Lean-tos in the Hunter – West Kill Wilderness and Rusk Mountain Wild Forest are included in this description. These lean-tos make for a great overnight or weekend-long outings to explore the surrounding area. They are also located close enough to trailheads to make for a nice first camping experience. Beware that these are popular lean-tos especially on the weekends and holidays. One can find tent spots near each one.
There are three lean-tos in the area and all have merit. If you are new to lean-to camping it may be worth reading our post on using backcountry shelters.
Hunter is a busy place for hiking and camping
As mentioned above, the lean-tos in this post are heavily used. There are many lean-tos and primitive campsites in the Catskills which you can see here and you can create a “plan B” if you find trailheads full and suspect your intended campsite is taken.
Diamond Notch lean-to
The Diamond Notch lean-to is located with-in the Hunter – West Kill Wilderness area and is the only lean-to in this area that is in first growth forest. The lean-to is in excellent condition as it was rehabilitated in June 2010. It has a privy and firepit.
It rests with its rear to the trail and open side looking at the steep ridge of Southwest Hunter. It is situated about 100-150’ off the trail from which it can be seen.
There are no designated campsites here and it is hard to find a place to pitch a tent given the notch’s width and any potential distance to the trail (150-foot rule).
Even though there is water in the area, there may be no water at the lean-to itself. So, fill up lower down if you need water.
The lean-to is many times quiet. However, like all the lean-tos in this area, you cannot count on space during busy periods.
The lean-to can be accessed via the Diamond Notch Trail from the north or south. If you are hiking on Devil’s Path it is about 0.4-miles from the junction with the Diamond Notch Trail at the Falls with a climb of about 400’. From the north on Spruceton Road, the distance in is about 1.24-miles and a climb 515’ from the trailhead.
From the south trailhead, it is about a 1.6-mile hike past some nice views back to the southern Catskills.
From the south, you will climb to the height of land in the notch and then lose a bit of elevation before reaching the lean-to. You’ll have climbed about 1,000’ from the trailhead.
This can be a base for bushwhacking Southwest Hunter Mountain via its west ridge.
John Robb Lean-to
The John Robb lean-to is located off the Spruceton Trail. It is relatively new and it replaces the original lean-to (burned in 2005) which was located directly off the Spruceton Trail not far from its current location. This current lean-to was constructed in 2009 and is in excellent condition. It has a privy and firepit.
As one ascends along the Spruceton Trail the yellow marked trail to the lean-to is found at about 2.4-miles from the start. The path to the lean-to drops through rock formations known as the “Cats Elbow” (personal communication; Gordon Hoekstra).
The lean-to sits above a rock ledge with wonderful views of the Valley. One can see the fire tower, Hunter’s west ridge, and the Spruceton Valley from this ledge.
The distance from the trail makes this location more private than the other two lean-tos in the area. Having said that, it can be busy and the view attracts hikers. Additionally, there are two designed campsites just above the lean-to.
The lean-to is located near one of the best springs in these mountains. Water supply is good.
The easiest approach to the lean-to is from the Spruceton Trail parking area off Spruceton Road. One can also hike from Devil’s Path or Becker Hollow, this requires hiking the Spruceton Trail from Hunter’s summit.
From July to Columbus Day, a novel approach is taking the Hunter ski Sky Ride to the Colonel’s Chair trail and hike the 1.1-miles to the Spruceton Trail. This requires a 530’ climb. You should call Hunter Mountain Ski and make sure the lift is open, what the fees are, and what hours are available. Weather will close the lift.
Like the Devil’s Acres lean-to (below) it is a prime camping spot to hike Hunter Mountain. One can also use this a base to hike Rusk/East Rusk.
Devil’s Acres lean-to
The Devil’s Acres lean-to is the oldest of the area’s shelters. It is situated on a plateau near the Hunter Mountain trail Junction on Devil’s Path. This area was heavily logged and burned directly above the lean-to. This can be seen best from the view point near the Becker Hollow junction as there is a large area of White Birch. This extends to the lean-to.
The lean-to has a firepit but NO privy. The lean-to is old and is in good condition. It had a new roof installed in 2015 which will certainly add years to its serviceability.
Don’t expect privacy or space at this shelter. It receives a fair amount of use, especially on weekends in season. The shelter is directly off the trail (a few yards) and the front of the lean-to faces the trail. The interior of the lean-to is subject to the view of all hikers who walk past it.
There are no designated campsites in the area. However, there are some nice spots for at-large camping along the herd path to Southwest Hunter which is about 0.2-miles west on Devil’s Path.
Water is available in a ground spring about 0.1-mile west from the shelter on Devil’s Path which may dry up in arid conditions.
The approach for the lean-to is along Devil’s Path either from Spruceton Valley (3.11-miles) or Stony Clove (2.1-miles). The climb from Stony Clove initially involves very steep terrain.
The shelter is a great base for hiking Southwest Hunter and Hunter.
Maps of lean-tos at Hunter Mountain
Click the map or here for an interactive version.
|Hunter-West Kill Wilderness|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Backcountry Emergency: (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): 518-408-5850 or dial 911
|Location:||Town of Lexington and Hunter, Greene County and the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County|
|Map:||View Hunter-West Kill Wilderness/Rusk Mountain Wild Forest Map|
|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.|
|Weather||Hunter Mountain Weather|
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and exploring the wilds of the Catskills and Adirondacks in New York. A Catskill 3500 Club Member and Adirondack Forty-Sixer. Climbed Mount Rainier. Professionally an Exercise Physiologist.