with wider profile tires on a road bike (assuming you don't mind windy, gravel descents...).
After circumnavigating the lake, the next stop was the main event - Caste Hill Terrace. The vistas along this carriageway are breathtaking. We found ourselves constantly dismounting to walk along cliff edges, find the perfect photo angles and savor the many different vistas this section of the trail offers. The best part was that we had the views all to ourselves - free from the hundreds of tourists bused in to the park at peak times during the fall.
The most fun part of the ride still remained. After gradual climbing for almost the entire day, the route back to Lake Minnewaska was a fast, curvy descent. One more benefit of a hooky day out here: minimal hikers on the trail meant we could really let it rip!
Before the sleepy train ride back down the Hudson we had a final stop to make. No trip to New Paltz is complete without stopping by one of the many apple orchards that blanket the area. Cold cider, warm doughnuts, tired legs and in impromptu escape from the office.... I can't think of a more perfect Fall day.