The highest section of the Shawangunk Mountains features towering waterfalls and unique geological features. These mountains are famous for their sharp cliffs and interesting landscape, and this hike showcases these features in abundance.
This particular section of the Shawangunk Mountains, within what is called Sam’s Point Preserve, is currently managed by the Nature Conservancy to protect the preserve's features, including the unique and beautiful natural Ice Caves. These caves, formed thousands of years ago from a glacier, are the largest known open fault ice caves in the United States. Visitors can hike through these caves and see ice flows that are present even during the hot summer months.
The park also contains the Verkeerderkill Falls, a 187’ waterfall that cascades off of the Shawangunk’s famous cliffs. It is a view not to be missed, and many visitors make a stop for lunch while viewing the falls.
What Makes It Great
The ice caves provide a hiking experience that you can’t find anywhere else. Many never get a chance to explore caves without a guide, and these caves give you that opportunity. You can walk down carved stairs, up ladders, and along wooden bridges; all lit with warm lighting to add to the ambiance. A hike within the ice caves is about .6 miles but takes at least an hour.
After the ice caves you can walk through unique high altitude pitch pine barrens. Walk for 2 miles, and you will approach Verkeerderkill Falls. Before you reach a view of the falls, cross the serene Verkeerderkill Creek. From here, walk around to an outcropping to get the amazing view of the majestic Verkeerderkill Falls. There you can see the water dramatically drop off of a cliff in a way that can only be described as breathtaking. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a rainbow in the mist of the falls.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers looking for something a little more unique than other New York-area destinations will be fascinated by this trip. The hike is not difficult, but it is memorable and well worth the time. The falls provide a great place for lunch as well as a priceless view, and the ice caves provide a chance to see a unique geological feature seldom seen elsewhere in the United States. If you like doing something a little different, this is for you.
Those looking for a longer day can also hike up to the High Point or to Lake Maratanza. You can also choose your own route using the maps provided by New York State.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
This hike is located at Sam’s Point within the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. From Poughkeepsie take US-44 W and turn left onto Bruynswick Rd, then turn left onto Bruynswick-New Prospect Rd. Turn right onto NY-52 W and follow for about 6.4 miles until you get to Cragsmoor Rd. Take Cragsmoor Rd to Sams Point Rd where you will see a clear sign for the parking area. For GPS devices, use the address: 400 Sam’s Point Rd, Cragsmoor, NY.
The parking fee is $10 per car per day. The parking area also contains a pavilion where you can purchase a map and learn about the local geology and ecology, as well as use bathrooms and changing rooms. Overnight camping and fires are not permitted.