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Rusk Mountain Wild Forest

hiking primitive camping horseback riding Fishing cross-country skiing snowshoeing hunting trapping parking fire tower Accessible lean-toicon key

  • Open for recreation: Year-round
  • Fee: Free
  • Contact Information:
    • DEC Region 4 Stamford Office (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM): (607) 652-7365; email: r4.ump@dec.ny.gov
    • Law Enforcement, Emergency & Rangers: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
  • Location: Towns of Lexington, Hunter and Jewett, Greene County
  • Wildlife Management Unit: 3A
  • Map: The Rusk Mountain Wild Forest Map is not available at this time || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower and Cabin

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.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Backpacking group at the base of the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower

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.

Camping

primitive camping
leanto

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.

Fishing

hunting

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
trapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

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

snowshoeing
cross-country skiing

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.

Fire Tower

fire tower
Two people inside the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower

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.

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

The Spruceton Trail is maintained as a horse trail. Horse-mounting platforms are at the trailhead and near the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.

Wildlife

butterfly in the Rusk Mountain Wild Forest

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.

Accessible Features

hand launch

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Hunter Mountain Accessible Horse-Mounting Platform

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.

Directions:
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.

Directions

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.

All users of Rusk Mountain Wild Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Specific Rules

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

Trail at the top of Hunter Mountain

In August 2008, DEC finalized the revision of the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP). In the CPSLMP, the Rusk Mountain Wild Forest was designated through the re-classification of a portion of the Hunter Mountain Wild Forest. In 1995, a Unit Management Plan (UMP) was completed for the Hunter Mountain Wild Forest.

If you have questions or would like to obtain a copy of the UMP, please contact us at r4.ump@dec.ny.gov.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

DEC Lands & Facilities

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.

Catskill Regional Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) and Greene County Tourism (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

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.