Catskill’s Best: Giant Ledge in the Winter

Chris on Giant Ledge in Winter
Average read time 7 min

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.

Giant Ledge Parking Area Sign
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Giant Ledge Trailhead/Parking Area Sign
Giant Ledge Parking Area
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Giant Ledge Parking area on a quiet midweek day

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.

Signage entering the Slide Mountain Wilderness at Giant Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Signage entering the Slide Mountain Wilderness at Giant Ledge

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.

Bridge over a stream draining one of Slide Mountain's ridges
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Bridge over a stream draining one of Slide Mountain ridges

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.

Chris climbing a section of iced over rock
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris climbing a section of iced over rock

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).

Sign at junction to Giant Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign at junction to Giant Ledge and Panther

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.

Hiking along the ridge on Giant Ledge.
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Hiking along the ridge on Giant Ledge. Notice the height of the trees

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.

Designated campsite on the way up Giant Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Designated campsite on the way up Giant Ledge

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.

Panorama from Giant Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Panorama from Giant Ledge (click to enlarge)
Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains from Giant Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains from Giant Ledge
A peek at the Summit of Slide
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking A peek at the Summit of Slide

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

Giant Ledge trail map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Giant Ledge trail map (click to visit map online)
Slide Mountain Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
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.
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