Sundown Wild Forest
The 30,100-acre Sundown Wild Forest in the Sullivan County Town of Neversink and the Ulster County Towns of Denning, Rochester, Wawarsing and Olive, covers a large swath of the southeast Catskills, including several ridges and 10 mountains over 2,000 feet. The area has a varied topography and an impressive mix of natural features - mountains, waterfalls, valleys and rivers - rich with fishable trout streams, hiking destinations, hunting opportunities and snowmobile trails. Sundown is accessible from many county and town roads. Key places to visit in the Wild Forest are the Kanape Valley and Ashokan High Point, Vernooy Kill Falls, Denman Mountain, Red Hill Fire Tower and the Peekamoose Valley.
Recreational opportunities abound in this unit, from snowmobile to hiking trails, fishing in streams and rivers, horse trails to climbing a fire tower and rustic camping. Visitors to the Sundown Wild Forest should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildlands experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. Know safe hiking practices, camping rules, how to avoid getting lost (PDF, 191 KB) and state land use regulations. Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 1-518-408-5850 or 1-877-457-5680, or call 911.
View from Hoopole Mountain near
Ashokan High Point
The Kanape Brook, a trout stream, flows between 'Ashokan' High Point Mountain and Mombaccus and Little Rocky Mountains. The trail to High Point, starts at the Kanape Trailhead on County Route 42 (Peekamoose Road) and parallels the Kanape Brook on an old woods road, rebuilt in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) for fire truck access. Many years earlier this trail was Freeman Avery Road, one of the only ways through the mountains. Today, this woods road can no longer be used to get through the mountains. A popular hiking trail (red markers) follows the woods road before turning and climbing to the summit of 3,080-foot High Point Mountain, approximately 7 miles round trip (5.4 miles round trip in the Valley, another 0.8 miles to the summit, with an option to take the full High Point-Hoopole Loop Trail back to the old road, adding 2.7 miles).
Repeated fires have swept the shallow soils on High Point Mountain creating ridge top blueberry heath with impressive westerly views of the Rocky-Balsam Cap-Friday Mountain ridge, especially adjacent Hoopole Mountain. Please note that the lack of recent fires has slowly been closing these views. There is no view from the trail towards the north and east in the summer. However, a good view of the Ashokan Reservoir and the Rondout Valley framed by the Shawangunk Ridge is available from a large blueberry patch, a short but hilly bush walk to the northeast. This meadow straddles private land, so please stay on state land.
Vernooy Kill Falls: (Upper Cherrytown Road to Greenville to Peekamoose primitive camping area)
A snowmobile-equestrian-multiple use trail starts at the trailhead on Upper Cherrytown Road in the Town of Rochester, passes over the Vernooy Kill and Balsam Swamp to Greenville and returns via Spencer/Trails End Road in an 11.2-mile loop. The most popular destination is the Upper Falls of the Vernooy Kill. Here, the brown water, tinted from tannins in the surrounding woods, drops about 60 feet in a series of small pools and falls. Below the falls, a 15-20-foot tall stone wall alongside the stream was part of the "Cornelius" Vernooey Mill complex which operated from the early 1700's until 1809.
One of many Peekamoose Valley waterfalls
Water cascading down Samson, Van Wyck and Peekamoose Mountains gathers speed and drops into the Rondout Creek through a series of spectacular waterfalls along Peekamoose Road, County Route 42. From Peekamoose Valley, a 4.3-mile trail leads west to views on 3,800-foot Table and Peekamoose Mountains. East, it's roughly 8 miles to Vernooy Kill Falls (on the blue marked Long Path).
The area near Grahamsville and Route 55 has a gently sloping trail with many old woods roads to explore. A great place to enjoy our woods. A 7-mile snowmobile-horse trail circles the mountain (segments are suitable for mountain biking). Parking is available at the Furmans and Glade Hill Road/Moore Hill Road intersection.
Red Hill Fire Tower
The Red Hill property in the Town of Denning is best known for its 1920 fire tower, accessed by a 1.2-mile trail from unpaved Dinch Road. The tower, reopened in 2000, is sixty feet high, and sits atop 2,980-foot Red Hill. It affords a panoramic view of the Catskill peaks to the west and north, the Rondout Reservoir from behind Denman Mountain, and the largest area of productive forest land in the region. Until 1980, along with Hunter Mountain, it was the last fire tower staffed in the Catskills.
