Rocky Mountain Bushwhack in the Catskills

View from near the summit of Rocky Mountain in the Catskills
Average read time 8 min

Rocky Mountain is a 3508’ 3487′ peak (update 2018: Rocky’s elevation has been downgraded to 3487′) in the Catskills Bushwhack Range in the Slide Mountain Wilderness. Geographically it can be considered as a part of the Peekamoose Mountain Range. However, local hikers have deemed the range the Bushwhack Range to be referred to on this site. The peak is a required climb for the Catskill 3500 Club. Over the past couple of decades, the undergrowth of spruce has matured, making navigating your way to the summit easier. Owed to Tropical storm Irene, there are nice views from near its summit. Rocky is often done with Lone.

Table Of Contents

Rocky Mountain Specs

Hike Length: 9.6 miles R/T

Route Type: Out-and-back

Total Ascent: 1600+/-' (total to summit)

How Hard: Difficult (bushwhack)

Click map for interactive version

Map associated with Rocky Mtn.
- NYNJTC Catskill Map Set

Trailhead to Fisherman’s Path

You begin your hike at the remote Denning Trailhead. It has a large dirt parking area that can accommodate many vehicles. So parking is generally not an issue.

Parking area at Denning
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Parking area at Denning
Remote valley of Denning trailhead
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Remote valley of Denning trailhead

At the NE end of the lot is the large kiosk and trail register; please sign in, and here’s why. You take the yellow-blazed Phonecia East Branch Trail 1.2-miles to the junction with the blue-blazed Peekamoose-Table Trail from the register.

Kiosk at Denning trailhead
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Kiosk at Denning trailhead

From the junction turning right (ESE), you’ll make a quick 125’ descent through some rocky terrain toward the Neversink Valley floor, which is reached in 0.20-miles.

The trail will cross several bridges and undulate as it heads toward the herd path.

Bridge in the Neversink Valley
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Bridge in the Neversink Valley
Bridge in the Neversink Valley
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Bridge in the Neversink Valley

You’ll reach the Fisherman’s Path at 0.31-miles from the junction and 1.51-miles from the parking area.

There is a designated campsite off to the right near this junction.

Tent at Designated Campsite in the Fall
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Tent at Designated Campsite in the Fall

Fisherman’s Path to Bushwhack Point

Taking the unmaintained Fisherman’s Path, it will be well-worn at times then seem to “run-out,” take your time; the path is always there, sometimes obscured by thicker vegetation.

Chris on the Fisherman's Path
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris on the Fisherman’s Path

The path will generally follow the East Branch of the Neversink River. However, it will swing away and climb above it at times.

The unmarked Fisherman's Path
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The unmarked Fisherman’s Path
Yes, this is the path too!
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Yes, this is the path too!

After about 0.77-miles (2.28-miles from the PA), you’ll cross a large tributary draining Table and Lone mountains north face from the junction. This is Donovan Brook. By this point, the path has already moved away from the East Branch. After the Donovan Brook, in another 0.25-miles, the path will meet up with the East Branch again.

The path will remain close to the stream from here on out and will cross it several times. The stream is magnificent and wild!

Path along the stream
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Path along the stream
Herd path crossing over stream
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Herd path crossing over the stream

Along the way, you’ll reach a wonderful beaver dam with extensive cutting. Take some time to explore this area. Be careful; the points on the cut trees can be dangerous if one would fall.

Beaver lodge along the stream
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Beaver lodge along the stream
The beaver's handiwork
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The beaver’s handiwork

You’ll continue on the Fisherman’s path, passing some possible campsites. Please remember that one must camp at least 150’ away from water unless at a designated site.

The stream’s beauty is in part due to its power as you’ll find downed and uprooted trees from flooding.

Uprooted tree on stream
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Uprooted trees and mangled in stream

Along the way, the stream is full of swim holes and cascades. One can imagine the feel of a dip in ice-cold mountain water on a hot summer day.

A cascade into a swim hole about 0.3-miles from the bushwhack point.
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking A cascade into a swimming hole about 0.3-miles from the bushwhack point.

At 2.6-miles from the junction (4.1-miles from the PA), you will reach another large tributary. It will have a small open area, maybe with a campfire ring near it; if you’re unsure if it’s the correct stream, walk 100 years or so, and you’ll find another large stream entering the East Branch.

Chris at the Bushwhack point on a backpacking trip
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking [Chris at the Bushwhack point on a backpacking trip

Between these two streams is your bushwhack point up Rocky.

Bushwhack to Rocky’s Summit

The hike up the broad ridge of Rocky is generally SE. You may want to pick a point past the first stream where the grade is less steep. On the hill, you’ll find small rocky outcrops. Just below the summit cone, you may want to jog right to avoid some steep terrain or not!

From the Fisherman’s Path, it is about 0.7-miles to the summit (4.8-miles from the PA). Don’t forget to sign the summit log!

Chris on the summit of Rocky
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris on the summit of Rocky

The summit proper has no view but heading SE, one will find an area of blowdown which has opened vistas east to southeast. You’ll be able to see Balsam Cap and its prominent southern ridge and Ashokan High Point.

Balsam Cap from Rocky
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Balsam Cap from Rocky
The knob on the south ridge of Balsam Cap and Ashokan High Point
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The knob on the south ridge of Balsam Cap and Ashokan High Point
Ashokan High Point and Little Rocky
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Ashokan High Point and Little Rocky

Extending your trip

From the summit you can retrace your steps and enjoy the river again, something worth doing on hot days!

Having said that, it is common for hikers to head to Lone and then descend and return to the trailhead. One can head to Lone, then cross the col to Table. One may also attempt Balsam Cap from Rocky, but you’ll meet significant cliffs on the way. Many hikers opt to climb Balsam Cap and Friday together.


Slide Mountain Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
Location: Towns of Shandaken, Denning and Olive in Ulster County
Map: Slide Mountain Wilderness Map
Amenities:Food, gas, and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Phoenicia and Boiceville.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Boiceville, Mount Tremper, Phoenicia and Shandaken.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Mount Tremper, Oliverea, Phoenicia, Shandaken.
Weather:Slide Mountain Weather
Cell Service:Never count on your cell phone for rescue. Cell service in the Slide Mountain Wilderness is sparse and one may have problems gaining a signal.

Rocky Mountain Hiking Map

Click map or here for an interactive version of the map

Rocky Mountain hiking map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Rocky Mountain hiking map