ULSTER COUNTY, NY (Aug. 29, 2023)—The High Point Carriage Road, a historic 2.8-mile piece of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s Victorian-era carriage road network, has officially re-opened to the public thanks to recent upgrades and repairs completed by the Open Space Institute (OSI), in partnership with the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). OSI’s restoration of the High Point Carriage Road re-establishes recreational access to an interior part of Minnewaska that had not been accessible to the majority of users for decades.
The completion of the $1.2 million project also achieves OSI’s longstanding goal of linking Minnewaska’s two visitor centers, connecting Sam’s Point to Lake Minnewaska. The Lake Minnewaska visitor center opened in 2020 thanks to an OSI-led fundraising effort that raised $3 million for the architectural design, educational exhibits, and special features at the visitor center.
This High Point Carriage Road project marks the restoration of 15 miles of historic carriage roads by OSI and is part of an ongoing partnership with PIPC and OPRHP. The goal is to fully restore the entire 35 miles of Minnewaska’s Victorian-era carriage roads network. PIPC and OPRHP have restored an additional 10 miles, bringing the total mileage to 25 of restored carriage roads. The project builds on OSI’s 40-year effort to protect and enhance Minnewaska State Park Preserve for its more than half a million annual visitors.
Originally built for 19th century horse-drawn carriages, Minnewaska’s crushed stone carriage roads are now used by visitors of all ages, abilities, and recreational interests. In addition to their many recreational uses, the roads also serve as emergency access routes for first responders during crises, and act as fire breaks to slow the progression of wildfires.
OSI has invested more than $4 million since 2014 towards the restoration of Minnewaska’s carriage roads. The work has been completed thanks to the generous support of the Butler Conservation Fund, Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, the Interlaken Foundation, Friends of the Shawangunks, and other generous donors. These private contributions have also leveraged more than $1 million in grants from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
“OSI’s carriage road restoration projects continue to improve the visitor experience at Minnewaska and throughout this spectacular Shawangunk Ridge landscape, better dispersing visitors and protecting the region’s hiking trails and delicate ecological systems,” said Peter Karis, OSI's vice president of parks and stewardship. “Over the past 10 years, we have proudly restored 15 miles of Minnewaska’s carriage roads, helped to double the park's size through the addition of more than 12,000 acres, and most recently helped build the Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center. We are happy that our park improvement work here helps ensure the land is both protected and welcoming to the public.”
“We are grateful for this project and the partnership with OSI plus the generous support from so many including Lucy Rockefeller Waletkzy, the former Chair of the New York State Council of Parks,” said OPRHP Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “The restoration of these carriage roads at Minnewaska is something we look forward to offering our visitors, having them reflect on the past and looking toward the future. It’s one more example of what the State Parks system has meant for a century.”
PIPC Executive Director Joshua Laird said, “Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s carriage roads are a historic feature of the park and one of the best ways for all to experience the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. We are grateful to the Open Space Institute for its ongoing support of the Park’s network of carriage roads and its recent investment in building the Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center.”
Minnewaska State Park Preserve Manager Eric Humphrey said, “The restoration of the High Point Carriage Road provides a fully functioning, useable carriage road connecting our Sam’s Point Area with the Lake Minnewaska area of the park preserve. Carriage roads are instrumental in the protection of the sensitive resources under our stewardship, providing sustainable routes for visitors to explore the spectacular landscape. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful partnership with OSI which allows us to offer world class facilities and recreational opportunities to our visitors.”
OSI’s improvements to the High Point Carriage Road included a mix of restoration and full trail reconstruction, including the realignment of a 1,200-foot section of trail, four new bridges, and enhanced drainage. OSI also repaired washed-out sections of the trail, improved the flow of stormwater in the area, and widened the current path to accommodate uses including walking, hiking, running, biking, cross-country skiing, and horse riding.
Due to the low parking capacity at the Sam’s Point trail head, all bikers/equestrians must park their vehicles at Minnewaska’s main parking areas. Bikers and equestrians will be permitted on High Point Carriage Road and the west side of the loop road in the Sam’s Point Area. The east side of loop road will remain pedestrian only to the Sam’s Point and Ice Cave areas. Visitors are requested to comply with all posted signage.
Three additional sections of Minnewaska’ carriage roads, including the western 3.1-mile section of the Smiley Carriage Road, and the remaining 2.4 miles of the Lake Awosting Carriage Road, require attention before the carriage road system can be considered fully restored. OSI is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds, and grants to achieve the final phase of this ambitious plan.
About OSI’s work at Minnewaska State Park and Surrounding Trails
Just 90 minutes from Manhattan, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a recreational mecca visited by nearly half a million people every year. Situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, the more than 24,000-acre park preserve features stunning views of the Hudson Highlands, Catskill Mountains, and the farmland of the Wallkill and Rondout valleys. With 35 miles of historic carriage roads and nearly 50 miles of footpaths, the park welcomes a wide range of hikers and bikers. Minnewaska also features impressive sky lakes and waterfalls, and is a world-renowned rock-climbing location.
Over the past four decades, through a series of expansions spearheaded by OSI, Minnewaska is now the third-largest state park in New York. Committed to protecting the Shawangunk Ridge and improving public access to protected lands, OSI has more than doubled the size of Minnewaska State Park Preserve; rebuilt more than 15 miles of Minnewaska’s historic carriage roads; and most recently, raised more than $3 million toward the design and construction of the Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center, which opened in 2020.
OSI’s restoration of Minnewaska’s carriage road system is part of a larger regional vision being pursued by OSI and many other partners to connect rail trails, carriage roads, and regional hiking trails along and around the Shawangunk Ridge.