Rusk Mountain Wild Forest
- Open for recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 4 Stamford Office (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM): (607) 652-7365; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Law Enforcement, Emergency & Rangers: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
- Location: Towns of Lexington, Hunter and Jewett, Greene County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 3A
- Map: View Rusk Mountain Wild Forest Map - PDF (3.3 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
The 3,900-acre Rusk Mountain Wild Forest in the Catskill Forest Preserve extends from the summit of Hunter Mountain on the east, westward along a ridge of land which includes Rusk, Evergreen, Pine Island, and Packsaddle mountains. The summit of Hunter Mountain is the home of a recently refurbished fire tower (and observer's cabin) which offers a 360-degree view of the area.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Spruceton Trail (3.4 miles, blue markers)
The Spruceton Trail extends from the Spruceton Road Parking Lot to the summit of Hunter Mountain. At 2.1 miles the trail passes the John Robb lean-to. At 2.4 miles the trail passes the Colonel's Chair Trail that leads to the Hunter Mountain Ski Area.
Colonel's Chair Trail (1.7 miles, yellow markers)
The Colonel's Chair Trail extends from the Spruceton trail to the top of the Hunter Mountain Ski Area.
General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
The John Robb Lean-to is located on the Spruceton Trail. The lean-to site features a fire pit and privy. Additionally, there are two primitive tent sites near the lean-to.
At-large backcountry camping is also allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Catskills, between March 21 and December 21.
Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.
General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules & regulations
The Schoharie Creek to the north and the West Kill to the south both provide nearby fishing opportunities. A pamphlet is available with maps of state lands and public fishing rights that depicts the Public Access for Fishing the Schoharie Creek (PDF - 813 KB) and Public Access for Fishing the West Kill (PDF - 813 KB).
East- Central NY Fishing provides information on fishing in the Catskills and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.
Hunting & Trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed during appropriate seasons. The main game species and furbearers found on the property include deer, bear, bobcat, coyote, and fisher.
Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing
General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.
General information on fire towers includes historic and current uses of fire towers and links to other locations with fire towers
Hunter Mountain (Elevation 4,040 feet)
This tower has the unique distinction of being located at the highest elevation of any fire tower in New York State. The original tower on Hunter Mountain-constructed of logs-was built in 1909, and was the first of three fire towers constructed in the Catskills that year. The original tower was 40 feet tall, and was replaced with a steel tower 60 feet high in 1917. That tower was originally placed at an elevation of 4,000 feet-a third of a mile from the true summit-but was removed and reset at its present site on the true summit in 1953.
Directions: Take the Spruceton Trail, marked with blue disks, from Greene County Route 6 (Spruceton Hollow Road) in the hamlet of Spruceton. A seven-mile moderately-difficult round trip hike. Or take the yellow-marked trail from the Hunter Mt. Sky Ride when it is open-a moderate four-mile round-trip hike.
General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations. Proof of current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses and out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate.
The Spruceton Trail is maintained as a horse trail. Horse-mounting platforms are at the trailhead and near the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.
General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.
The Catskills are home to an abundance of wildlife. With both larger mammals (including deer, bear, and bobcat) as well as smaller mammals (including porcupine and fisher) the Catskills have several unique habitats. In addition to the many mammals found in the Catskills, hundreds of species of birds can also be found in the Catskills.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
The Spruceton Trail is a 4-mile long trail that provides an accessible horse-mounting platform at the base as well as atop Hunter Mountain.
From the West: Take St. Hwy. 23 East to Rt. 23A. Follow Rt. 23 A to Lexington. Make a right onto St. Hwy. 42. Follow Rt. 42 to West Kill. Make a left onto County Route 6 in West Kill. Follow County Route 6 all the way to the parking area (turns into one lane dirt road).
From the South: From Kingston, take St. Hwy. 28 to Allaben. Make a right onto St. Hwy. 42. Follow Rt. 42 to West Kill. Make a right onto County Route 6 and proceed as directed above.
Spruceton Trail Parking Lot is located off of Spruceton Road, 6.7 miles from its intersection with NYS Route 42. (42.184566°N, 74.272038°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) principles when recreating in the Catskills to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.
Camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Catskills, between March 21 and December 21.
How We Manage Rusk Mountain Wild Forest
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Hunter Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information
DEC Lands & Facilities
- Hunter- West Kill Wilderness
- Slide Mountain Wilderness
- Devil's Tombstone Campground
- Indian Head Wilderness
- Shandaken Wild Forest
- Phoenicia Mt. Tobias Wild Forest
Dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby community of Hunter
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Hunter, Shandaken and Spruceton.
Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.
Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.