I wouldn’t say that Gertrude’s Nose is the best hike in the Hudson Valley, because that would be like saying, “Mint chocolate chip is the best ice cream.” Wait, bad example. Mint chocolate chip really is the best ice cream.
But I still won’t call Gertrude’s Nose the best hike in the Hudson Valley, because the phrase “best hike” means different things to different people, and might depend on your mood or the weather or your zodiac sign.
Still, I will say that no list of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley would be complete without at least considering Gertrude’s Nose. For many people, I would expect this hike to land somewhere near the top of that list. It does for me.
Of course, how much you enjoy this hike will depend in large part on how much you enjoy hiking 7.5 miles in one shot (many other guides list this hike as 8 miles, so my GPS might have lowballed this one a smidge). This is a long, strenuous loop with rugged terrain and several steep sections, and it’s not to be attempted lightly.
It will also depend on how much you enjoy heights, since the clifftop trails and vertigo-inducing perches are a highlight of this hike.
All throughout our visit to Gertrude’s Nose, I kept saying, “Dude, I can’t believe I’ve never been here before.” Just goes to show how lucky we are to live in the Hudson Valley – you can hike here for a decade and still keep discovering awesome new places to explore.
And this place is awesome. But is it the best hike in the Hudson Valley, which would put it in the running for the best hike pretty much anywhere? Well, you’ll have to give it a whirl and decide for yourself.
As long as you’re up for a long, strenuous day, you won’t regret picking Gertrude’s Nose.
1. From the upper parking lot (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), walk to back-left corner of the lot, just past the last parking spot (marked handicap), and continue following the dirt road that curves to your left.
2. Thirty seconds later, boom! First view. That didn’t take long, did it? Take a few moments at the split-rail fence to gaze out over Lake Minnewaska.
3. When you’re ready, facing the lake, turn to your right to continue downhill on the dirt road, which shortly becomes marked with the red blazes of the Minnewaska Lake Loop (heretofore referred to as the Red Trail).
4. At the Red/Orange intersection, take the left fork to continue downhill on the Red Trail.
5. In a couple minutes, you’ll pop out next to a beautiful swimming beach, famous for its beautiful views, pristine water, and leeches.
Let’s try not to think about the leech part (they may well be a thing of the past by the time you read this, anyway). But if you do think about it, it’s really hard not to also think about that memorable leech scene from Stand by Me (the best movie ever made), right?
– “Vern, there’s something on your neck!”
– “Yeah, right. I’m not falling for that one, LaChance.”
– “No, Vern, there is something on your neck!”
Anyway, moving on…
6. Opposite the beach, maybe a hundred yards back, you’ll see the very nice bathroom facilities. Need to use ‘em? Fire away! We’ll wait.
When you’re done going potty and/or frolicking with the leeches, keep following the Red Trail, which sticks to the road just to the left of the bathrooms.
7. Follow the Red Trail as it meanders through the woods. “Trail? Dude, this is a road,” you might be thinking.
Fair enough, but don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of trail under your feet today. After clambering over your seven-zillionth rock later on, you might even look back at this smooth-sailing portion of the day with fondness.
In a couple minutes, bear left at the fork to remain on the Red Trail. Okay, fine, the Red Road.
8. Two minutes later, when the blue-blazed Castle Point Carriage Road departs to your right, stay straight/left to continue on the Red Road.
9. It took us eight minutes from the Castle Point Carriage Road intersection to reach the next junction, where we’ll bid adieu to the Red Road as it departs to our left (thanks for the good times, Red Trail/Road – see you again in about 5.5 miles, when we’ll have lots of awesome new memories and blisters!). Here, take the right fork to hop on the yellow-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road.
10. It took us five minutes to reach the next junction, at which I nearly had a heart attack, because I thought the trail was closed. (My buddy Jeff had driven three hours to come visit, I’d burned a day of vacation to take him for a hike, and I thought, for a moment, that we were going to have to spend the rest of the day tapestry shopping in New Paltz.)
The sawhorse blocking the (also yellow-blazed) Hamilton Point Carriage Road will likely be gone by the time you visit, but in September 2014, the Hamilton Point path was closed. Lucky for us, we were headed left at this fork to stay on the yellow-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road. Take the left fork here to continue on your way.
