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Hiking in Catskill Park
Slide Mountain Wilderness
The 47,500 acre Slide Mountain Wilderness is the largest and most popular wilderness area in the Catskills. Extensive foot trails provide access to the remote interior, often climbing over lofty peaks with spectacular views. Slide Mountain, the tallest peak in all of the Catskills at 4180 feet, inspired poet and naturalist John Burroughs to write: "Here the works of man dwindle, in the heart of the southern Catskills." A plaque commemorating both the man and the mountain graces the face of the summit rock, in tribute to Burroughs and his vision.
Aside from the 35 mile trail system, Slide Mountain Wilderness offers an expansive trail less area providing visitors with the solitude, challenge and independence commonly associated with wilderness.
The Slide Mountain Wilderness is located in the northwestern corner of Ulster County. It encompasses Forest Preserve lands in the towns of Shandaken, Denning and Olive. Crescent shaped north to south, this area straddles the Esopus, Neversink and Rondout watersheds.
This is a rugged, mountainous wilderness that includes Wittenberg, Cornell, Panther, Lone, Rocky, Balsam Cap, Friday, Peekamoose and Table as well as Slide Mountain, from which the area takes its name. Elevations range from 1,100 feet - 4,180 feet.
Balsam Cap from Hermit Ledge
This area is easily reached from the northeast by NY 28, from the south by Ulster County Route 42 and the west by Ulster County Route 47. Several established trailheads and parking areas provide developed access.
From the North
Big Indian Forest Preserve Access-Town of Shandaken, .25 miles east of Big Indian on NY 28. Fox Hollow Trailhead-Town of Shandaken, Fox Hollow Road, 1.6 miles south of NY 28. Woodland Valley State Campground and Trailhead-Town of Shandaken, Woodland Valley Road, 5 miles south of NY 28.
From the East
Mount Pleasant Forest Preserve Access-Town of Shandaken, on south side of NY 28.
From the South
Peekamoose Trailhead-Town of Denning, 10 miles southwest of West Shokan on County Route 42 Denning Trailhead-Town of Denning, end of Claryville Road, 8 miles northeast of Claryville.
From the West
Biscuit Brook Trailhead-Town of Denning, 13 miles south of Big Indian on County Route 47. Slide Mountain Trailhead - Town of Shandaken, 10 miles south of NY 28 on County Route 47. Giant Ledge Trailhead - Town of Shandaken, 8 miles south of NY 28 on County Route 47.
A variety of wilderness recreational opportunities ranging from hiking, snowshoeing and primitive camping to hunting, fishing and trapping await visitors.
Hiking Trails in Slide Mountain Wilderness
All 35 miles of trail in this area are open exclusively to foot travel, affording the visitor an uninterrupted back country experience. Harboring the tallest of the Catskill Peaks and offering numerous trailside vistas, the Slide Mountain trail network is quite attractive and, as a result, is the most heavily visited wilderness trail system in the Catskills. Visitors seeking solitude are less likely to encounter others during mid-week.
Woodland Valley-Denning Trail
(9.8 miles, yellow markers, moderate-2,300 feet elevation gain.)
For all but the northernmost mile, the Woodland Valley - Denning Trail follows an old carriage road, making this an easy to moderate hike with steady, moderate ascents. Other than its historical significance as the sole thoroughfare from Phoenicia to Claryville in the days of horse and carriage, its greatest attribute is that it offers the public access to other trails.
The Burroughs Range Trail
(9.75 miles, red markers, challenging-3,620 feet elevation gain.)
Accessed either from the Woodland Valley Campground on the east or the Woodland Valley-Denning Trail on the west, this trail provides a challenging route through the heart of the Slide Mountain Wilderness, ascending Wittenberg, Cornell and Slide Mountain. The eastern approach is notably more difficult, often requiring the use of one's hands to negotiate several rock ledges. At higher elevations, thick stands of balsam fir channel the hiker upwards, adding an element of surprise to the beautiful panorama that unfolds on the various summits.
(1.6 miles, blue markers, moderate-900 feet elevation gain.)
Often referred to as the scenic route up Slide Mountain, the Curtis-Ormsbee trail provides the hiker with three panoramic vistas to the south and west and a moderate "terraced" ridge hike through stunted northern hardwoods. It is named in memory of William Curtis and Allen Ormsbee who originally blazed this route and later lost their lives during a mountaineering expedition in the White Mountains in 1900.
Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain-Fox Hollow Trail
(7.45 miles, blue markers, challenging-2,620 feet elevation gain from Fox Hollow.)
This trail follows along a north-south ridge that offers spectacular views to the north (the Devil's Path) and to the east (Woodland Valley) from both Giant Ledge and the summit of Panther. The ascent from either direction is interspersed with level stretches suggesting a "terracing" effect through mixed hardwoods at lower elevations and ultimately through the scent-laden balsam fir. Popular in part but noticeably less traveled north of Panther Mountain, this section of trail provides the hiker with a sense of solitude.
Terrace Mountain Trail
(0.9 miles, yellow markers, easy-300 feet descent.)
Accessed from the Burroughs Range Trail, the Terrace Mountain Trail is a short and easy hike with a very gradual descent, ending at the Terrace Mountain Lean-to. Bare rock outcroppings and low blueberry bushes best characterize the open "meadows" interspersed along the trail. NOTE: there is no water source at the Terrace Mountain Lean-to.
Peekamoose-Table Mountain Trail
(7.15 miles, blue markers, challenging-2,820 feet elevation gain from Peekamoose Road.)
This is a less traveled area that presents a sense of remoteness, complemented by beautiful views at timely intervals. A distinct sense of history is evidenced by the red pine plantation, pioneer species indicating former pasture and stone walls on the southern end, contrasting sharply with the old growth forest in the interior.
Be Prepared-Even on a day trip, take along a rain shell with a hood, a flashlight with spare batteries, a whistle, matches, map and compass, first aid kit, small tarp and extra, quick-energy food and water. Regardless of the season, dress in layers of non-cotton and wear sturdy hiking boots. Leave Word-Spell it out! Leave a copy of your itinerary and map with a responsible third party.
The shortest, most direct route up Slide Mountain is from the Slide Mountain Trailhead parking area. Follow the yellow marked Woodland Valley-Denning Trail southwest .70 miles to its juncture with the red-marked Burroughs Range Trail. Turn left, heading east 2.0 miles to the summit rock and Burroughs's Plaque. Total distance: 2.7 miles (5.4 miles round-trip). Elevation gain: 1,780 ft.
(1.6 miles, 3.2 miles round trip, elevation gain: 1,100 feet.)
The shortest and easiest route up Giant Ledge is from the Giant Ledge Trailhead. Begin by crossing the road and following the yellow marked Woodland Valley-Denning Trail east .75 miles until its juncture with the blue marked Giant Ledge-Panther Trail. Turn left, heading north .85 miles to the summit and excellent views to both the east and west.
View from Table Mountain
Before you set off, be sure to:
* Get a detailed map and compass and acquaint yourself with the area.
* Draft and review an emergency plan should someone in your group becomes ill or injured. Be specific. Indicate at various points along your intended route which way is the quickest route out to a phone. Carry emergency phone numbers with you.
* Check the weather forecast and local conditions.
* Get an update on back country information and State land regulations.
* Leave written word at home or with a friend of your specific plans.
* Dress for the weather.
* Water is relatively scarce in the Catskills so plan your trip accordingly.
* Expect ice and snow from November through April.
* Please sign in and out at trail registers. In case of an emergency it could help to locate you more easily.
Above map courtesy of Andy Arthur
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