Hike the Shaupeneak Ridge Trail

A beautiful lake spreads before me.  Thousands of flowering water lilies dot the surface.  Woods surround the lake, providing shelter from the warm summer day.  A lone kayaker paddles slowly by.  I sit on the bench and take in this incredibly beautiful scene. 

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Complete Guide to Shaupeneak Ridge Trails

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The Shaupeneak Ridge is part of Scenic Hudson in New York’s Hudson Valley and is very near Black Creek Preserve in Esopus. 

Shuapeneak Ridge has several interconnected trails. The trails are marked by small colored circles fixed to trees.  Keep an eye for them, as I have missed them for connecting trails a couple of times.  The markers are arranged in different patterns along the way.  If you don’t know what the patterns mean, be sure to read my Guide to Trail Markers before setting out. Other useful hiking resources include:

Shaupeneak Ridge Trails Essentials

There are two parking areas – the Upper Parking Lot at the top of the ridge and the Lower Parking Lot at the bottom of the ridge.  Both parking lots are quite small, which keeps the trails quite empty. Neither parking lot has restroom facilities.

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Guide to Hiking the Shaupeneak Ridge Trails

Shaupeneak Ridge Trails Map

Shaupeneak Ridge trail map

Shaupeneak Ridge Trails Description

There are several trails.  The white trail climbs from the lower parking lot to the top of the ridge.  About 15 minutes from the lower parking lot, there is a short spur (purple) trail to a waterfall.  The rest of the trails are connected loops around the top of the ridge. 

It is worth going at least twice.  Once to climb the white trail and see the waterfall (and do the red trail, with the overlook).  The second (and subsequent) time(s) to hike more of the other trails on the top of the ridge.  The blue trail circles around a very pretty large pond half-covered in water lilies.  There is access to put kayaks into the pond.  Swimming is not permitted.  The upper section is also popular for mountain biking. 

White and Purple Trails

  • Distance:
    • White Trail: out-and-back trail 1.63 miles/ 2.62 km each way. 
    • Purple Trail: out-and-back spur trail 0.1 miles/ 160 m each way.
  • Elevation change: 656 feet/ 200 m
  • Total Time: 40-50 minutes each way
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Shaupeneak Ridge Lower Parking Lot
  • Highlights: Waterfalls, moss- and lichen-covered rocks, ferns
  • Recommended footwear: You’ll need hiking boots or shoes for this one, as it is quite steep

The trail starts flat for about five minutes before starting a slight incline.

Shaupeneak Ridge trailhead lower parking lot

We saw a bright orange Eastern Spotted Newt salamander on this part of the trail. 

Eastern Spotted Newt salamander on Shaupeneak Ridge trail

After about another ten minutes or so, there is a small side trail off to the right.  This is the purple trail. 

start of purple trail to waterfall Shaupeneak Ridge

It goes to a waterfall, less than five minutes away from the main white trail.  The waterfall has little water, but creates a curtain cascading over a wide ledge, falling onto moss- and lichen-covered rocks descending down the hill. It’s a magical spot, though there isn’t much space to hang out in.

waterfall Shaupeneak Ridge

The main trail is then a steep uphill climb.  There is another tiny waterfall just off the right after about five minutes. 

upper small waterfall Shaupeneak Ridge Trail

There is a lovely glen filled with mossy rocks and ferns just above this second waterfall. 

just above 2nd waterfall Shaupeneak Ridge

Five minutes later the trail flattens out.  This is the middle of ridge and it remains flat for about seven minutes.  You will cross a small log bridge, which can be a little slippery.

crossing log bridge Shaupeneak Ridge Trail

The trail then starts to climb again and is steep for a short while, before continuing uphill, but at a less steep incline, for another 15 minutes or so.  It then flattens out (kind of) for another ten minutes before reaching the red trail.  There is a sign indicating the end of the white trail.  See Red Trail description if you wish to continue on.    

end of white trail where it joins red trail Shaupeneak Ridg

Red Trail

  • Distance: Loop trail (connected by part of the blue trail) 1.22 miles/ 1.96km
  • Elevation change: 262 feet/ 80m
  • Total Time: approx. 50 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Shaupeneak Ridge Upper Parking Lot
  • Highlights: Overlook with views of the Hudson River, fern gullies, pond
  • Recommended footwear: Hiking sandals or hiking shoes/ boots

If you hit the red trail from the white trail (meaning you started at the lower parking lot), you can turn left or right.  About 30 seconds away to the right is the overlook, so even if you just want to return along the white trail, at least go to the overlook and enjoy the view. 

