Catskill Hikes and Trail Information
Hiking trails are maintained on many areas of Forest Preserve land in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks as well as on State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas and Unique Areas. Most trails are marked with color coded disks affixed to trees. Trail guides and maps correspond to these markers. Trail register boxes are generally located near major access points and parking areas. Although most state-maintained trails are marked, hikers are encouraged to consult topographical maps or other guides when planning to venture into the backcountry.
Great Hikes in the Catskills
Onteora Lake, Bluestone Wild Forest
Town of Kingston, Ulster County
Bluestone mined in the area was transported by wagons to Kingston, where it was shipped to cities around the world. Walk the "yellow" trail that loops around part of Onteora Lake for signs of former bluestone quarrying. The yellow-marked woods road/trail starts at the parking lot on Onteora Lake and winds through an undulating forested landscape of hemlocks, pines and oaks. Trail loops winding through the woods to the north are also excellent for short mountain biking tours.
From I-87 (NYS Thruway), exit 19 (Kingston), take State Rt 28 from the Kingston traffic circle to the DEC sign on the right just before the Convenience Deli.). Make a right and drive the unpaved gravel road to a parking lot near the 16.5-acre, 0.75 mile long lake. Alternate activities: Bring your own non-motorized boat and enjoy a passive paddle on the lake or take a mountain bike on the network of trails that winds through the forest.
Distance: 1.8 miles,easy-moderate. Ascent: 200 feet.
photo courtesy of Frank Knight
Giant Ledge, Slide Mt. Wilderness
Town of Shandaken, Ulster County
Giant Ledge, at 3200 feet, provides multiple views to the east and west of some of the tallest Catskill Mountains. (Wittenberg, Terrace, Cornell, Spruce, Hemlock and Balsam Mountains).
Take State Route 28 from Kingston to Big Indian, then south (left) on Co. Route 47 (Big Indian Hollow Road) for 7 miles to a parking lot on your right. Follow yellow Phoenicia-East Branch Trail 0.75 miles to the blue Giant Ledge Trail, turn north (left), then 0.6 miles up to Giant Ledge.
Distance: 2.7 miles. Ascent: 1000 feet.
Kanape Brook, Sundown Wild Forest
Town of Olive, Ulster County
A 2.65- mile hike takes you along the Kanape Brook, where looking closely, you will see remnants of hillside farms on what was once known as Freeman Avery Road. John Canape was one of the first farmers in the area. You pass streams rushing to the brook, stone walls, farm foundations (on your left), Norway spruce plantings, a spring box built by the Civilian Conservation Corps at 1.25 mile, and finally a clearing where the trail crosses the brook (small trout have been spotted). Here the trail runs through a dark, dense plantation of Norway spruce trees. Once these trees would have been used for lumber and logs and protected the farm that stood here from winds and snowdrifts. The trail leaves the old road at 2.65 miles, continuing up to Ashokan High Point Mountain (3080'). The last 1.25 miles is very steep. On the summit, repeated fires and shallow soils have formed blueberry balds, with small scrub oaks - but without fire these balds may someday disappear.
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.
Distance: 5.3 miles. Ascent: 500 feet. (To High Point Summit - 7.5 miles, Ascent - 1480 feet)
Vernooy Falls, Sundown Wild Forest
Town of Rochester, Ulster County
Vernooy Kill Falls is a series of picturesque little waterfalls with pools, dropping about 30 feet in 4 stages. A foot bridge crosses the base of the falls for a nice view. Nearby is a tall stonewall, a remnant of the Vernooy Mill which 200 years ago was a major crossroads where farmers near and far brought their grain for milling. A major road ran through this area which now looks so wild. In the ten years since 2000, over 1000 acres have burned on nearby Cherrytown Mountain.
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).
Distance: 3.6 miles. Ascent: 250 feet.
Day Use Area
Town of Shandaken, Ulster County
Two loop trails - the Old Field Trail and the Winnie Farm History trail cross the meadows and woods of this proposed site of the Catskill Interpretive Center. Both are flat and easy to walk. An interpretive booklet may be available at the site for the Old Field Loop trail. This property has been partially developed as the future site of the proposed Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC) and contains a 16-panel kiosk about the Catskills.