11. In about ten minutes, shaboom.
Patterson’s Pellet: Easily one of my all-time top three favorite pellets.
Oh, what the heck, let’s go ahead and call it my number one favorite pellet. Patterson’s Pellet, you had me at pellet. And also at your amazing, unique view. What an awesome place.
12. From Patterson’s Pellet, keep trekking on the Yellow Trail.
It took us just under ten minutes to reach the next junction, a right turn onto the red-blazed Gertrude’s Nose Trail (heretofore referred to as the Red Trail). Hop onto the Red Trail here and say adios to your pampered carriage-road ways. Time for some actual trails now.
13. Just a few minutes on the Red Trail and, once again, shaboom. Didn’t we just have a shaboom?
Enjoy the clifftop stroll with more panoramas than you can shake a wide-angle lens at.
As a general rule of thumb in life, I’m never having a bad time when:
– I don’t know what day of the week it is
– I’m doing something that could be described with the words “panoramic clifftop stroll.”
You’ll be doing a lot of the second one today. And if you don’t know what day of the week it is right now, you’re scoring double!
14. The trail leaves the cliffs (momentarily) and plunges back into the woods.
You’ll have some of your steepest, rockiest descents of the day in this section. Step carefully!
15. The trail flattens out after the rockiest descent. After about five more minutes, you’ll see a double-blaze indicating a turn to the left (the top blaze is offset to the left). A less attentive hiker could wander off-trail here – good thing you’re on the ball!
Immediately after that left turn, you’ll pop into a little clearing with power lines overhead. If they mess with your Zen, just pretend they’re parallel vines on T-shaped trees.
16. Immediately after the power lines, you’ll emerge onto the edge of a cliff.
This is just an appetizer. The main course is coming up very soon.
Follow the red blazes until the rock face narrows, where you’ll hop down to the left, into the woods again.
17. When you emerge from the woods again, in front of you you’ll find one of the longest sustained stretches of awesomeness anywhere in the Hudson Valley (or anywhere else, for that matter). You’re also on the same ridge as the eponymous money spot of this hike: Gertrude’s Nose.
Follow the red blazes as the views and cliffs just keep getting bigger.
When I first saw this ledge sticking out from the top of the cliff, I thought that must be Gertrude’s Nose. Turns out, Gertrude’s Nose is a bit further up the trail. This is fairly close though – Gertrude’s Chin, perhaps?
Stepping out onto some of these cliffs is a wondrous experience. It also feels like an IQ test in which your score is dropping with each step closer to the edge.
From Gertrude’s Chin looking down, you might notice a giant pile of rocks far below. Fancy people would call those rocks talus or scree.
You know how those rocks got down there? Quickly, that’s how.
Also, do you know why those rocks are called scree? Because when Wile E. Coyote is standing on the edge of a cliff, and that cliff breaks off, here’s the sound it makes: SCCCCCRRRRRRREEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee……………fwoomp.
I guess what I’m saying here is: “Enjoy the view! What amazing place, right? Also, please apply judgment and caution liberally.”
Along this stretch, you’ll find many very cool cliffs to explore.
I recommend that you exercise more caution than my friend Jeff at these places, lest you risk creating some of your own personal scree.
18. When you’re done scoping out the greater Gertrude’s Chin area, continue following the red blazes. We’ve hiked 3.4 miles so far. Only 4.1 to go! We’re just getting warmed up, right?
In this next section, you’ll notice the red blazes at times veering inland, away from the cliffs.
The blazes do a good job of taking you to the cliffs when it makes sense, and steering you away when necessary. Please stick to the blazes, even though you may be tempted to stray.
**UPDATE November 2020** From a Minnewaska trail steward’s helpful comment below: “When hikers leave the trail, it creates erosion on these [endangered] plant species. If the erosion continues, we might never see these species again. The broom crowberry can only be found in the Shawangunks.” PLEASE stick to the red blazes here, which will ensure that your inadvertent tromping doesn’t stomp rare species out of existence.
Keep chugging on what is surely one of the nicest stretches of trail in the Hudson Valley, or anywhere else.
Bonus points if you can spot an out-of-place ladder far below. I bet the people who use that ladder have a way more adventurous life than me.
In any event, from Gertrude’s Chin, you’ll stroll along the cliffs with westerly views off to your right for about .5 miles.
