Hiking to top of Sam's Point

Seeking Fall foliage close to home on our continuing pandemic staycation of one-day trips, we decided to explore Sam's Point, part of New York State's extensive park system. Just a two-hour drive from midtown Manhattan, the park in the town of Cragsmoor is the perfect spot to see the blazing colors of fall. Although several trails are closed during the Covid crisis, there is still plenty to explore, including the most famous trail which leads uphill in the Shawangunk Mountains to Sam's Point. Named for a Spaniard, Samuel Gonzales, the point overlooks some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. Sam is said to have been chased by Native Americans during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He ran up the mountainside, reached the jagged cliff, and jumped off. The story goes that he miraculously survived by landing on a cushion of scrub pines like the ones that are still everywhere in the park.

Bright green scrub pines are said to have saved Sam's life when he jumped off the cliff.

One of the trails down the mountain leads to Lake Maratanza.

The trails that were open on the day we visited were all wide carriage roads so the hiking was very easy. On the way down we passed one of the historic berry pickers' cottages. The area had been full of blueberry and huckleberry farmers from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Today the berries remain and in-season visitors flock to the park with baskets to fill with luscious wild berries.

The remains of berry pickers' cottages can be seen just off the trail.

Sam's Point Preserve is open year-round and we are already planning to return in winter to explore the ice caves and rent snowshoes for the trails. The area is very popular in these socially distanced days. Visitors should plan to arrive early as the parking lot is not very large. There is a $10 parking fee for out-of-state visitors. Picnic tables are free and a great way to enjoy lunch in the beautiful surroundings.

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