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Thread: Best of the Catskills

  1. #1
    Senior Member audrey's Avatar
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    Best of the Catskills

    OK, let's say you had a week to spend in the Catskills and your assignment was to hike the very best, most interesting trails and peaks.

    Which ones would they be? We're planning a trip in August and all we've ever done there is Hunter, Cornell, Slide, & Wittenberg.

    It would be nice if some were 3500's, but not mandatory. I'm into ledges, flowers, mushrooms, bogs, brooks, etc.

  2. #2
    Member nyestreet's Avatar
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    The Neversink Valley, accessed from the trailhead in Denning, is a beautiful area with access to many peaks, with and without trails. The trail up the valley is not marked. John

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    Senior Member Artex's Avatar
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    Thomas Cole, Blackhead and Black Dome are nice ones. I think EarthNSky was just there and posted a trip report here on VFTT.

    Devil's Path is really fun also, but quite steep. Twin Mountain, Indian Head, and Plateau are just a few of the mountains it runs over. Good nature scenery throughout.

    Just my two cents. I used to hike there quite a bit when I lived in NY/NJ. I miss it.. great area (but can't complain where I live and hike now )

  4. #4
    Senior Member MattC's Avatar
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    Wow-this is a tall order. I'll take this easy way out by first suggesting the obvious- the first four peaks on the east end of the Devil's Path-Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf, Plateau. Rugged trail in some areas, some scrambly stuff here and there, beautiful views from all four mountains, although often not from the very top, as is typical of many Catskill peaks. Interesting notchs between the peaks-Pecoy Notch contains an old bluestone quarry, Mink Hollow was a road used by the tanning industry, and Jimmy Dolan Notch was apparently named for a guy who had an inn or tavern in the area. Also, Platte Clove on the northeast side of these peaks is amazing-just driving up it is exciting.

    Edit: I see Artex mentions the DP peaks, and also the Blackhead Range. Blackhead is part of the famous Catskill Escarpment, which is essentially the eastern wall of the mountains, which themselves were once a massive plateau. Lots of nice stuff along The Escarpment Trail.

    Matt
    Last edited by mcorsar; 02-23-2006 at 09:57 PM.
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    Senior Member TMax's Avatar
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    I'll put in a bid for the Escarpment Trail. There is a great deal of variation in terrain, beautiful views, historical sights and just all-around great hiking. The entire trail is about 23 miles and makes a great backpack.

    A really nice dayhike is Kaaterskill High Point which offers some fun climbing in the last half-mile or so. The area on the southern side is a fantastic lunch spot with incredible views. You absolutely have to do the loop and include the short jaunt over to Huckleberry Point...another amazing spot.
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  6. #6
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    Windham is a really nice hike in any season. Nice deciduous woods much of the way and a great view from the top. There is a special section where the trail plunges into a dense forest of widely-spaced spruce. I've heard it called the enchanted forest, and a variety of other names. Its quiet, peaceful, and suddenly dark, only to reemerge back into open forest on the other side. A great place to stop and take in the silence for a few minutes.

    The Blackhead Range is another great choice. There is a flat,open plateau a half mile from Thomas Cole's summit that is unique unto itself in the Catskills. The view from BlackHead's summit, toward Blackdome is worth the hike.

    If you bushwack Rusk, go by way of Evergreen then walk the ridge. There is a little rocky grotto on the top of Evergreen that is really neat.

    The Wittenburg-Cornell hike is great. 2 "interesting" ledge sections with one of the best lunch/viewspots in the Catskills.

    Giant Ledge, on the way to Panther is nice, especially in winter.

  7. #7
    Senior Member imarchant's Avatar
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    I agree with everyones sugestions. I would add a firetower to the list, Overlook or Balsam Lake would be my first choices.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
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    Ledges: You will definitely want to hike the Giant Ledge and Panther. There are several viewpoints on the Giant ledge and at the twin summits of Panther. Take some time to explore the short unmarked paths on the Giant Ledge. Many of the best views are a short distance off the trail. The 2005, 3rd edition of the ADK Club Catskill Trails guidebook does a good job of describing many of the unmarked viewpoint paths throughout the Catskills.

    There are very nice ledges on an unmarked path just east of the summit of Overlook. There is also a fire tower, ranger cabin (open on weekends), and the impressive ruins of the Overlook Mountain House. The short trail up from Meads (near Woodstock) is fairly easy, heavily travelled, and somewhat boring. A longer, more interesting approach to Overlook starts from the Platte Clove preserve. The trail starts over a recently built king post bridge and proceeds through an interpretive nature trail. After which much of the trail follows a Revolutionary era road. You can make scenic stops at Codfish Point and Echo Lake, and a bushwhack over Plattekill is an option either on the way in or out. There is also an attractive waterfall at the Platte Clove preserve. A cautionary note. There are copperheads at Echo Lake and the summit of Overlook. But they rarely pose any problem.

    A loop on the Escarpment Trail and Mary's Glen at North Lake State Park will pass many historic ledges with views of the Kaaterskill Clove and Hudson Valley. If time permits you could also take a side hike from North Point up to Stoppel Point for a nice view of the Blackhead Range from the second of two viewpoints. You could also visit the Kaaterskill Falls and Ashley Falls on the hike.

    If you climb Sugarloaf and/or Twin on the Pecoy Notch trail, there are views, rock furniture, and ramparts at Dibble's Quarry (bluestone). There are smaller collections of rock furniture at Codfish Point and the Palenville Overlook. And if you like those kind of rock constructions you might check out Opus 40 in Highwoods. It is not a hiking location, but an a very interesting visit with nice views of the Catskills.