If you don’t follow the blazes, prepare to do some backtracking, unless you’ve recently been bitten by a radioactive spider. Otherwise, you’re not gonna make that jump, no matter how long you stare at it.
The trail then takes a hard bend to the left, opening up a completely different view to the south and east.
Poking along, goofing off and taking pictures, it took us 25 minutes from Gertrude’s Chin to get to this spot, which is Gertude’s Nose proper.
I’m not sure if the name “Gertude’s Nose” applies to one rock formation in particular, or this entire bend in the cliffs, but whatever the case, if you’re standing there right now, I bet you’re glad you picked Gertrude’s Nose. (And if Gertrude’s Nose is one rock formation, and you know which one it is, please attach an image in the comments below!)
19. After that hard-left bend, you’ll enjoy more clifftop views for quite a long stretch. On any other hike, any of those views would be the money spot. On this hike, though, ho-hum, another gorgeous view with awesome rock formations in the foreground. Yawn. We’re spoiled.
You’ll always see a buzzard or two in the air around here, but right around Gertrude’s Nose, we had a squadron overhead, almost flying in formation. It looked like a scene from Memphis Belle.
Anyway, keep following the red blazes and enjoying those views.
20. In about .8 miles from Gertude’s Nose (it took us 30 minutes, poking along), you’ll cross the
power lines parallel vines on the T-shaped trees again.
Just after those
lines vines (in one minute or so), one of the coolest unmarked features of this hike is coming up. Keep a sharp eye out on your right for an unmarked trail that splits off when the Red Trail continues to the left. (At this fork, as of September 2014, you could see a double-red blaze straight ahead, just up the trail.)
Take the unmarked right fork here for a very short (100 yards or less) foray to a very cool (literally and figuratively) hole in the ground that blows cool air even during the hottest months. As you approach the hole, you can feel the air getting colder all around it.
Get closer still, and you can feel the cool breeze blowing straight up at you. Nature’s air conditioning. A welcome spot on a hot day.
Also, Gertrude might prefer that we not assign Gertrude-based anatomical nomenclature to this particular natural feature, so I’ll just leave it alone.
When you’re done checking out Gertrude’s unmentionables, head back to the Red Trail and turn right to continue on your way. (Tip of the hat to the NY-NJTC guide for this hike for pointing out this unique place – never would have found it otherwise.)
21. If you like rocky trails, you’ll really enjoy this next section.
In just over ten minutes from Gertrude’s unmentionables, you’ll pop out onto a really cool rock face peppered with pitch pines.
You’ll also have some clambering to do.
Less than ten minutes after that open rock face, you may notice a carriage road off to your left, running parallel to the Red Trail. Ignore it (for now) and continue following those blazes back toward the cliffs. (We’ll be coming back to this road later, so keep half an eyeball on it.)
22. Just a short hop up that rise, and you’re treated to one last giant view for the day, from the top of Millbrook Mountain.
Take your time here and enjoy the huge view. You’ve earned it, right?
How you holding up so far? 5.4 miles down, 2.1 to go. Once you’ve appropriately marinated in the view, let’s head for home.
23. There are several ways you could snake down to the red-blazed Millbrook Mountain Trail that will take you back to Lake Minnewaska from the summit of Millbrook Mountain. The easiest way to describe it is to head downhill, backtracking to the carriage road you saw just a few minutes ago, which ends in a little mini cul-de-sac down there (hang a right when you find the road and you’ll find the cul-de-sac momentarily). That little cul-de-sac is where you want to be.
At that cul-de-sac, you’ll see plenty of signage. You want to follow the path just to the right of the signs that say “MILLBROOK MOUNTAIN PATH” and “MILLBROOK RIDGE TRAIL,” which head into the woods in the same direction the road was going, before it decided to hang a U-turn on itself.
Scoot through the woods for a moment (one minute or less) and you’ll see some old red blazes, and then another signpost in the middle of a small clearing.
You may also see the three red blazes that mark the start of our next (also red-blazed) trail – the Millbrook Mountain Trail. Follow the signs pointing you to “LAKE MINNEWASKA” and “MILLBROOK MOUNTAIN TRAIL” – Lake Minnewaska and your scenic leeches, here we come!
24. From the beginning of Millbrook Mountain Trail, it’s a straight shot all the way back to Lake Minnewaska, following those red blazes to the shore of the lake, about 1.2 miles away. It took us about 35 minutes to get there.
