There are many ways up the Catskill’s second-highest summit. Ranging from moderate to difficult makes reaching the fire tower views doable for most people. With a horse trail and handicap ramp for mounting and dismounting, it gives the trip another dimension. Even though this writer has read criticism in forums about the safety for horses on the steeper sections of the trail, it does offer an opportunity that no other high peak in New York does.
Hunter is a complete hikers mountain. With good loop hikes, lean-tos and designated campsites, varied trails, many views, and some special features such as taking the Hunter Ski Sky Lift to the Colonels Chair Trail. It has something for everyone.
Arguably the hardest trail on the mountain is the Becker Hollow Trail which climbs 2220′ in 2.05 miles to the summit. This makes this one of the steepest in the Catskills with an average grade of 20.5%. Also, given you really don’t do much climbing for about a half a mile at the start, most of that 2220′ is done in 1.5 miles, a real thigh buster. When combined with a descent along Devil’s Path and walk back to your car, this loop makes a great 8-mile outing. This is the route we did on a beautiful October day.
Becker Hollow to Hunter Mountain Spur Trail and Summit
Becker Hollow starts from route 214 on the north side of Stony Clove. The trail begins at a stone archway entering the woods on the level. Unfortunately, the first part of this hike is littered with old refuse taking away from the beauty of this place. After a short distance, you’ll hear a stream on your right which you will cross over on a small bridge. Not far upstream is an old dam and spillway. Stop for a moment and explore this area.
The trail will continue on the level but will begin climbing soon. The trail is now climbing at easy to moderate grades with a stream to your left. As you climb the trail pulls away from the stream and rises above it. At about 2900-3000′ you’ll notice a small headwall and the stream will have run-out. The valley to your left narrows as you climb.
At the 3000′ mark on the Becker Hollow Trail you’ll be entering a belt of first growth forest that extends to the 3500′ mark. This belt extends south to and beyond Devil’s Path. According to Micheal Kudish, “It is one continuous tract, two and one-quarter miles long, by an average of one-third of a mile wide, and totaling about 475 acres.”
Not too far below the 3500′ mark, the grade steepens. At this point, depending on the time of year, turn around from time to time, catch your breath, and watch the views behind you.
Not too far above the 3500′ mark, you’ll reach the yellow marked connector trail to the summit. There is a good pipe fed spring up this trail. This provides a nice walk to the summit. If you take this route look for an erratic on the east side of the trail and climb it for a framed view of Plateau Mountain. As the trail ascends it will climb into the dense band of Balsam Fir that circles Hunters Summit. It’s a beautiful walk. Upon reaching the summit clearing you will be right below the fire tower.
On this day we had the summit to ourselves until we were almost ready to leave. This is the perks of hiking Hunter on a weekday. On weekends or holidays, you can expect to share this place with dozens of other visitors. Most likely the fire tower will be locked on these “off” days, but you can climb up to the cab and gain the great views. If you want to gain access to the cab you’ll need to call the Catskill Center and find out when an interpreter will be there.
Hunter Mountain’s Summit to Devil’s Path
The connector trail from the summit to Devil’s Path is delightful. Much of it stays in Balsam Fir and in the winter is outstanding. On the level to the Becker Hollow Trail junction, you will find a side trail on your right (west) which leads to a fine viewing ledge. The views have closed in over the years but are still beautiful. Southwest Hunter and West Kill Mountain standing right in front of you. You can make out the Lexington Range to the west and the most western peaks of the Devil’s Path Range beyond West Kill. On the horizon, you can make out most of the southern high peaks. This is a place to escape the crowds of the summit and enjoy the wilderness feel that Hunter has to offer.
Back on the trailhead to Devil’s Path, you’ll soon begin to drop. The 1.7-mile trip will bring you just a few hundred feet of the Devil’s Acres Lean-to. It’s worth the trip if there is nobody occupying it. At this point, you will have left the summit fir behind and be in a high elevation deciduous forest. Much of Hunter was logged extensively and is in second or third growth. Along with extensive logging, there have been many burns in this area. When you sit at the lean-to you will be sitting in one area that burnt. If you were at the viewing ledge at the Becker Hollow Trail junction you would have been looking down on the burn area which is noted by an extensive area of Paper Birch.
Devil’s Path to Stony Clove and the Road
This section of Devil’s Path begins as a pleasant walk but becomes more rugged and steep as you get closer to the road. When the leaves are down view of the surrounding mountains can be seen. In summer one may find cool shade and water along this segment of an otherwise arid Devil’s Path. The footpath begins to switchback through rocky outcrops and small cliffs. This place is known as The Devil’s Portal. In winter many of these are filled with ice and snow requiring mountaineering snowshoes and probably crampons to safely traverse the terrain.
Upon reaching the road you will see Notch Lake and cross part of a small day-use area. The Devil’s Tombstone Campground is a short walk down the road to your right. Directly across the road, Devil’s Path reenters the woods to ascend the eastern part of the trail. Turning left (north) and walking the last leg back to your car through Stony Clove is a fine walk as you’ll get a great view (best with the leaves down) of the cliffs on both sides of the notch which becomes an ice climbers playground in the winter.
Trail map for Hunter Mountain via Becker Hollow
Click map for an interactive version of this map or here
|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|
Posts done in collaboration by Chris and Scott