We took the left turn.  

fern grove on red trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The trail dips into gullies and at one point crosses a small plank bridge over ferns.  

red trail Shaupeneak Ridge

After about twenty minutes, the trail emerges from the woods at a road.  

upper parking lot one side of red trail ends here Shaupeneak Ridge

Cross the road and you are in the Upper Parking Lot. 

start of blue trail from upper parking lot Shaupeneak Ridge

From there, you need to take the blue trail.  To do the red trail loop, take the blue trail to the right – this skirts around one edge of Louisa Pond.  There are glimpses of the with water lily-filled pond through the trees.  The trail goes through light woods. 

Louise Pond from blue trail Shaupeneak Ridge

After about fifteen minutes, you reach the other side of red trail. Watch out for markers. It is well signed from the other direction, but easy to miss this way.  

junction of red trail and blue trail easy to miss Shaupeneak Ridge

If you get near the road where it takes a sharp turn to right, you have gone too far. The red trail soon crosses the road again and heads back into the woods. 

red trail crosses road Shaupeneak Ridge

The trail has up and down sections (nothing too steep or too much altitude change), through more fern gullies and woods.  

ferns red trail Shaupeneak Ridge

Just before you get to the white trail, there is a lookout over the Hudson River. 

overlook Shaupeneak Ridge trail

You should get to the white trail about thirty minutes after leaving the upper parking lot. 

junction of red trail and white trail Shaupeneak Ridge

From there, you can take the white trail down to the lower parking lot or keep going for another twenty minutes or so to the upper parking lot.

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Guide to Hiking the Shaupeneak Ridge Trails

Blue Trail

  • Distance: 1.18 miles/ 1.9km
  • Elevation change: 262 feet/ 80m
  • Total Time: Approx. 55 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Shaupeneak Ridge Upper Parking Lot
  • Highlights: Views of Louise Pond
  • Recommended footwear: It’s an easy trail, so hiking sandals, walking sandals or hiking shoes/ boots

The trail begins at the Upper Parking Lot and circles the large Louisa Pond.  To go in a clockwise direction, take the main trail that goes straight ahead from the end of the upper parking lot. 

start of blue trail clockwise direction from upper parking lot Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The small trail off to the right just before this is the start of the trail in a counter-clockwise direction.  If you want to connect with the red trail without completing most of the blue trail, take the counter-clockwise direction.  See Red Trail for details.

I took the trail clockwise.  The trail starts wide and flat, with the pond visible through the trees. 

glimpe of Louise Pond through trees near start of Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

This end of the pond is full of reeds and beautiful water lilies in summer.  After a minute or so, there are two benches with a clearing so you have wonderful views of the pond.

bench at first viewpoint of Louisa Pond on Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

Another short walk along, there is a small path off the right.  There is another nice view of the pond. 

second viewpont of Louise Pond Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

A short scramble takes you down to the edge of the pond, so you can see the lilies up close. 

second viewpoint of Louisa Pond Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

About 400 feet/ 120 m from the start of the trail is another path, labeled as a place to put in kayaks

Kayak launch and third viewpoint of Louisa Pond Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

that goes down to the water’s edge, providing lovely views of the pond. 

view of Louisa Pond from kayak launch Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The path goes through the woods.  There is a yellow path off to the left.  This has several educational stations along the path with small boards with information about the forest – good for kids. 

yellow trail meeting Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The finish of the yellow trail is not too far from the end of this side of the pond.  At the end, there is another short path off the right that goes down to the pond’s edge. 

small side trail at end of Louisa Pond Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

This a beautiful spot, with a perfect reflection when we were there – ferns, fallen trunk trees, water lilies and lovely views of the lake.  There is no real place to sit and hang out, but it’s worth spending a little time here.

Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The main path goes right down to the edge of the pond, then heads back uphill (not much of a climb) and into the woods as it goes around the far edge of the pond. For this section, you can’t really see the pond, but it is a lovely walk in the woods.  You will pass the start of the orange trail (easy to miss – I did). 

Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The path passes some fallen stone walls, and crosses a lovely little plank bridge, and through fern gullies.  Then you reach the other end of the orange trail (this one I DID see)

orange trail meeting Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

and soon after, the green trail. 

green trail meeting Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

You are around the far edge of the pond at this point.  Then you come to the road (off to your left – you don’t cross it) and then very soon after, the red trail (see above). 

red trail meeting Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridge

The blue trail continues along the final edge of the pond.  There are tantalizing glimpses of the lilies through the trees.  The trail ends back at the upper parking lot.

Louisa Lake seen through trees on final part of Blue Trail Shaupeneak Ridg

Additional consideration: Travel Insurance

If you are traveling to the Hudson Valley from elsewhere in the U.S., check to see if your health insurance covers you.  If not, and if you are traveling from abroad, you will definitely want to get travel insurance.  If you are not sure what it is all about, read my Guide to Buying Travel Insurance

 A great insurance option is World Nomads.  You can book it online here or get a quote for your trip right here:

The verdict

Authenticity of experience 18
Quality of interaction with culture/ environment 17
Engagement level 18
Difficulty to arrange18

Books about the Hudson Valley

When I’m planning a trip, I like to learn as much about that place as possible.  Something that helps give me a sense of a place, beyond blogs, is to read books set there, or history books about it.  To that end, I am including some books to inspire you while you wait for your trip (or something to read while you are on your hike):

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Hidden History of the Mid-Hudson Valley: Stories from the Albany Post Road (2011) Carney Rhinevault and Tatiana Rhinevault

This is an easy introduction to the history of the Hudson Valley, based on stories of things that happened and people who lived along the Albany Post Road, the main road between New York City and the state capital in Albany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are plenty of fascinating fun facts, events and characters, including safe houses on the Underground Railroad, riots, spies and more.  Worth a read if you are interested in history.

Buy a copy on Amazon here

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving

Two short stories that are legendary in American literature.  TBH, when I read Sleep Hollow recently, I was underwhelmed and not at all scared.  But it is fun to visit Sleepy Hollow in the southern end of the Hudson Valley and see where it was set.  Rip Van Winkle, a classic story of a man in the Catskill Mountains who fell asleep for twenty years, was supposedly inspired by the views of the Catskills from Poet’s Walk, so why not read the book, visit Poets’ Walk and then drive up into the Catskills yourself?

Buy an illustrated copy of both books on Amazon here

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A Violet Season: A Novel (2012), Kathy Leonard Czepiel 

Set on a violet farm in the Hudson Valley in the late 1800’s, this saga about a mother and daughter is a real page turner.  If you like historical fiction, this is a nice way to learn more about the Judson Valley.

Buy a copy on Amazon here

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Fathermucker: A Novel (2011), Greg Olear 

A hilarious take on a fatherhood – about a father/ husband who is the primary caregiver while his wife is mostly absent for her work.  Witty, sad, real… You will laugh and cry and love every bit of it.  I am not a father, but still related to its humor and ‘realness’.  Kind of in the vein of Nick Hornsby, so if you like his books, chances are you will love this one.

Buy a copy on Amazon here

Subscribe to monthly updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
Guide to Hiking the Shaupeneak Ridge Trails

Happy hiking!

Do you have any favorite Hudson Valley hikes you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below. 

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Complete Guide to Shaupeneak Ridge Trails

If you are visiting the Hudson Valley in the fall, be sure to read Top Ten Things to Do in the Hudson Valley in the Fall.

There are more great hikes to do in the Hudson Valley:

  • Best Hikes in the Hudson Valley: A compilation of some of the best hikes in the Hudson River Valley
  • Poets’ Walk: A beautiful nature walk through meadows and woods with great views of the Hudson River and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge
  • Black Creek Preserve: Several connected trails over a suspension bridge and to direct access to the Hudson River
  • Bonticou Crag and Northeast Trail: Part of Mohonk Preserve, includes a cool rock scramble, great views over the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains

About the author


James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents.  He is passionate about experiential travel, i.e. meaningful travel that actively engages with the environment and culture.  He helps people have similar experiences that involve active participation in activities and festivals; engaging with the local food and handicrafts through lessons and food tours; and interacting positively with environment by hiking, riding, rowing, diving and low/no impact animal encounters. 

Read more…

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