The Empire State Pass gives a vehicle entry into the multitude of State Parks throughout New York, including Minnewaska. (Photos by Erin Quinn)“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.”
— Edward Abbey
In the Hudson Valley we are surrounded by natural beauty. Yet, too often, we can become complacent, almost dulled as to what exists right outside of our own backyards. We stick to the same routines, the walk around the block, the elliptical at the gym, sometimes even the shuffle from the grocery store to the parking lot might be the only bit of fresh air we breathe in a day.
This is where a gift-giving rupture can have life-changing effects. What if, we were to give our friends, family, loved ones, a membership to a local nature reserve or an arts center? It could literally be giving them a ticket to another type of life, one that is enriched by beauty, only a short walk or drive from their home.
Here are some of Hudson Valley One’s suggestions for locally sourced and renewable gifts.
The Mohonk Preserve is an 8,000 acre preserve that includes historic pastures, farms, dense woodlands, cliffs, carriage roads, single-track trails, swimming holes and endless miles of flora, fauna, wildlife to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, runners, horseback riders, cross-country skiers and, when the weather is not too icy or dicey, one of the most accessible rock-climbing areas in the country.
The Visitor’s Center is worth a visit itself as it is located just beneath the hairpin turn at 3197 Route 44/55 and has interpretive trails, a butterfly garden a kid’s hike, a gift shop, maps and always helpful employees or volunteers to help you best navigate your visit.
Each trailhead offers a unique entry point into the Preserve including most recently added Testimonial Gatehouse trailhead off of Route 299 in New Paltz. Here, walkers, meanderers, cyclists begin their journey underneath the stone archway of the 100-year-old stone gatehouse that was used as the main entranceway for the Mohonk Mountain House as guests entered the majestic mountains by horse and buggy.
There is also the West Trapps parking lot which leads enthusiasts right to their climbing destination, walkers to a myriad of hiking/biking opportunities and some paths that can lead to the Millbrook Ridge Trail or the Shawangunk Trail and down to Split Rock for a dip in the summer or a calming sound in the late fall.
Around the corner from West Trapps, on Clove Road in Gardiner is the Coxing Trailhead, a smaller trailhead that leads to both Split Rock and Lost City, another climbing/hiking area with stunning views if you can make it to the top!
For those on the Northern side of the County there is a new trail that the Preserve has marked, just off the Rosendale side of the Wallkill Valley Land Trail (WVRT.)
In terms of bang for the buck, a single day-pass to this outdoor bliss is $15 a person, and $20 if you’re biking, horseback riding or climbing. An adult membership is $60, seniors, $50 and children up to 18 are $30. So, basically if you go four times a year, your membership is paid for. There are family packages and lifetime memberships and all kinds of ways to broaden this gift idea, but it supports a local treasure, encourages someone to get outside, and hopefully, leads that gift receiver to experience the intoxicating experience of just being immersed in the woods.
The Mohonk Preserve also has a plethora of programs from members including hikes, yoga, bird counting and citizen science volunteer opportunities. Go to www.mohonkpreserve.org to order memberships or learn more.
Another great outdoor membership pass is the Empire State Pass, which gives not only an individual, but the entire car or vehicle entry into the multitude of State Parks throughout New York. This includes both the Minnewaska State Park located in Kerhonkson, NY as well as its neighboring park, Sam’s Point located in the historic artists’ colony of Cragsmoor, New York.
These offer more than 22,000 acres that include three sky-lakes (Minnewaska, Awosting and Lake Maratanza) 35-miles of carriage roads and 25-miles of footpaths. Minnewaska has a new, state-of-the-art visitor’s center as does Sam’s Point and both offer simple, but accessible walks that are stunning like the 2.3-mile loop around Lake Minnewaska or the hike up to Sam’s Point, the highest point in the Shawangunk’s.
Once again, entrance into any of these parks is $10 per day, but with the Empire Pass, you can have unlimited access to most NYS Parks for $80 a year. This is a pass and can be given to another friend or family member to use and all you have to do is renew it online each year. For those that like to plan ahead and count their savings there are 3-year passes and 5-year passes as well as lifetime passes! Also, if you renew it online before the first of the year, you save $15 which makes the 2nd year of the Empire Pass only $65. https://parks.ny.gov/admission/empire-passport/
Not only does the pass give you access to the regions’ local jewels of Minnewaska, Sam’s Point, Bear Mountain, but there are seemingly endless destination-spots to plan day-trips to or weekends away without ever leaving the state. Arguably some of the most beautiful include Watkin’s Glenn or Buttermilk Falls or Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes region. To make this gift even more special and user-friendly purchase a set of trail-maps for them to begin their exploration! Maps, gloves, yak-tracks, hiking sticks (poles) and more to dress up the gift, can be found at Rock & Snow in New Paltz or Kenco Outfitters on Hurley Road in Kingston.