New York City Hikes

Gertrude's Nose
By Skip Card
Key Info
Level : Moderate/Strenuous
Total Distance : 7.5 miles round-trip
Hiking Time : 4 hours
Elevation Gain : 1,180 feet
Summary : From Lake Minnewaska, head down and then up to Millbrook Mountain and follow a scenic ridge to the white cliffs of Gertrude’s Nose.

The Hike
The word "Shawangunk" first appears on a 1682 deed giving land in present-day Gardiner to Gertrude Bruyn, a settler of Dutch descent. Today, Bruyn's name graces Gertrude's Nose, perhaps the most picturesque vista in the Shawangunks. Here, amid panoramic views, visitors can observe 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.

From the parking lots at the north end of Lake Minnewaska, veer left to head clockwise around the lake on a wide carriageway leading to Minnewaska’s southern tip. A tangle of gravel roads and dirt paths, all unlabeled and most blazed in identical red diamonds, can make for a frustrating start, particularly for hikers who like to pinpoint their positions. Ultimately, all paths lead south, past a park office, barn, and hilltop picnic area. Obey common sense more than your map, and keep the lake on your right.

After .8 mile, at the southern end of the lake, turn left at the sign marking the start of the Millbrook Mountain Trail, blazed in red squares. The trail heads south atop slippery rocks along a stream spilling out from the lake. Descend carefully until the trail veers onto dry terrain, then continue down a narrow, rocky footpath through a hemlock forest dotted with patches of exposed bedrock. About .7 mile from the lake, the trail crosses a small stream, exits the state park, and begins a steady uphill trudge toward Millbrook Mountain. Mush upward, passing junctions with the Coxing Trail and, just below the summit, the Millbrook Ridge Trail. (Both trails, blazed in blue and within the Mohonk Preserve, are described in the Millbrook Mountain listing in this chapter.) Veer right at the crest to reach Millbrook Mountain’s scenic high point, and look for the sign noting your reentry into Minnewaska State Park. Nearby, red blazes painted on bedrock mark the beginning of Gertrude’s Nose Trail.

Head west as Gertude’s Nose Trail cuts along the slanting ridge top, at first within sight of the nearby Millbrook Mountain Carriageway. Stone cairns occasionally mark the route as the trail cuts across white conglomerate dotted with pitch pines. The trail dips steeply into the woods, skirts a deep cave, and crosses beneath power lines. Returning to the ridge, the trail passes several Wallkill Valley viewpoints and curls around deep fissures in the rock, a hint of what’s ahead. Finally, the trail emerges from the trees and mountain laurel onto the sun-scorched white rock of Gertrude’s Nose. By now, you’ve hiked 4.1 miles.

With a high point of 1,730 feet, Gertrude’s Nose juts like a ship’s prow over the surrounding lowlands. The vast Wallkill Valley stretches to the south, while Castle Point and Hamilton Point highlight thick cliffs on the far side of Palmaghatt Ravine. But the most intriguing feature is the rock itself: layered white Shawangunk conglomerate that over the eons has fractured and fallen away in massive blocks, leaving behind sheer edges veined by deep fissures. Enjoy the scenery and geology, but stay on the marked trail to avoid trampling sensitive plants.

Curl around the nose’s jagged rim, following the red blazes as the trail scrambles over broken bedrock and returns to the forest. Dip to cross a small stream beneath power lines, then ascend steeply up a rutted path that levels out (more or less) along a scenic ridge. The trail ends 1.3 miles from the Nose at a junction with Millbrook Mountain Carriageway (yellow diamonds). Turn left.

The final 2.1 miles follows wide carriageways back to the parking lot. After .5 mile, pass Patterson’s Pellet, an eight-foot white boulder perched precariously on the lip of a scenic overlook. Another .6 mile leads past a junction to the Hamilton Point Carriageway. Veer right, and in .3 mile turn left at the junction onto Lake Shore Drive (red diamonds). Stay on Lake Shore the final .7 mile, past several junctions, back to the parking lot.

Instead of starting from Lake Awosting, hikers can reach Gertrude’s Nose Trail by following the Millbrook Ridge Trail to Millbrook Mountain.

Minnnewaska State Park Preserve is west of New Paltz, about 90 miles from New York City. From the New York Thruway, take Exit 18 to New Paltz and turn left after the tollbooth onto westbound Route 299. Stay on Route 299 through New Paltz toward the looming cliffs, following signs to Minnewaska State Park Preserve. After 7.2 miles, turn right at the junction with coaligned Routes 44 and 55. Drive 4.5 miles and turn left into the park’s main entrance. Follow the winding drive up to the parking lots near Lake Awosting.

Adirondack Trailways buses run from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan to New Paltz; for details, call 800/858-8555. Taxi service is available from the bus stop to Mohonk Preserve.

Information and Contact
Daily fees are charged for hiking and parking. Fees vary seasonally but are typically $6–7 per car. Dogs must be leashed. Bikes are permitted on carriageways but not on footpaths. Swimming is allowed in Lake Minnewaska only when a lifeguard is on duty. Trails are shown on Map 104 of the Shawangunk Trails series from the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference. Less detailed maps are available at trailheads. For more information, contact Minnewaska State Park Preserve, P.O. Box 893, New Paltz, NY 12561, 845/255-0752,

Published: 1 May 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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