Stony Kill Falls is one of the tallest, at 87 feet, in Minnewaska State Park, and a short hike — just shy of 2 miles, there and back.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve, located on the Shawngunk Mountain Ridge in Ulster County NY, is a gorgeous park with many hiking trails that offers beautiful scenery. There is plenty of parking, trails are well marked and maps available at the visitors center.
Within the preserve, there’s about 50 miles of trails, a combination of well groomed fine gravel carriageways and rough paths. The Shawangunk Mountains rise more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. Pronounce it like a local: “Shwan-gun” with the variant “Shawn-gum.”
But for a long time, the hike to Stony Kill Falls was for locals only (only the locals who knew where to go COULD go) — it wasn’t marked, and to get to the top you had to be somewhat intrepid. The site is accessed through the remains of a gravel pit, what’s left of the Napanoch Sand and Gravel Company.
From the parking area just outside of the gate, you walk across what’s obvious another parking area, past the Delaware Aqueduct, one of the access points to one of New York City’s water sources (it’s well gated and protected).
The entrance to the trail to Stony Kill Falls doesn’t look promising. Keep going anyway.
Steep cliffs are visible on the left and are pretty. There’s also an old helipad. One yelp reviewer noted that “the falls are lovely but the hike is odd” and indeed it is, since a lot of the hike goes across the old gravel pit and that’s not a lovely part of the hike.
But the path soon heads into the woods and then there’s a more traditional and pleasant trail to follow.
The Stony Kill Area Trail Project at Minnewaska State Park Preserve created a formal, sustainable hiking trail to provide safe access and views of the waterfall; now the trail includes two footbridges, multiple stone steps through a boulder field and a sustainable route up the steep slope to access the upper falls.
As it nears the top there is a 30-foot cascade near the side of the trail — but we didn’t go up, choosing instead to enjoy the larger cascade. At the top, the trail links up with the Stony Kill Carriage Way and angles due west to the top of Stony Kill Falls.
Views are expansive from the top of the falls, looking East, one can view the Stony Creek and Rondout Valleys. On a clear day there are views as far as Sullivan County.
This is a pretty waterfall, but because of the sun and lighting, best viewed in the morning.
Getting there: Shaft 2A Road Wawarsing, NY