Sam’s Point Preserve, Cragsmoor NY

Years ago I visited Sam’s Point Preserve [400 Sams Point Rd, Cragsmoor, NY 12420] for the first time, I remember falling head over heels for its beauty. I love the Gunks, but there was just something special about this park. I definitely didn’t make it to all of the trails then, so a second visit was always in the stars. Back then it wasn’t a part of Minnawaska State Park, but it’s own separate entity requiring a hefty $10 day pass fee. You still need to pay to enter the park today, unless you have the Empire Pass which allows entry to New York state parks for free. Getting a late start on a fall weekend was a recipe for disaster. The parking lot was at capacity and the attendants tried to turn me away, but really I wasn’t having it. I had just drove over two hours to get to there I’d squeeze in anywhere! After giving my sob story and stamping my feet a bit, they kindly helped me weasel my way into a tiny area…everyone else was turned away. Feeling extremely fortunate, my day was only going to get better. This preserve is worth fighting for! I can’t stress enough bringing a trail map with you, they provide them in the visitors center and you can also download one to your phone. Starting off on the gravel road it is easy to see why this place is so beloved.

Trails are very well maintained and even those with little hiking experience can enjoy magnificent views, the park is located on the highest point of the Shawangunk Mountains. My route included the Ice Caves, Verkeerder Kill Falls, and High Point, creating a loop of approximately 10 miles. It was very strenuous with rolling hills, but so truly rewarding. Down the familiar gravel road I welcomed sprawling views.

This time around I was ecstatic to visit the ice caves, which were impassible on my first trip.

Take the spur and descend into chilly air.

A trail takes you through the caves, be cautious as the name suggests there can be ice long into the summer.

Be ready to amble and bend and marvel at the unique geological formations. At the end of the route is another peaceful overlook – I didn’t get bored with these even for a minute.

Fall colors on the shrubbery were beyond incredible.

Continuously in awe, my happiness was through the roof walking the narrow trail in the midst of this autumn palate.

It finally gave way to a golden fern forest.

Complete with woodpeckers

and fuzzy caterpillars.

Even though the hike was long, it didn’t feel like all that much time to reach Verkeerder Kill Falls because of all the natural splendor. I was happy it was running, although not so strong – delicate and adorned with a rainbow.

A brief snack and back to it, getting to the high point’s where most of the elevation on this trail occurs.

This part of the park is less trafficked, there are so many incredible vistas and you’ll likely have them all to yourself.

Be vigilant following the markers on this part of the hike, they can go missing and the trail isn’t always obvious.

Back track and keep with it. You wouldn’t want to miss a spot like this.

Or this.

Stick with the high point trail until it feeds into the loop road.

By then I was truly exhausted (was getting over a cold!) and so happy to see a familiar sight, the huckleberry pickers shack!

Remembered it from all those years ago and then I knew the parking lot wasn’t far at all. No matter how far you hike at Sam’s, you’re in for a real treat because the views are generous in all locations.

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