View from Friday Mountain at the canister of Devil's Path

Best Hikes: Devil’s Path Backpacking Traverse

One of the Catskill’s most visited and dramatic trails is Devil’s Path. It can make an unforgettable multi-day backpacking experience. It can also be broken down into loops for several nice overnight trips using connector / access trails.

What’s in a name?

The name can be traced to early settlers who thought the Catskill’s were host to the devil. The Devil’s Path mountains were said to be formed by the devil slapping its tail and creating the steep gaps between peaks.

Today, the name is more associated with the ruggedness of the trail.


Here are the facts of the trail:


Length: 24.5 miles


Low point: West Terminus at Spruceton Road, 1,800 ft


High Point: West Kill Mountain, 3,880 ft


Elevation Gain: 8,428 ft


Elevation Lost: 8,690 ft


Major High Peaks Traversed: Indian Head, Twin, Sugar Loaf, Plateau, West Kill


Major High Peaks Nearby (by trail or bushwhacking): Hunter, SW Hunter (Leavitt Peak), North Dome, Sherrill Mountain


Camping: Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to and Designated Campsite, Dibbles Quarry Designated Campsite, Mink Hollow Lean-to and Designated Campsite, Stony Clove Campground, Devil’s Acres Lean-to, Diamond Notch Lean-to


Major Road Crossing: Rt 214 in Stony Clove


Maps of Devil’s Path (east and west sections)

Click maps to enlarge.

Eastern section of Devil's Path in the Indian Head WildernessScott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Eastern section of Devil’s Path in the Indian Head Wilderness
Western section of Devil's Path in the Hunter - West Kill WildernessScott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Western section of Devil’s Path in the Hunter – West Kill Wilderness

Devil's Path: Mileage & Elevation Change

NOTE: Estimated elevation gain/loss and Mileage. Elevation gain and loss may be more given the numerous minor rises and drops (less than 90') not accounted for in this table. See maps above for gross elevation change.
Trail sectionMilesTotal MilesElevation GainTotal GainElevation LostTotal Lost
Trailhead to summit of Indian Head4.64.615161516
Indian Head Summit to Jimmy Dolan Notch0.55.1430430
Jimmy Dolan Notch to South Summit of Twim0.45.54421958
South Summit of Twin to Summit0.86.3153211192522
Summit of Twin to Pecoy Notch0.66.98141336
Pecoy Notch to Summit of Sugarloaf1.18.09943105
Summit of Sugarloaf to Mink Hollow1.29.212042540
Mink Hollow to Plateau Mountain Summit1.010.212434348
Summit of Plateau to Stony Clove 3.914.118544394
Stony Clove to Junction with herd path to SW Hunter1.91615755923
SW Hunter herd path to Diamond Notch junction2.0181237
Diamond Notch to East peak summit of Westkill1.6519.6514127337
East peak of West Kill to West Kill0.620.25197753277
West Kill to St. Anne's Peak1.9122.161987730667
St. Anne's Peak to Spruceton Road Parking2.324.4616247999

Backpacking the Devil’s Path is a serious undertaking

To be quite honest, mountains spare most fools. Having said that, Devil’s Path crosses many mountains and any one of them can prove dangerous. Only experienced backpackers in good physical condition should attempt this traverse. Backpacker Magazine says this about Devil’s Path:

Considered by many the toughest day hike in the Northeast–and possibly the Lower 48…

Hazards:

  • Weather (storms, temperature changes, windchill)
  • Steep ascents
  • Steep descents
  • Lack of water, water is rare on the trail especially in summer
  • Snow and ice can linger well into May
  • Winter starts early and ends late

The trail is generally done east to west. Devil’s Path can be split into two sections with Stony Clove as the geographic reference point. Progression on the trail depends on your fitness, pack weight, comfort on steep terrain, time of the year, trail conditions, and things that may be out of your control (i.e., weather). You’ll need to do a good time control plan for this trip.

Camping can be done at lean-tos (2), designated campsites, state operated campground (1), and at-large below 3500 feet (except in winter) and 150 feet away from trails, water, and roads. Read more here about camping options on Devil’s Path.

Planning your Devil’s Path trip

Getting there:

As Devil’s Path is a “point-to-point” trail, you will either need 2 cars for shuttling from one trailhead to another or be dropped off and picked up. There are no services specific to this need. As said, the trail is usually hiked from east to west. Dropping your shuttle car at the west terminus and starting the trip at the east. See directions below.

Western Terminus Trailhead/Parking: From Kingston, take NY 28 west for 29 miles and turn right at NY 42. In seven miles, bear right on Spruceton Rd., and park at the trailhead in seven miles.

Eastern Trailhead: Take NY 42 north four miles to NY 23A. Head east and turn right on Bloomer Rd. 11 miles later. Take rights on Platte Cove Rd., and Prediger Rd.

Food and drink:

Backpacking Devil’s Path is normally done in as part of a three-day trip it can however by done in two or longer. Your meal planning should include high-calorie foods. You’ll be expending lots of energy. Also, plan your stops carefully and look for places with water. Water is heavy and adding this to a pack for a multi-day trip can definitely add to the weight. Don’t be fooled, carting less may not be better – do not dehydrate on the trail. To lessen your “water” weight see this post. Contact land managers (below) to get information on water supply as there is minimal water high on the trail.

Food supplies near trailhead:

Forget something? After you leave the Hunter / Tannersville area there is not much in the way of shopping. Here are a few places to try to get some last-minute items.

Tops Friendly Market
Address: 6350 Main St, Tannersville, NY 12485
Phone:(518) 589-0048

Country K
Address: 6002 Main St, Tannersville, NY 12485
Phone: (518) 991-9369

Resources for planning:

Using a trail guide for planning your trip is essential as is a good map for navigation. The following are guides and maps for the Catskills.

Adirondack Mountain Club – 4th edition of the Catskill Trails and Trails Illustrated map

NYNJTC – map set for the Catskills

Appalachian Mountain Club – Catskill Mountain Guide, 3rd edition, Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the Catskills

Indian Head Wilderness & Hunter West Kill Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Email: r4.ump@dec.ny.gov
Backcountry Emergency: (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): 518-408-5850 or dial 911
Map: Map of the Indian Head Wilderness

Map of the Hunter - Westkill Wilderness
Amenities:Lodging and dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Hunter, Tannersville, and Woodstock.
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