When most people think of spending a weekend in New Paltz, Mohonk Mountain House is what usually comes to mind. We’ve stayed there a couple of times, and it is incredibly beautiful and fun – but it can also get pretty expensive, since what you’re paying for is an all-inclusive experience. Recently we decided to spend a weekend in the town itself for a less pricey, more do-it-yourself New Paltz adventure.
At 75 minutes away, New Paltz is an easy day trip, but to enjoy everything the area has to offer requires spending the night. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on the edge of Main Street; it was brand new and spacious, with a great pool. The vibe of the town is decidedly laid-back, an interesting mix of outdoorsy and funky. You can stroll down Main Street and browse the quaint bookstores and shops. An open-air market on Sundays offers live music, local crafts and the bounty of nearby farms. Huguenot Creamery serves up generous-sized scoops and homemade ice cream sandwiches. Or drive about five minutes to Dressel Farms for some pick-your-own fruit – strawberries are in season this month.
But the real reason to come to New Paltz is to go hiking or biking. Minnewaska State Park Preserve is just minutes away, and it’s got everything from waterfalls to gorgeous vistas. For a super-easy hike with small kids, park by the main entrance and walk about 15 minutes to Awosting Falls, which flows into a stream that my kids loved to splash in. You can continue toward the top of the waterfall for some amazing views (hang on to your kids!).
The Wallkill Rail Trail is a quiet, scenic, 22-mile path that runs from New Paltz up to Kingston. The path is completely flat and suitable for biking, but it’s not paved and can get a bit bumpy in parts. If you don’t bring your own bikes, The Bicycle Depot, right near the entrance of the trail, rents them, along with trailers or tagalongs for your kids.
About 2 miles of steady biking will bring you to this gorgeous old bridge, overlooking the Wallkill River.
For another approach to the trail, drive 15 minutes up to Rosendale and park in the lot on Binnewater Road. Access the trail from there and head south about a third of a mile to get to the impressive Rosendale Trestle. If you want to continue biking from there, you can reach the super cute Rail Trail Café, nestled in the woods about 2 miles down.
Back in New Paltz, grab a meal at the casual Main Street Bistro (the wait staff won’t bat an eye if you show up sweaty and dusty), or clean up back at the hotel and dine on some much-deserved handmade pasta at A Tavola Trattoria. For meals on the go, Russo’s Deli makes some tasty sandwiches, or pick up some fresh Mex from Mexicali Blue.
I want to mention one more fantastic hike in the area, Sam’s Point Preserve, even though it’s further away, about 25 miles from New Paltz. The ice caves hike at Sam’s Point is like no other hike I’ve ever experienced, and totally worth the drive. My husband and I visited one weekend last month without the kids, but we’ll definitely be returning with them because it was so much fun.
The trail is an easy scramble over, under and through rocky crevices, with parts of the path meandering into caves that are indeed icy, even in late May. A 5-year-old would be able to handle this hike (and think it’s the coolest thing ever), but I wouldn’t bring kids younger than that. Also, definitely check the website before you go to make sure the trail is accessible, and get to the parking lot right when it opens at 9am – it fills up fast, and you’ll be turned away once the lot is full.