There are some renowned hikes in the Catskills and this is one of them. The bulk of the Blackhead Mountains consists of four peaks over. Blackhead, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole all reach almost the 4,000-foot mark. Although not considered a peak (in my opinion it is), Camel’s Hump eclipses 3,500 feet. All peaks are great destinations and have superb features along the way.
The range can be climbed from the north or south at the Escarpment Trail junction at the summit of Blackhead or the Black Dome Trail or as we did on this day from the west via the Barnum Road trailhead.
From the parking area, you will walk through a gate, your path following red markers will be on the level but will be traversing private land. After a short walk the trail will turn left (north) and you will arrive at the trail register at 0.4 miles. Please sign-in here – read why.
From the register, you will straddle the state land boundary for a bit and begin to ascend the ridge toward Caudal. You will switchback up the ridge and reach a large rock wall which you will climb up and over boulders to get up on top.
Once on top, you will be rewarded with your first views of the day. From the view ledge off the trail walk 50 feet or so east and you’ll find an excellent ledge. You will have traveled about 1.o mile. As you approach this point in the trail keep in mind that you are in or are entering first growth forest and will be in it all the way to the summit of Black Dome.
After the ledge, the trail will climb to a high point at about 1.3 miles and level on the shoulder of Caudal (you will not cross the top of Caudal). You will descend into thebetween Caudal and Camel’s Hump and walk on a pretty footpath for a bit.
After moderate climbing, you will reach the open summit of Camel’s Hump at 2.0 miles. Views can be had in all directions from different viewpoints. Stand-up views of Thomas Cole and views of Eastern Devil’s Path and Katterskill High Peak and Roundtop via a short path to the right (east) of the trail.
From the large summit ledge, the views northeast to the west are outstanding.
Once you leave Camel’s Hump you will make the quick descent to the high elevation col leading to Thomas Cole Mountain. You will enter a Beech Flat that has been growing in over the years. Having said that, at many points you will enjoy the view of Thomas Cole looming above. This is a section of trail to enjoy at any time of the year.
At about 2.4 miles the trail will start its climb up the west ridge of Thomas Cole. As you begin to climb you’ll notice the change in the forest to mainly spruce / fir. The smell of the forest permeates one’s senses. In warm weather the coolness of the conifers provide a nice break from the openness of the Beech Flat below.
After some moderate climbing, you will reach as side path with views back toward Camel’s Hump and you will pass below the true summit of Thomas Cole Mountain at about 2.9 miles.
The trail over Thomas Cole stays relatively flat with occasional herd paths. Do not follow them as they simply run out to dead ends. You will make a quick drop into the col between Thomas Cole and Black Dome which is reached at 3.3 miles. The col is a high elevation (3550′) narrow strip of land which is quite attractive. In the winter the views south are nice. With some poking around one can find some limited views when the trees are leafed out, but keep hiking the best is yet to come.
After crossing the col you will climb moderate to steep inclines to the summit of Black Dome finding a viewing ledge on your right (south). You’ll have traveled 3.7 miles from the trailhead and your elevation will be 3,980′. The views from this ledge have grown in some over the years but even today offer some inspired gazing.
You hike is half done if you have not spotted a car at the Black Dome trailhead retrace your steps the 3.7 miles back to your car. Don’t forget to enjoy all the views again!