Black Dome Mountain – Big Brother of the Blackhead Range

Blackhead Range from Windham High Peak
Average read time 3 min

Like most big brothers they always seem to be just a few inches taller than the rest of us. Black Dome is the loftiest peak in the Blackhead Range but only by about 40 feet and is third highest in the Catskills. Black Dome provides the hiker with excellent vistas from the east and south. No view exists from the northern edge of its summit.

There are several approaches to Black Dome, one from Big Hollow Road and the second from Elmer Barnum Road over the peaks of Caudal, Camels Hump and finally summiting Thomas Cole Mountain before reaching Black Dome. Others include a side trip from the Escarpment Trail (north or south) or day hike over Blackhead from Big Hollow Road. The direct trail from Big Hollow Road provides the hiker with the least distance and climbing.

Windham – Blackhead Range Wilderness

The Blackhead Range, including Black Dome, is part of the Windham – Blackhead Range Wilderness. This wilderness area consists of 18,000 acres and is home to four 3,500 foot peaks and 9 additional peaks over 3,000 feet in elevation. This area provides wonderful day hiking and with two lean-tos, designated campsites, and a large state run campground which provides for a splendid backpacking.

Black Dome stands almost 2000 feet above the Black Dome Valley which sits to its north and south of the mountain is the East Kill Valley with Lakes Colgate and Capra shining in the midday sun. Along this distinctive mountain range there is a fairly large section of old growth. With the excellent views, this area is among the finest in the Catskill Mountains.

Backpacker Magazine describes the Range this way when hiking the Escarpment Trail

“Then there’s the irresistible temptation to sidetrack across the Blackhead Mountains to summit Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountain.”

Nothing’s permanent

The passing of years gives us a perspective on how nothing is permanent; the town of Maplecrest was originally named Big Hollow in 1794 and was a small community which was an industrious place for tanning, lumbering, and rock quarries. The name of Maple Crest was adopted in 1921 because of the large maple trees that dotted the landscape and lined Main Street.

Old Dam and Spillway for Logging Operations
Old Dam and Spillway for Logging Operations

In the Black Dome and the East Kill Valleys the high-quality hemlock growth in the forests, like many others in the Catskills, were heavily logged. The bark with its high concentration of tannin was a prized part of this endeavor and was critical for tanning leather. Catskill tanneries supplied most of the saddles used in the Civil War and Greene County provided the most leather in New York. The trees left behind were used for furniture and construction. Mountain farmers were able to purchase cleared land for about fifty cents an acre. Fortunately, the forests have returned to woodlands which the hiker can enjoy.

In the past as one drove up the Black Dome Valley they would come across abandon buildings of The Sugar Maples, a bygone resort of this once busy area. The resort was very popular from 1925 to 1960. It had hundreds of summer visitors. However, like many resorts in the Catskills, it was to close and fell into disrepair. Fortunately the Catskill Center Foundation acquired the 22 buildings and 30 acres of this forgotten holiday spot. The Foundation has renovated many of the existing structures to contain art studio facilities for ceramics, gallery space, living and dining accommodations. Without doubt a place worth visiting while you’re in the area.

Once the highest in the Catskill’s

In the mid-1800’s High Peak was thought to be the highest peak in the Catskills. When Guyot explored the Blackhead Range he found them to be superior. He measured Black Dome at 4003 feet. These peaks were at least for a short time measured as the highest in the mountains until Hunter was measured. Guyot’s assistant, Henry Kimball, guided him up Hunter Mountain in 1850 and they measured it at 4,038 feet. Hunter was at this point the highest measured peak in the Catskills. Nevertheless, the hotel owners still denied it. It was not until Guyot was sixty in 1872 that he made the measurement of Slide Mountain determining it to be the monarch of the Catskills that some began to take notice.

In the winter this peak is splendid. With cold clear days, the view seems endless. With its short distance from the trailhead makes this a good winter day hike. Its southern views on sunny days will warm the hiker. Do not attempt this mountain without snowshoes and possibly crampons. The east side of Black Dome requires care.