    The best known bog in the Catskills is on top of Balsam Lake Mountain a short distance from the fire tower. It is a short hike from either of two trailheads. Or there is an attractive full day approach from Alder Lake over the Mill Brook Ridge trail.

    If you interested in Catskill bogs, an authoritative information source is The Catskill Forest, A History by Dr. Michael Kudish, a recently retired forestry professor from Paul Smith's College. The Catskills have been his primary research subject. He has probably studied every know bog in the Catskills, and discovered quite a few of them. The book is available from Amazon or the publisher.

    Peekamoose and Table are nice mountains. Each has off-trail viewpoints near the summits which are listed in the ADK guidebook. It can be approached from the attractive Neversink valley. However, the southern approach from the Rondout valley is one of my favorite hikes in the Catskills. There are raspberries along the trail and a wide open view at 3500'. For an after hike swim, walk a short distance east along the road from the trailhead. You will see a well trodden path that leads to the Rondout Creek and the Peekamoose Blue Hole. It is one of the most attractive swimming holes in the Catskills. Also a short drive east from the trailhead is Buttermilk Falls, another nice place to cool off after a hike.

    Ashokan High Point is another favorite. There are fine views of the Burroughs Range from meadows west of the summit. But perhaps the best views are from Little Ashokan High Point, a 2800' knob a short bushwhack down and east from the main summit. There are blueberries and huckleberries on both summits.

    August is the start of blackberries season and some of the best are on Bearpen. The mountain sees a lot of ATV traffic on weekends, but during the week it is quiet, and there is a good chance that you will see one of my shy bruin friends among the berry patches. There are wide open views from the top of the former ski slopes, and some interesting gnarly trees amongst ferns near the summit. An interesting historical side trip after a Bearpen hike is a short climb to the Pratt Rocks. There is also a nice view from the top of the rocks, on an unmarked path from the west side of the rocks.

    Here are four virtual hikes which are among the hikes I mentioned above.

    If you are spending a week in the Catskills. You might want to consider spending a day in the Shawangunks. Although not as high as the Catskills they have many interesting cliffs and rock scrambles. Admissions are charged at the Mohonk Preserve and Resort, Minnewaska State Park, and Sam's Point Preserve. Of these Minnewaska is the most economical as it charges by the carload vs. individual fees at the others. The loop of Millbrook Mountain and Gertrude's Nose from Lake Minnewaska is one the most spectacular cliff top walks in the northeast IMHO. A loop of Castle Point, Lake Awosting, Murray Hill, and Hamilton Point is another possibility. Several impressive waterfalls (Awosting, Rainbow, and Sheldon), can also be included on various hikes.
    Last edited by Mark Schaefer; 02-24-2006 at 09:44 AM. Reason: typos
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    Where was that bog on Balsam Lake Mountain, Mark? I don't recall noticing anything when Susan and I were up there back in September. Was it actually at the summit, or was it below, at the junction with the main trail (name of which escapes me at the moment—a few tenths of a mile below the summit, I'd say, in the direction of Graham).

    The hike up Sugarloaf was a good one, from the col between it and Plateau. We cheated by taking the old trail from the end of Mole Hollow Road, or whatever it was called.

    We also liked the hike up to Balsam, Eagle, and Big Indian. Big Indian's summit is via herd path/bushwhack, the rest are all on trails.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    IMO I'd skip Peekamoose but see Peekamoose falls. two days in Woodland Valley area, Giant Ledge & Panther one day theother on the classic Witt-Cornell-Slide trip. Devils Path & Escarpement Trails would be good, the falls along 23 or 23A (I'd have to look at a map here but you don't have to leave the road. For a firetower you have Hunter (so with Slide & Blackhead Range you've hit highest 5) I'd also pick some spot off teh beaten path. i once saw over 60 deer driving to a remote hill on the western side of the Catskills. Hike was pretty much a walk in the woods, saw a few deer there too but the drive was almost surreal.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  11. #11
    Senior Member IndianChris's Avatar
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    Indian Head (to Twin) - from the start of the DP.
    HEY!!!
    Don't take it for granite, it's a gneiss day.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Audrey, it looks like this is the consensus:

    Do them all!
    Tom Rankin
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond
    Where was that bog on Balsam Lake Mountain, Mark? I don't recall noticing anything when Susan and I were up there back in September. Was it actually at the summit, or was it below, at the junction with the main trail ...
    The bog is not far northwest of the summit in a depression between the summit and the 3700 subpeak. Michael Kudish's book The Catskill Forest, a History documents its location as well as numerous bogs throughout the Catskills. There are also two bogs on the Mill Brook Ridge (east end of the col between 3480' and 3260' summits) and another further west (col that separates Alder Lake and Kelly Hollow). Locations and bog descriptions are in the book. The book is a bit pricey, but worth any every penny IMO. There is a nice book review by a VFTT member on the Amazon site.
    Last edited by Mark Schaefer; 02-24-2006 at 10:00 AM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Rob S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peakbagr
    The Blackhead Range is another great choice. There is a flat,open plateau a half mile from Thomas Cole's summit that is unique unto itself in the Catskills.
    You mean HERE?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jay H's Avatar
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    A week as a thruhike or a whole bunch of day hikes?

    You could simply do the whole Long Path section through the high peaks from Peekamoose->Table up to the end of the escarpment Trail on Rt 23, you will hit a lot of different peaks and also go through the Devil's Path, the Burrough's Range and the Blackhead Range via the Escarpment trail. Then you can always go back and hit the nice firetowers and Ashoken HP which isn't on the 3500 list but is nice to do.

    Jay
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