A fun bushwhack in first-growth forest to a Catskill 67 peak
The Sleeping Lion is a 3391’ (3408’ referenced by some) peak northeast of Halcott Mountain in the Central Catskills. It is also known as Northeast Halcott, but that’s boring, so we’ll use Sleeping Lion. The peak is one of the Catskill 67, and it towers over Deep Notch. On its southeastern face are some “minor” but impressive cliffs that ice climbers use for mostly practice. The peak can be hiked from Deep Notch from RT 42 at the traditional Halcott Mountain bushwhack parking area or a parking area on Beech Ridge Rd. One could hike Halcott, a Catskill 3500 peak, and Sleeping Lion together, knocking off two of the Catskill 100. Another option is camping at the Halcott Camp Lean-to in Turk Hollow.
We hiked Sleeping Lion in the Halcott Mountain Wild Forest from Condon Hollow Rd with a descent on its long northeast ridge, which parallels RT 42 with a road walk on South Beech Ridge Rd back to the car. This makes for about a 5.5-mile loop and 1550’ climb to the summit (including the bumps) plus an additional 350’ climbing on the road for a total of 1900’. On this hike, the northwest ridge over the summit and down the northeast ridge of Sleeping Lion is still in first growth, generally above 3000’. In fact, at about 2800’ on the northeast ridge, we found an old logging road that you can follow all the way down the ridgeline.
From Parking to the Condon-Turk Hollow Pass
Condon Hollow Road is a dead-end road that has a parking area on the right about 0.40-miles from Beech Ridge Rd.
The parking area has enough room for about 4-5 cars.
Heading southwest on the road you’ll pass two homes and quickly reach the dead-end where the old turnpike continues.
Chris and I continued on this old road which was quite wet but scenic as it followed an unnamed stream (we’ll call it Condon Hollow Kill). The Condon Hollow Kill cascades down the glen with some nice places for pictures.
Map and Trail discrepancies?
As we ascended the glen, the road swang right heading NNW, and the grade lessened. We realized that with this turn that the road we were on was not the one on the NYNJTC map but rather one that is on a USGS map. The DEC says this is yellow-marked (on its Halcott Mtn page), but we must have missed the markers unless one considers yellow land boundary blazing markers? On the Caltopo map, we have made the supposed route shown on the NYNJTC map shown in green, and the old DEC turnpike we walked is yellow. Use the old turnpike. See the NYSDEC map here.
Back to hiking…
After several minutes of walking on the level, we decided to bushwhack from the old turnpike directly to the pass. After about 15-minutes of steep uphill hiking, we found the top of the turnpike just below where it enters the pass.
At the wide pass, you’ll be at about 2870’, having climbed 870’ from the parking area. It is about 1-mile from the parking area to the pass.
Condon-Turk Hollow Pass to Sleeping Lion Summit
From the pass, it is only about 1.6-miles to the summit. However, it is not as easy as it appears. First, you will climb and descend over three “sub summits” on the ridge before reaching the Sleeping Lion Summit. Second, at points, the undergrowth is full of brambles which in season makes for slower progress. Below 3,000’ elevation, you’ll notice human disruption in the forest: old roads, stumps from logging, and rock walls.
If you’re looking for views, you have come to the wrong mountain. In season, there are none. When the trees are bare, best-seen peaks include South Vly, Halcott, and Belleayre with it’s ski slopes.
As you climb the ridge, remember two things, (1) always work your way uphill, (2) the ridge will dogleg left once you reach the top of the first bump.
On this ridge, you’ll notice that at about 3000’ elevation, there will be an absence of cut stumps. You have entered the first growth forest and will remain in it until you climb off the northeast ridge.
The observant hiker will see the beauty in this hardwood forest in the form of spring flowers, at point stunted and warped trees, and more. Wildlife is abundant.
On your way to the summit, you’ll climb through some minor but interesting rock outcrops.
You will reach the summit without fanfare. It is viewless and as we arrived marked with a small cairn. It is a nice place to sit and take in the high-elevation forest. Unlike many other Catskill High Peaks, this one and its taller neighbor Halcott do not support a subalpine forest community. You’ll find no spruce, fir, or white birch here.
Summit to South Beech Ridge Rd
If you have two cars, you could spot one on RT 42 and hike across to Halcott. We chose to explore the massive northeast ridge on Sleeping Lion. The ridge runs from the summit almost down to the junction where RT 42 passes West Kill. The east face of the ridge dropping into Deep Notch has impressive cliffs used by ice climbers. It has many good spots for top-roping and honing techniques.
Leaving the summit, you may wish to drop off a bit ESE to avoid a headwall. When you reach the ridge’s spine, turn to the northeast and follow the ridge down. Stay on the high ground and avoid “wandering off” the ridge into the ravines. You’ll have about 1.5-miles to the road and descending about 1700’.
When the trees are bare, you’ll get distant views of various peaks in the Northern Catskills.
On the descent, you’ll reach some nice rocky outcrops to explore—one with a small overhang that could act as a shelter.
In spring, you’ll find False Hellebore (Veratrum viride) in wet areas. In fact, we referred to them as groves as they were so extensive and vibrant green in an otherwise still brown forest.
At about 2800’ elevation, you may come across an old logging road, and when you do, you can follow this all the way down the ridge.
You’ll know you won’t be too far from the road when you reach an extensive hemlock grove.
You’ll need to cross the stream to avoid private land before you reach the road. We opted to cross the creek at about 1900’ feet elevation. As you get closer to the street, the stream bank becomes steeper and deeper.
The walking on the west side of the steam is open and easy, but you’ll still drop 100’ or so depending on where you cross. Once you reach the road, turn left and head back to Condon Hollow Road.
Return to Condon Hollow Road
The mileage back to the parking area is about 1.2-miles with 350’ of climbing and 90’ of descent. Take your time and look back at the Spruceton Valley with the Lexington Range, Hunter, SW Hunter, West Kill, and check out the summit and ridge of Sleeping Lion. In many ways, the road walk is an enjoyable part of this hike as it gives you outstanding views.
DEC contact and other information
|Halcott Mountain Wild Forest|
|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:||Towns of Lexington and Halcott, Greene County|
|Map:||Halcott Mountain Wild Forest Map|
|Amenities:||Lodging and dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the communities of Margaretville, Prattsville and Windham.|
|Weather:||Halcott Mountain Weather|
|Cell Service:||Never count on your cell phone for rescue. We have generally found cell service to be okay in this area. Ravines may be a problem.|
Map of Sleeping Lion Hike
Click map or here for an interactive version of the map
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.