If this weekend's record-setting temperatures were any sign, spring is hurrying back to the Hudson Valley. Of course winter makes for some beautiful photography, and it also taught me about ice-yachting on the Hudson River, but it's time for some warmer activities. If your to-do list includes hiking at Minnewaska at Sam's Point in Ulster County, new changes may snarl (or actually help) your plans.

Everyone Loves the Hudson Valley

Each year, about 25 million people visit the Hudson Valley, and roughly 500,000 of them choose to hike at Minnewaska State Park. While measures have been taken to handle such high numbers, especially high-traffic days like weekends and holidays can be overwhelming for everyone, from the park rangers to the plants and animals they protect. It can also be frustrating for local residents, who don't have the time or patience to lose out on the last parking spot to a window-tinted Range Rover with out of state plates. For all these reasons, a big change is coming.

Google Maps
Want this view? You'll need to take an extra step. (Google Maps)
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What's Going Down at Sam's Point?

A welcome change is coming in the form of a pilot program: a reservation system. Starting in May, parking reservations will need to be made ahead of time if you plan on hiking Sam's Point on weekends or holidays through October. The new system is meant to both protect our nature and the sanity of the people who want to enjoy it. From State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid:

The Sam's Point Area offers extraordinary opportunities for outdoor recreation and implementing this parking system will help ensure continued access to the site while better protecting the natural resources of the park

How Does It Work?

While reservation times begin in May, you will be able to start making your reservations in advance as early as April. They can be made either over the phone or online through ReserveAmerica. The cost is $10.95 per vehicle.

A view of a house on a cliff and a canoe in the water at Lake Minnewaska.
If successful, the reservation system could spread to other parts of the park (Richard Vinson)
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Hallelujah or Hell No?

I for one don't think this could come soon enough. I'm sure there will be a learning curve, and some unhappy locals who have "always" just shown up and hiked, but these are the kinds of modern changes that are necessary to keep our parks alive. Plus, I can't count the amount of weekends I've driven on 44/55 past Minnewaska only to be stuck behind what feels like a mile-long line of cars waiting to get in. If the reservation system at Sam's Point is a success, it could spread to other areas and greatly cut down on congestion. Plus if you really don't want to reserve your parking spot, I guess you could always bike there...

More info on Sam's Point here. And speaking of parks, check out the NEW one coming to the Hudson Valey!

New York State Park With 'Breathtaking Views' Coming To Hudson Valley

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Hike by waterfalls during the day and sleep under the stars at night at these 13 New York State Parks.