State Route 28 to Mount Tremper. Entrance off Route 28. Cross the bridge and park at the turnaround parking lot. Follow signs to interpretive trails.
Distance: Each trail loop is 0.5 miles.
Town of Shandaken, Ulster County
From the parking lot, the abandoned road climbs gently and steadily along the stream, passing low hemlock stands. At about 1 mile, the trail gets steeper for ½ mile, then becomes gentler, passing a 1921 Burroughs Forest Memorial Plaque, 2 small ponds and house ruins before stopping at private lands (about 3 miles). Good for cross-country skiing and limited mountain biking. A new accessible lean-to, at about 2 miles, will be complete by spring, 2011.
Take State Route 28 from Kingston, about 1 mile past Big Indian. Make a right turn onto small Matyas Road and follow to the parking lot just before the gate. You can swim at the Pine Hill Day Use Area, one mile west on Route 28, on your left (day use fee charged).
Distance: Up to 6 miles. Ascent: Up to 800 feet.
Diamond Notch Falls, Hunter-West Kill Mt. Wilderness
Town of Lexington, Greene County
From the last parking lot by the gate at the end of Spruceton Road, follow the Diamond Notch Trail (not the Spruceton Trail) east for 1 mile to the Falls. The trail, once a town road, rises gently with the headwaters of the West Kill. The falls drop about 25 feet into an amphitheater-like setting, with a small meadow nearby.
Take State Route 23A west to Lexington, left on State Route 42, left on Co. Rte. 6 (Spruceton Road). State Rte 42 can also be reached from Shandaken on State Route 28 from Kingston and Margaretville. Spruceton Road becomes rough paved and graveled after crossing two small bridges before reaching the parking lot. The 7-mile road is not busy and becomes quieter as one approaches the end. May be considered with care for mountain biking.
Distance: 2 miles. Ascent: 300 feet.
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower
Town of Hunter, Greene County
The easiest trail to Hunter Mountain Fire Tower (el. 4040 feet) starts at the Hunter Mt. Ski center chairlift and passes through deciduous forests to boreal Balsam fir-Red spruce forests snapped and stunted by high winds and icy winters, on its way to the 60-foot steel tower built in 1917. The tower can be climbed to just below the cab.
Take State Route 23 A to Hunter Mountain Ski Center in Hunter. This hike is moderately difficult and starts at the summit of the Hunter Mt. Sky Ride (chairlift) to Colonel's Chair. The Sky Ride is open most weekends throughout the summer. Go 1.1 miles to the intersection of the yellow-marked trail with the blue disks of the Spruceton Trail, then make a left and proceed 1-mile to the Hunter Mt. Fire Tower.
Distance: 4.2 miles Ascent: 900 feet.
Trails also reach the Hunter fire tower and summit: 1) via Spruceton (Greene County Route 6, Spruceton Road, off Route 42-see Diamond Notch Falls above. This trail is a 7-mile moderately difficult hike on an old woods road marked with blue disks); 2) via Diamond Notch, Stony Clove Notch or Becker Hollow (These trails are off Route 214, connecting Phoenicia-Route 28- with Route 23A, between Hunter and Tannersville). Stony Clove and Becker Hollow are very steep/very difficult and not recommended for children.
Town of Jewett, Greene County
Canoe or paddle the 26-acre lake (sorry, no motors allowed). Mountains surround the valley, with good views of the Blackhead Mountain Range (Thomas Cole 3940 feet, Black Dome 3980 feet, Blackhead 3940 feet). The Colgate Lake Trail (yellow markers) from the last parking lot takes you to a beaver wetland (at 2.35 miles) and meadow - site of a vanished village and sawmill where Dutch settlers, Esopus Indians and runaway slaves lived 200 years ago. If you wish, you can hike onward across the mountains down to the Hudson Valley.
Take State Route 23A west to Tannersville, where you make a right on County Route 23C. Then, make a right onto County Route 78. Park at any one of three parking lots along Route 78 and walk the road to or from Colgate Lake. However, the two-space parking lot nearest the dam is accessible only for persons with mobility impairments. so you will have to park at the others.
Distance: From parking lots to the lake is less than 1 mile.
Catskill Mt. House Site, North-South Lake
Town Hunter, Greene Co.