Along the way, you’ll find lots of rocks (this is the kind of insightful commentary you can expect from a free online trail guide).
And, about two-thirds of the way there, you’ll have one more nice view, across the Gunks to Skytop Tower at Mohonk Mountain House.
Otherwise, happy trudging, and hang in there! See you at the lake in another .3 miles or so.
25. Hello again, lake!
Turn right at the lake to hop back on our old friend, the red-blazed Minnewaska Lake Loop.
26. In just a moment, keep right at the fork to stay on the Red Trail.
27. At a left bend in the road, you’ll see a little unmarked trail to your right. If you’re still feeling spry, you could hop up on those rocks for another view. If you weren’t already spoiled from the rest of the day, you’d think that view was pretty awesome. But you are spoiled. If you’re feeling beat, you could skip this step and nobody would blame you.
28. Just after that unmarked trail, stay left at the fork to remain on the Red Trail.
29. The road leads uphill, across a clearing with picnic tables. At the top of the rise, the road widens, and you can see some rocks to your left.
Hop up on those rocks for one last view for the day, across Lake Minnewaska and beyond. This has to be one of the nicer spots in the world, no? It’s especially gorgeous because you can’t even see the leeches from up this high.
(Better photographers than me have taken some really awesome shots from up here.)
30. From that overlook, head back to the gravel road, and turn left to continue on your way. In just a few moments, keep left at the fork to stay on the Red Trail.
31. In just another minute, pass a gazebo that overlooks the lake. If it’s unoccupied, you should probably consider occupying it.
32. As you keep heading downhill, you’ll come to a junction with a building off to your right. Hang a left to stay on the main road.
33. Just after that turn, you’ll walk under a picturesque wooden bridge. From this spot, you’re about five minutes from the parking lot. w00t!
34. Keep sticking to the main road (still marked with red blazes) and ignoring the various offshoots.
Shortly after the bridge (it took us four minutes), you’ll arrive at a junction with a bank of porto-potties. You want to take the path immediately to the left of those porto-potties. (And if nature is calling, bang-o, it’s your lucky day.)
35. See those cars across the field, to your right? Hopefully, one of them is yours, or a friend’s. Otherwise, enjoy your walk to New Paltz!
If you have do wheels at your disposal, though, that’s a wrap! Congrats on knocking out a very tough hike And for picking Gertrude’s Nose!
Directions to the trailhead: From New Paltz, head west on Route 299. Follow 299 until it dead ends into Rt. 44/55, where you’ll make a right turn. Follow 44/55 past the hairpin turn under the Shawangunk cliffs and past the Trapps parking area on your right. Continue another 3 miles past the Trapps parking area to find the well-marked entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your left. Stop at the guard shack, pay the fee, then continue uphill, until you reach the upper parking lot. The traffic flow here was changed in 2017 – apparently, it’s a left turn after the guard shack to get to the upper parking lot now. (Thanks for the helpful tip in the comments, James!)
Hop out and let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Minnewaska II: Gertrude’s Nose entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The New York State Parks page gives the address for Minnewaska as:
5281 Route 44-55
Kerhonkson, NY 12446
Google Maps chokes on that address, though. If your GPS doesn’t like it, either, you could try the intersection of 44/55 and Jenny Lane in Kerhonkson, NY, which is about a mile west of the very well-marked Minnewaska entrance on 44/55.
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.72877, -74.2373 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
**UPDATE/WARNING for 2019** Here’s an official warning from the Parks Service on the multiple construction projects underway at Minnewaska this year:
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- An excellent (and more succinct!) trail guide to the exact hike described above from the always-awesome New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- The New York State Parks page for Minnewaska
- The official Minnewaska trail map
- The surprisingly informational Minnewaska Wikipedia page
- More Minnewaska hikes from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- More nice pictures and trail descriptions on this CNY Hiking page
More Gertrude’s Nose pictures from the hike’s Flickr album (and a special thanks to my buddy and photographer extraordinaire Jeff Hofer for providing some of his awesome pics to use on this page):
Want to support trails in the Hudson Valley? Here’s one great way: Visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference homepage and click on Volunteer, Donate, or Shop! (Then you can volunteer, donate, or shop, depending on your mood.)