Camping: Peekamoose Valley
The Peekamoose Valley (County Route 42 in the Town of Denning) is a popular rustic camping area (undeveloped, no vehicle access to most campsites, no running water, no garbage pickup, no picnic tables, and limited port-a-potty toilets). Camping is limited to designated campsites marked with the camping symbol. If a location is not designated for camping in Peekamoose Valley, overnight use is prohibited. There are three areas open to camping and one trailer field. Please contact the Forest Rangers (845-240-6788) for required camping permits at least two weeks in advance for group camping, trailer field sites, and stays of more than 3 nights.
The following rules apply:
- Lower Field: Camping is restricted to designated sites. Two group sites are available. All other sites are restricted to a maximum of 9 people and 3 tents.
- Middle Field: The middle field camping sites are each limited to 9 people and 3 tents. No group camping.
- Upper Field: Camping is restricted to designated sites, between Peekamoose Road and the Rondout Creek. Two group sites are available. All other sites are limited to 9 people and 3 tents.
- Trailer Field: Camping in this area is by permit only, and is limited to trailers. The two accessible campsites located within the Trailer Field are equipped with fire rings, accessible picnic tables and a nearby seasonal accessible port-a-john.
Peekamoose Valley Accessible Camping Area
The Peekamoose Valley Camping Area provides opportunities for camping, hiking, picnicking and fishing. There is a .25-mile accessible trail that leads to a streamside picnic area and accessible fishing pier. Two accessible campsites are located within the Trailer Field and are equipped with fire rings and accessible picnic tables. A seasonal accessible port-a-john and an accessible informational kiosk are available nearby.
Directions to Peekamoose Valley Camping Area: In Boiceville, take Route 28A south for about 3 miles to West Shokan. Turn right onto Ulster County Route 42 (Watson Hollow Road). Follow Route 42 west for about 13 miles.
Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.
Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.
Better yet, carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly, are easier to clean and do not leave blackened rocks and partially burned firewood. They are useful in wet rainy weather.
Back Country Camping
Back country camping is allowed in Sundown Wild Forest and most areas the Catskill Forest Preserve. Please see below for some of the rules for primitive camping. Information on DEC Campgrounds in the area is available on DEC's Camping page.
- To protect back country resources, state law requires all campsites to be at least 150 feet from any road, trail or water source, except at sites designated by DEC. A designated site is either a lean-to or a campsite marked with a yellow "camp here" disc.
- Camping is also prohibited above 3,500 feet in elevation from March 22 until December 20 each year to protect the fragile summit environment.
Groups-of 10 or more must obtain a camping permit from the area Forest Ranger before entering state land. Please contact 845-240-6788 for Peekamoose (Towns of Denning, Neversink), 845-240-6790 for Vernooy Kill area (Towns of Rochester, Wawarsing) and 845-240-6756 for Ashokan High Point area (Town of Olive).
- Campfires -are permitted below 3,500 feet in elevation, but only dead and down wood may be used. In a designated campsite, use the existing fire ring and burn wood no larger than that which can be snapped in your hands-it's sure to be dead, dry and will burn down to ash. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure your fire is cold before breaking camp.
- Bear Precautions -Using nylon cord, hang all food, garbage and toilet articles a minimum of 15 feet above the ground and an additional 10 feet from any adjacent tree trunks or overhead limbs and a distance of 150 feet from camp.
- Keep a clean camp. Wastewater should be taken a minimum of 150 feet from any water source and gently sprayed into the underbrush and not poured into any holes. Cooking water should be strained of any food particles and treated in a similar fashion. This distributes rather than concentrates the dirty water, dispersing both the impact and related odors that attract wildlife. All food waste should be packed out.
- Human Waste -If available, use the privy. If not, dig a "cat-hole" 6-8 inches deep, a minimum of 150 feet from any water source. Cover waste with soil and leaf litter. Minimize the use of toilet paper and burn or pack it out. When appropriate, use leaves instead. Treat feminine products as you would all other garbage and pack out as well.
