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Rusk Mountain Wild Forest

hikingprimitive campinglean-toFishinghuntingtrappingcross-country skiingsnowshoeingfire towerhorseback ridingAccessibleparkingicon key

Rusk Mountain Wild Forest locator map

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 and 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 and 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.

Additionally, at large primitive camping is allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Catskills, between March 21 and December 21.

Fishing

hunting
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower and Cabin

General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and 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) and Public Access for Fishing the West Kill (PDF).

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

Wildlife Management Unit: 3A

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

cross-country skiing
snowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and 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 and 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.

Wildlife

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 State Highway 23 East to Route 23A. Follow Route 23 A to Lexington. Make a right onto State Highway. 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 State Highway 28 to Allaben. Make a right onto State Highway 42. Follow Route 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)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Trail at the top of Hunter Mountain

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) 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.

Planning and Management

The Rusk Mountain Wild Forest was re-classified in 2008, and was formerly part of the Hunter Mountain Wild Forest. DEC manages these lands in accordance with the 1995 Hunter Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) (PDF). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us at r4.ump@dec.ny.gov.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • 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 guidebooks 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.