So you want to do some leaf-peeping? It’s an ancient custom hereabouts. In fact cars line up off Exit 18 on the Thruway just to take a look at the fall foliage in the New Paltz environs. If you’re driving around and want to get mesmerized without expanding too much energy, just head out across the New Paltz flats on Route 299 toward the Gunks (the Shawangunk Ridge, which includes Mohonk, Minnewaska and Sam’s Point on the southern end). As the trees turn, turn, turn, you’ll climb into a neverland of bright reds, yellows, oranges, a few pinks, some leftover greens and even a purple or two. A couple of great drives are Springtown Road (first right after Wallkill Bridge, then first right) to Rosendale (Joppenberg Mount and the railroad trestle); Mountain Rest Road (left fork on Springtown) over Mohonk (turns into the Mohonk Road) and into Alligerville and/or High Falls; Butterville Road (left off Mountain Rest) under the ridge to Albany Post Road and the Wallkill River; Albany Post Road to right fork before Gardiner (Bruynswick Road) past Route 44/55 and down to Pine Bush (the ridge to your right all the way down). And drive on 44/55 over Minnewaska to Kerhonkson. In and around all these drives are smaller roads that will give you different looks (peeps), but no less spectacular views.
At the Mohonk Preserve some of the great leaf-peeping hikes include The Shawangunk Sensory Trail, an easy quarter-mile trail from the visitor center on Route 44/55; Trapps Mountain hamlet (abandoned homes of the old blueberry pickers on the mountain) to the preserved VanLueven Cabin is an easy mile and a half from the West Trapps; the Undercliff and Overcliff Carriage Roads provide an easy five-mile hike from West Trapps; the Bonticou Crag is a great three-mile moderate hike from Spring Farm off the Mohonk Road. Finally, High Peters Kill offers a strenuous 7.5-mile hike from Coxing Camp off Route 44/55.
If biking is your preferred activity, you can bike the northern preserve from the ridge to the crag, a strenuous 2.5-mile ride; to the top of the old ski run on Guyot Hill Road, another strenuous 3.5-mile ride; and to Table Rock, a four-mile ride. All start at Spring Farm. In the southern part of the preserve you can bike the Undercliff/Overcliff loop, an easy 4.5-mile excursion; the link to Minnewaska State Park via Trapps Road, an easy three-mile jaunt; and on Oakwood Drive, a meandering eight-mile ride.
If its climbing you want, the Gunks are of course world-famous. You can get out on the rocks at the West Trapps trailhead (just look for all the cars), or you can go into Lake Mohonk (there’s a fee) and try the incredible Labyrinth Trail from the lake up to SkyTop, 230 feet up through, under and over anomalous rock formations.