- Drinking Water-The department cannot ensure the purity of any water source. Giardia lamblia is a water borne parasite which can cause severe and prolonged intestinal disorder and has infected the water supply as a result of poor human sanitation habits. Boil all water for 2 minutes, filter or treat chemically.
- If you Bring Your Pet -Your pet must be under your control at all times. When others approach, particularly small children and other animals, leash your dog. Keep your pet quiet. Remove droppings from the trail and camping areas.
There is a regulation that prohibits the importation of firewood into New York unless it has been treated to kill pests. The new regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source.
Bringing your firewood with you? Most people don't realize they move bugs along with their firewood. You could be spreading diseases or insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Our forests are at risk from the transport of firewood infested with tree killers.
Here's how you can help STOP THE SPREAD of these pests:
- Leave firewood at home-do not transport it to campgrounds or parks.
- Only purchase firewood that has been harvested in New York State or treated for pests.
- Burn all firewood brought to the campsite.
See Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firewood regulation.
To help stop the introduction and spread of invasive plant species, always check clothing, shoes, tires (of bikes, and other vehicles), and animal companions for burs seeds and insects before using and leaving the area. Remove hitchhikers if found.
The Rondout Creek stays cold all year and is the largest fishable stream in the area, with stocked and wild Brook Trout, as well as a few wild Brown Trout. A series of small parking lots along the north side of Peekamoose Road provide access to 4.5 miles of the creek. The second largest trout stream in the area is the Vernooy Kill in the Towns of Rochester and Wawarsing (partially within the Vernooy Kill State Forest). The Kanape and South Hollow Brooks are small, but both have native trout populations. Mettacahonts Creek and its feeder streams contain trout, even though the upper tributaries may dry out in summer. Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations, and know statewide fishing regulations and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.
Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
INSPECT your fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to it.
- DRY your fishing and boating equipment before using it on another body of water.
- CLEAN your fishing and boating equipment if it cannot be dried before its use in another body of water.
Learn more about how you can avoid spreading aquatic invasive species.
Hunting & trapping
The first 2.4 miles on the old Kanape woods road are suitable for mountain bikes. Sections of the Vernooy Kill Falls and Denman Mountain Snowmobile-Multiple Use Trails are also suitable. See Snowmobiling and Horseback Riding below and the Hiking section above.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
Please see the hiking section above. Cross-country skiing is best done in areas listed under snowmobiling and horseback riding below.
Snowmobiling and Horseback Riding
A snowmobile-equestrian-multiple use trail starts at the parking lot on Upper Cherrytown Road, passes over the Vernooy Kill and Balsam Swamp to Greenville and returns via Spencer/Trails End Road in an 11.2-mile loop.
A 7-mile snowmobile-equestrian trail circles Denman Mountain (Near Grahamsville and Route 55 in the Town of Neversink, Sullivan County). Parking is available at the Furmans and Glade Hill Road/Moore Hill Road Trailhead. Part of the trail is on Moore Hill Road (0.6 miles year-round, 1.78 miles seasonal).
View the Snowmobiling web page.
Please see Primitive Camping at Peekamoose above. The Red Hill Fire Tower is open most weekends when staffed by volunteers from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. On all other days, the tower is open to just below the cab. Snowmobile trails at Denman Mountain are maintained by volunteers.
Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities
The Sundown Wild Forest is bordered on the north by the 47,442 acre Slide Mountain Wilderness and on the west by the 14,870 acre Willowemoc Wild Forest, which includes the Mongaup Pond State Campground (163 tent and trailer sites, picnic area with tables and grills, picnic pavilion rental, pay phones, flush toilets, hot showers, trailer dump station, recycling center, wheelchair accessible, sand beach, boat launch. Environmental and recreational programs from July to September.) The Vernooy Kill State Forest (about 2,500 acres) abuts the Sundown Wild Forest to the southeast along Lundy Road in the Town of Wawarsing. The Vernooy Kill is another trout stream of note in this region.
Kanape and Ashokan High Point
Please refer to "trails" section for more details and information on the Kanape and Ashokan High Point.
Peekamoose Valley Waterfalls
Take a drive on County Route 42 (Watson Hollow Road/ Peekamoose Road) through a cool valley with steep slopes and impressive waterfalls connecting the Peekamoose Valley Camping Area with the Kanape Brook trailhead and High Point Mountain overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir. Water cascading down Samson, Van Wyck and Peekamoose Mountains gathers speed and drops into the Rondout Creek through a series of spectacular waterfalls.
