Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway in Summer and Fall

This is a story about New York State Route 55, or the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway, in the greens of summer and the color explosion of fall.

Back in August, after 5 months of not leaving our apartment for anything other than food during the (current) COVID-19 world pandemic, and after 5 years of being car free, we decided we needed to get a car for our sanity.

It’s one thing to not have a way to get around outside the city when you have the ability to move around within the city and to go places and do things. But being stuck in your small New York apartment for months on end with absolutely no way to get fresh air is something else!

Until got a car, we had relied on a car sharing service for trips out of the city but the mileage allowance is short and you can’t really go very far. Plus, with a pandemic raging, who wants to use a shared car?

So, we did the thing had been considering on and off or a couple of years bought a little Kia Soul. After that, the first order of business was to escape from New York.


Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway


We wanted to go as far as we could while still making it a day trip, so we ended up near Minnewaska State Park, though we didn’t realize it at the time.

This was really the first time I had seen the mountains in New York in earnest, and I was absolutely blown away. The area around Bear Mountain is nice, but just not the same.

We drove down New York Route 55 to an overlook over the Catskill Mountains and everything was so green you could be forgiven for thinking it was a fake scene.




This section of Route 55/44 is also known as the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway because it meanders up and down the, you guessed it, Shawangunk Mountains.

The sky was not great, but the view was absolutely breath-taking.


Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway


Summer along New York Route 55 looked like nothing I had ever seen.

So, when fall came around, we kept tracking the New York fall foliage report to see when the area would be near peak.

And, last weekend, we hopped in the car and drove the 2+ hours to the town of Gardiner, where we began the scenic drive.

This time, we headed up the mountains, rather than down. The colors were stunning, the villages and houses adorable, and the traffic surprisingly light.


Fall colors


Our first stop proper was in the Minnewaska State Park, where the fall colors were just perfect.


Minnewaska State Park


Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain to the scenic overlook near the hairpin turn. Here we did have to wait a few minutes for a parking spot. There are so few spots that you’d probably have to wait at any other time.

The trees were too tall here though, and completely obscured the views below. Too bad.


Shawangunk Mountains


After leaving the overlook, we drove down to the hairpin turn, which does have a little parking area. And well, it was so gorgeous.





I know I keep saying gorgeous, amazing, breath-taking, but this landscape truly is all those things.


Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway


We timed it so that we would be there for the late afternoon sun and golden hour, the when fall foliage truly comes to life. This is also the best time for photography.

I was not disappointed.

It is truly amazing to see how the same landscape, the same road even, can look like an entirely different place depending on the season.


Shawangunk Mountains


As someone who grew up in places with just wet and dry seasons, the changes that come with four different seasons still amaze me.

Fall in the city can be pretty spectacular, but fall in the mountains is just different.


 Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway


I love New York, both the city and the state, and I am so incredibly happy to be here right now.



2 Responses

  1. James Waitzman

    Beautifully shot and written. It was lovely seeing the old hairpin curve from an aerial perspective. My stomping grounds for many years. I’m currently working on a gunks blog from my pre-injury life. So many fabulous memories.

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