Pitch your tent, or park your camper beside North Lake, at North-South Lake Public Campground (for reservations call 1-800-456-CAMP). Enjoy swimming, fishing and boating or take a hike. Start with a short hike to one of the most beautiful views of the Hudson Valley, the former site of the Catskill Mountain House. On a clear day you can see five states. In its heyday, between the 1850s and the 1870s, this renowned hotel catered to 400 guests a night, including such notables as Presidents Arthur and Grant. Picture guests sitting on the long 13-column porch enjoying the panoramic view. Walk east to the ledges of the escarpment wall, called the Wall of Manitou by Native Americans who believed it was the dwelling place of Manitou, their God. Study the carvings in the red sandstone rocks and see how many dates from the 1800's you can find.
Take 23A to Haines Falls, then follow signs to North-South Lake Campground. Drive through the North Lake Beach parking lot and park in the gravel lot just beyond (The area is open May-October when a day-use fee charged). Walk uphill through the lot looking for the blue trail markers and a sign directing you to turn right. Follow the blue markers uphill for .2 miles to the open ledges of this famous spot.
Distance (Mt. House): .5 mile. Ascent: 80 feet. (Access at other times is free, but the hike is longer, about 2 miles from South Lake dam parking lot.)
Alligator Rock and Boulder Rock, North-South Lake
Town Hunter, Greene Co.
Alligator and Boulder Rocks are glacial erratics (boulders left behind 10,000-12,000 years ago when the mile-deep glacial ice sheets receded). There are many erratics throughout the Catskills.
Go back to the gate at the end of the parking lot and follow the old carriage road (marked with red snowmobile trail markers) for a gentle hike to Alligator Rock. Hikers can also take a circular route by heading to the South Lake picnic shelter and following the trail past Alligator Rock back to the parking area.
Distance (Alligator Rock): 1.0 mile.
To get to Boulder Rock, take the Blue Escarpment Trail which starts near the Catskill Mountain House site historical marker. Views toward Palenville and Hudson Valley.
Distance: 1.5 miles. Ascent: 200 feet.
Mary's Glen and Ashley Falls, North-South Lake
Town Hunter, Greene Co.
This hike starts a little rough - on a cobbled streambed. However, it's a good hike for parents with small children who want to avoid hiking near open ledges. The short, easy hike take you through a lovely wooded glen alongside a beaver meadow to the base of a heavily forested cascade known as Ashley Falls. The place name, Mary's Glen, remembers Mary Scribner, whose husband, Ira, once operated a saw mill on the creek.
As you enter North-South Lake Campground (open May - October, day use fee charged) the trailhead parking is about one mile on the left. From this small, paved lot, cross over the stone bridge and turn right, following the red markers and a sign directing you to North Point and Mary's Glen. At 0.2 miles the yellow spur trail leads straight ahead (sign says Ashley Falls) 0.1 mile to the rocky base of the falls.
Distance: 0.6 miles. Ascent: 20 feet.
Artist and Sunset Rocks, North-South Lake
Town Hunter, Greene Co.
This hike has narrow ledges. Be prepared to hold back your children. A mostly gentle climb with two steep segments, through a fo rest of flat rocks and pines, passing several rock ledges. Begin this hike at the bulletin board just before you get to the North Lake Beach Parking (Open May - October, day-use fee charged). A short connector trail with yellow markers leads into a pine forest and joins the escarpment trail at .01 mile where you turn left and follow the blue trail markers. Here you find a trail register. There is a steep scramble over boulders up to a ledge at 0.2 mile. Following the ledges over flat slabs of rock and passing through the pitch pine forest, brings you to many good views before a short, steep segment brings you to Artist Rock ledge at 0.3 mile. A favorite stop for such artists as Thomas Cole in the mid-1800s. Their paintings are found in museums throughout the world in what is today known as the Hudson River School of Landscape Painters. Distance - 0.6 miles. Ascent - 200 ft.
After an easier stretch and another short climb, take the yellow trail at the junction to Sunset Rock for magnificent views of North and South Lake and the Hudson River.
Distance: 1.6 miles. Ascent: 300 ft.
