Giant Ledge is one of the most popular destinations for day hikers in the Catskills. It is the turnaround point for many, but for others, they pass over it to get to Panther Mountain. Giant ledge offers some of the finest views from a cliff line, arguably the most stunning in these mountains. It is one of the Catskill 67. Please use caution when at the edge; one misstep would be your last.
Hike Length: 3.2-miles
Route Type: Out-and-Back
Total Ascent: 1000 feet
How Hard: Moderate
Your ascent from the parking area to Giant Ledge’s summit is just over 1000’ in 1.6-miles. This trail can be wet for much of its length, which means that microspikes are advised in the winter with little snow. Obviously, when the ground has sufficient snow cover, it makes an outstanding snowshoe outing.
Don’t be fooled by its 3,200 elevation, the summit of Giant Ledge will be battered by wind and snow squalls on many winter days, thus, increasing the risk for hypothermia and other cold-related injuries.
On the day we hiked Giant Ledge for this post, the temperature was in the mid-teens and sustained wind of 10-25 mph (wind chill 3 to -4 degrees) on the summit with snow squalls.
Please be prepared.
Related reading: The Physiology of Cold Weather Hiking in the Winter
Parking to Fox Hollow – Giant Ledge – Panther Trail junction
The parking area is on Ulster County Route 46 (Oliveira Road), 7.5-miles south of the junction with Route 28. There is enough parking for about 15+/- cars so get an early start, especially on weekends and holidays – even in winter.
The yellow-blazed Phoenicia East Branch Trail winds down the hairpin turn on the road and enters the woods across the road from the parking area. That’s where you’ll start your climb up Giant Ledge (0-miles).
The trail drops and crosses and wooden bridge and quickly reaches the trail register and kiosk from the road. Please take a moment to read the sign regarding the Slide Mountain Wilderness which you will be hiking in.
You’ll start by hiking mostly on the level with a stream downhill and your left, draining the slopes of the massive northwest ridge of Slide Mountain. Quickly the trail will drop to the stream and cross it on a large bridge. Notice the steel cables on the uphill side of the stream, probably to help the bridge resist being washed out in times of high water.
From the bridge, the trail will begin its climb to the col between Giant Ledge and Slide’s ridge. In winter, when the trees are bare, you’ll catch glimpses of your destination on your left. The trail will climb at varying grades in rocky terrain, which in low snow winters will have ice due to snowmelt and rain. You’d be wise to pack (and use) microspikes.
After 0.8-miles, you will reach the junction of the blue-blazed Fox Hollow-Panther-Giant Ledge Trail. You’ll take the blue trail to Giant Ledge.
Just a note, before the junction, on your right, you’ll notice an unmarked woods road that leads to the Winnisook Club and can be used to access the Slide Mountain trailhead. If the Giant Ledge parking area is full, parking at the Slide Mountain trailhead and using the connector trail could be an option.
The yellow trail continues 2.6-miles to Woodland Valley Campground. If you were to climb Giant Ledge from there, it would be the hardest approach (just an FYI for those of us who like such things).
Junction to Giant Ledge
You’ll be hiking in a delightful section of trail along a ridge that is very wet and icy from this junction. Mostly on the level, you’ll hike in a fairly stunted northern hardwood forest.
You’ll begin to enter a conifer forest similar to that found on the higher peaks as you start to climb on the summit. At about 2,900’ elevation, you will enter the first growth forest, which persists over Panther Mountain. You’ll pass a couple of designated campsites before you begin the last climb to Giant Ledge’s summit.
The last climb to the summit is steeper and works its way through rocky outcrops. Don’t forget to stop and look back as you’ll be able to see the summit of Slide, usually crowned in a bright white cap of ice and snow. After the short climb, you reach gradual grades on the summit ridge, and the trail will swing to the cliffs to several views and two more campsites.
The views from Giant Ledge are incredible.
Standing at the cliff looking down to Woodland Valley almost makes one feel as if they are flying. The distant view takes in Devil’s Path. Standing directly across the valley are Cornell and Wittenberg, Terrace Mountain, Cross Mountain, Mount Pleasant, and Romer Mountain leading to Phenciea. Looking north down the cliff line, you can see the summit of Panther and south the summit of Slide. One can also make out dozens of “lesser” peaks.
You’ll have traveled 0.8-miles from the junction and 1.6-miles from the trailhead.
Once you have taken in the views, you can continue to Panther or end your day and return to your car for a 3.2-miles out and back.
Dig deeper: The Slide Mountain Wilderness a Complete Guide
Trail map for Giant Ledge
|Slide Mountain Wilderness|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.|
Related reading on Giant Ledge
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, 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.