Mombaccus Mountain and Rosy Bone Knob
This area is reached by a woods road from Haver Road in the Town of Olive. The road ends on State land after it crosses a tributary of Mettacahonts Creek. From here, old logging roads rise up the short steeply sloping valleys between the mountains, but disappear in mid-slope. Bear to the left for a pleasant one-half mile hike to Mettacahonts Creek.
Mettacahonts Creek and its feeder streams contain trout, even though the upper tributaries may dry out in summer. Walking north from the old woods road on Mettacahonts Creek, you arrive at a place where numerous springs and wet seeps rapidly swell the water flow within a few hundred feet. Walking south along the creek, the banks steepen and a large hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forest surrounds the creek. Its heavy shade is only occasionally broken by a clearing formed by wind thrown trees where saplings are beginning to take hold.
Vernooy Kill Area
The Vernooy Kill Falls trail skirts Cherrytown Mountain on its way from Upper Cherrytown Road to the falls. Nearby Cherrytown Mountain has been the site of repeated fires (580 acres in May, 1980, 400 acres in summer, 1991, and 1,000 acres in 2006) which burned quite deeply into the mineral soils on the summit. The scars remain visible today. Approaching from the Rondout River Valley there is a steep climb, but otherwise, the area is a high plateau with occasional hills, with names like Bangle and Popple. It's main river, the Vernooy Kill, drains moist eastern hemlock woodlands and 500 acres of wetlands.
Panoramic views from most peaks here are limited to winter months, with the exception of Spencer's Ledge, which provides a good view of the High Point-Rosy Bone-Cherrytown Mountain ridge line. Because of the fires, the trail-less Cherrytown Mountain summit provides a view. However, be careful, several populations of threatened rattlesnakes have been found in the region.
Denman Mountain Area
At 3035 feet, Denman Mountain is the second highest peak in Sullivan County. The woods road traversing the mountain east-west was the main thoroughfare in the 1700's, connecting many farms from Claryville to Grahamsville. The road starts as Bungalow Brook Road near Claryville. The early landowners - Denman, van Aken, Moore, Furman, etc. - gave their names to many places. Stone remains of farm buildings, fields regrowing to trees, and old farm and logging roads dot the landscape. Many farms were abandoned during the Depression Era of the 1920's. Many old farm fields were reforested with conifer plantations at this time.
Reached by Moore Hill Road, Hogs Rocks is a popular destination on the eastern slopes of Denman Mountain. However, the seasonally maintained dirt road is closed in the winter (the road from the north is steep and in poor condition). The 60 foot high Hog Rock cliff follows Moore Hill Road for about a quarter mile. Sometimes the geological term "hogback" is given to a steep ridge. Otherwise, the origin of the name of this local landmark is unknown. A huge round boulder sits on a turn in the road.
Rules and Regulations
The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve or conservation easement lands open to the public.
DEC Forest Rangers are primarily responsible for search and rescue, wild land fire suppression and enforcing state land use laws and regulations. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are primarily responsible for enforcing hunting, fishing, trapping and pollution laws and regulation. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.
To Kanape Trailhead:
Take Route 28 from Kingston or Boiceville to 28A (wraps around the southern side of the Ashokan Reservoir, New York City's water supply) to Watson Hollow Road (Co. Rte 42), then 3.75 miles to the Kanape Parking lot and information board (on your right). Trail (red markers) crosses road just downhill of the parking lot and then crosses a wooden footbridge. Trail register is just beyond.
To Vernooy Kill Trailhead:
Take State Route 209 to Cherrytown Road to Upper Cherrytown Road. The parking lot is on the right on Upper Cherrytown Road. Park and cross the road to the trail, which at first climbs up a steep hill on the old woods road, now a snowmobile trail).