Kaaterskill Falls Trail
Town of Hunter, Greene County
Parking is uphill (to the west) of the junction of Rt 23A and Kaaterskill Creek. At 260 feet, these are the highest waterfalls in New York State, dropping in two tiers - the upper falls 175 feet and the lowers falls 85 feet into a rocky basin. They were often painted by artists of the 19th century Hudson River School of Landscape Painters.
From the parking lot, walk down hill along the north side of the road across the Bastion Falls bridge and turn left onto the yellow trail. Care should be taken walking along this narrow busy roadway. The trail climbs steeply from the road, with several good spots to view Bastion Falls, then following the stream through mixed hardwoods and hemlocks to the base of Kaaterskill Falls. The trail is moderate, with some steep ups and downs. After crossing several rock slides, the trail passes large 200+ year old hemlock trees on its way to the often mist-shrouded base of the falls. For your safety, please stay on the trail and do not hike beyond the end of the trail. Do not attempt to climb the falls as this is dangerous.
Distance: 1.2 miles. Ascent: 340 ft.
Trout Pond, Delaware Wild Forest
Town of Colchester, Delaware County
Trail starts near a small meadow, waterfall and the ruins of an old mill site, and follows the Trout Pond outlet stream to this man-made and very scenic 19-acre pond. Hike is a steady, gentle climb. The trail is used by snowmobiles in the winter.
Take State Route 17 to Exit 94, turn left and drive straight through the traffic signal for 2.6 miles, turning left on Morton Hill Road. Drive 3.1 miles to Russell Brook Road (seasonal road, snowmobile trail in winter), turn left and drive 0.5 miles to the Trout Pond Trailhead.
Distance: 1.8 miles. Ascent: 400 feet.
Little Pond Campground and Big Pond
Town of Andes, Delaware County
Start at of the yellow-marked, accessible trail at the day-use parking area by the dam of Little Pond State Campground. Open mid-May to mid-October (day-use fee charged). For reservations call 1-800-456-CAMP. When campground is closed there is a 1-mile walk from the gate. Part of the trail is the campground loop road. Loop around the 13-acre pond will take you past a beaver lodge and an old stone fireplace (about 0.5 miles). From the north end of the pond, you can follow the trail paralleling the inlet stream to ruins of an old farm, pond and fields with fine views to the east on Touchmenot Mountain (about 1 mile from the start).
At 50-acre Big Pond, a small parking lot allows you to put in boats without motors. Several unmarked trails and meadows connect a larger parking lot several hundred feet to the south with the lake. Big Pond is about one-half mile north of the entrance road to Little Pond Campground on Barkaboom Road.
Take Route 17 to Exit 96 at Livingston Manor, take first two right turns. Make a right just past Kings Cutery House. Follow County Route 151 to County Route 152. Campground is 8 miles on the left. (From Margaretville, take Rt.28 west/Rt. 30 south 2 miles, turn left on NYC Road and go approximately 8.5 miles, turn left on Barkaboom Road, then go 6.5 miles to campground entrance on right.)
Distance: 0.5 to 2 miles. Ascent: 0 to 300 feet.
Alder Lake, Balsam Lake Mt. Wild Forest
Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County
Streams, wet meadows and wetlands greet you on the far side of the lake. The beautiful views of nearby hillsides are particularly impressive in the fall. Balsam Lake Mountain and Little Pond State Campground are nearby. Walk past the Coykendall Lodge ruin, built in 1899 as a retreat for guests and friends of Samuel D. Coykendall (the great financier and railroad owner). Walk to the lake, cross the dam and follow the gentle, mostly level, old road/trail around the lake. Non-motorized boats are allowed on this 44-acre lake.
Take State Route 17 to Exit 96 (Livingston Manor), then County Route 151 past Beaverkill State Park Campsite to County Route 152 (Lew Beach). Continue on Route 152 to Turnwood Road (County Route 54) into Turnwood and make a left on Turnwood Road. Turn right to Alder Lake at about 2.3 miles. Park at the lot near the gate. Trail register is just beyond.
Distance: Loop around lake about 1 mile.
Balsam Lake Mountain Firetower
Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County
Follow directions for Alder Lake, but continue straight about 4 miles in Turnwood to the end of the Beaver Kill Road. Last few miles are on a dirt road. Park at DEC lot at the end of the road. From there, hike up 0.9 miles on the blue Dry Brook Ridge Trail to where the red Balsam Lake Mountain Trail intersects on the left. Then up a steep section (0.5 mile), passing a spur trail leading to a leanto (on the left), continue another 0.35 miles to the Balsam Lake Mountain summit (3723 feet) and fire tower. The summit is covered in Balsam firs - the fragrant evergreens - found on many of the highest mountains in the Catskills.
Distance: 3.5 miles. Ascent: 1250 feet.
Or, from the north, follow the blue-marked Dry Brook Ridge Trail located on Mill Brook Road south of the hamlet of Arkville. From here, it is a longer, but more moderate 5.5-mile hike. Ascent 1,123 feet.
Long Pond, Willowemoc Wild Forest
Town of Neversink, Sullivan County
Follow red trail markers from the trailhead on Flugertown Road eastward for one mile to Long Pond. The trail (used by snowmobiles in winter) starts near Willowemoc Creek and leads through gentle forested hills to this 15 acre pond.
Take Route 17 to Exit 98 to County Route 85 (Cooley Road) and 84 (Parksville Road) to Willowemoc Road. Left from Willowemoc Road onto Flugertown Road. Parking lot is roughly 3 miles on the right.
Distance: 2.0 miles. Ascent: 200 feet.
Frick Pond/The Catskill Fish Hatchery, Willowemoc Wild Forest
Town of Rockland, Sullivan County
From the trailhead on Beech Mountain Road, follow the red markers 0.5 mile to 6-acre Frick Pond. A loop can be made around the pond following the yellow markers (about 1 mile).
Take Route 17 to Exit 96 at Livingston Manor and pick up County Roads 81 and 82 east to DeBruce. Turn left at Fish Hatchery Road (On the way you will pass the Catskill Fish Hatchery, which rears up to 115,000 pounds of brown trout annually. The Hatchery is open to the public for self-guided tours 5 days a week from 8:30am to 4:00pm, with weekend and holiday hours of 8:30 am until noon. For more information call 845-439-4328.). Continue on Fish Hatchery Road turning left on Beech Mountain Road (one mile south of Mongaup Pond State Campground), 0.25 miles to the Frick Pond trailhead parking lot.
Distance: 1.0 mile to 2.1 miles. Ascent: 200 feet.
Overlook Mountain and Fire Tower
Town of Woodstock, Ulster County
This woods road/trail is a steady climb on an old carriage road that once transported guests in the late 19th century to the Overlook Mountain House. There are nice views through the trees on the way up, except in summer. At 1.6 miles you see the massive castle-like ruins of the latest and never completed Overlook Mountain House (at 2900 feet), begun in the 1920's, and now being reclaimed by nature (Please observe the ruins from the outside for your safety). Nearby is a privately-owned tower for which the dirt road is maintained. You then move on to the fire tower at the 3,150 ft summit. The spur trail to the right of the ground cabin takes you to a ledge with a magnificent view of the Hudson River, Ashokan Reservoir, the Central Catskills, and up to five states. Ledges and drop-offs require care. The hike is long for children, but the rewards are great. Stay on the paths, snakes have been seen.
Take I-87 (NYS Thruway), exit 19 (Kingston) to Route 28 west approximately 6 miles to a right on Rt. 375, then left on Rte 212 to the Woodstock Village Green. In the center of town, make a right on Rock City Road, continuing straight past the 4 corners intersection to Meads Mountain Road. The parking lot is on your right about 2 miles up Meads Mt. Road.
Distance: 4.8 miles. Ascent: gradual but a nonstop incline- 1370 feet.
Red Hill Fire Tower, Sundown Wild Forest
Town of Denning, Ulster County
This relatively short hike through northern hardwood forests, in places affected by fires and strong winds, brings great rewards. On the way up, a short spur trail takes you to a strong spring bubbling out of the side of the mountain. (Please walk carefully away from the wet areas).
About half of the distance is over steeper slopes, but the trail avoids all but one small ledge. The fire tower, at 2990 feet, provides a panoramic view of the high peaks of the Catskills, with views past the Shawangunk Mountains to the east.
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)
Distance: 2.2 miles. Ascent: 890 feet.