To Red Hill Fire Tower:
Take State Route 209 to State Route 55 to a right on County Route 153 (bordering the west side of the Rondout Reservoir, just before Grahamsville). Continue on Route 153 for no more than 3 miles, make a left on Sugarloaf Road and proceed about 4 miles to Red Hill Road. Make a sharp left on Red Hill Road and an immediate right onto unpaved Dinch Road for 1 mile to the trailhead parking on the left side. If the downhill roadbed is in poor condition, parking at the Red Hill-Dinch Road intersection is recommended. (Route 55 can also be taken east from State Route 17 in Liberty)
To Peekamoose Valley Primitive Campsites and Trails:
Take Route 28 from Kingston or Boiceville to 28A (wraps around the southern side of the Ashokan Reservoir, New York City's water supply) to Watson Hollow Road (Co. Rte 42), then continue south past the Kanape Trailhead. The Peekamoose Mt Trailhead, Trailer Field and Campsites will be on your right several miles down. As an alternative, take State Route 209 to State Route 55 to a right on County Route 153 (bordering the west side of the Rondout Reservoir, just before Grahamsville), then continue on Route 153 (Sundown Road) till it becomes Route 42 (Peekamoose Road). Campgrounds and trailhead on your left.
To Mongaup Pond:
From Route 17 West (quickway) to Exit 96 at Livingston Manor; make a right off the ramp then make a left onto Old Route 17, make first left onto County Road 81 & 82, 6 miles to DeBruce; turn left at signs on Mongaup Road, 3 miles to campsite.From Route 17 East to Exit 96, turn left at bottom of ramp onto DeBruce Road. Refer to above directions from here. There is also an accessible observation deck on the water with picnic tables.
Other Sources of Information
Ulster County Tourism (800-342-5826), Sullivan County Tourism (1-800-882 CATS) and the Rondout Visitors Center (1-800-331-1518) can provide information about recreating in this area and other amenities. Use the links provided near the bottom of the right column to access their websites. I Love New York Travel Guides are also available.
Numerous guide books are available with information on the lands and waters in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
The DEC State Land Interactive Mapper can be used to print maps showing state lands, trails and facilities for this area or any location within New York State.
There are also excellent printed maps and computer map programs from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Geographic and other sources. These are sold in outdoor retail shops, bookstores and on the internet.
The Rondout Valley was probably first used as a hunting ground by the Kakalarimine, Cacawolomin, Moonhoaw and other Lenape Indians. Impressed by the vastness of the region, they named it Peekamoose, meaning "big place" in their language. Other Algonquian Indian tribes undoubtedly used the area. European history essentially began when a large piece of the Catskills was given to Johanis Hardenburgh and six other white men by Queen Anne of England in a grant known as the Hardenburg Patent in 1708. Because the area was so far removed from any settlement, the solitude of this region's hillsides remained undisturbed for more than a hundred years before the hemlocks attracted bark peelers (for tanning hides). By 1860, Sullivan County had 39 tanneries, more than any other in the State (Ulster County had 30). It has been said that the Civil war was won with boots tanned in the Catskills. After tanning, lumbering followed. Migration went south and west, so the easterly segments of Marbletown were settled first.
The Kanape Valley is named after John Jones Canape, who with Orson Avery, were the first farmers in the area. Once, the Kanape woods road was the only way through the mountains from Watson Hollow road to the Rondout Valley. Today it is only open to the public on State land.
Sholam, as it is now known, was once called Bruynsville after Edmund Bruyn. Sholam is the Hebrew word for peace (although in Yiddish, the spelling is Sholem). Here in 1837, a small band of Jewish people bought 500 acres sight unseen to establish the first Jewish agricultural settlement in this country. Most came from New York City, fleeing economic hardship. The colony failed in 1842 and the land was repossessed. For information on how other place names came about, see the Sundown Wild Forest UMP.
DEC is currently developing an updated management plan for Sundown Wild Forest, as well as the adjacent Vernooy Kill State Forest (about 2,500 acres) off Lundy Road (Town of Wawarsing). The plan will be made available once it is completed. If you are interested in participating in the public input process, e-mail DEC using the link at the bottom of the right column. DEC currently manages these lands in accordance with activities described in the Sundown Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.
Important Phone Numbers
Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: 1-518-408-5850, or if unavailable, 1-877-457-5680 or dial 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: 1-518-408-5850, 1-877-457-5680 or 845-256-3026
Environmental Law Enforcement: 1-877-457-5680
Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) - call the TIPPs hotline to report any environmental violations or report it online.