Please note changes in access and rules for hiking and camping in the Adirondacks and Catskills during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please act responsibly during this stressful period. Please read the DEC info carefully.
Average read time 13 min

Hunter Mountain is the second highest peak in the Catskills and the highest peak in New York with a Fire Tower. Hunter has a complex history as it was a center for logging with much, but not all of its slopes logged. There have been many fires on Hunter one as recent as 2019. The summit fire tower and other viewpoints along trails make Hunter a worthwhile peak to visit. Having said this, it is a popular mountain and many people hike and camp here, don’t expect solitude on Hunter.

Featured Photo: Conifers at the view near Becker Hollow. Above clockwise from top left: 3500′ sign on the Becker Hollow Trail; Bridge over Hunter Brook; Windham High Peak and Blackhead Range from fire Tower; Colonels Chair knob on Hunter from fire tower; SW Hunter from fire tower; Hunter Mountain Spur Trail approaching summit; Hunter Mountain Spur Trail; Kaaterskill High Peak and Roundtop from Hunter Mountain Spur Trail; View from Geiger Point during a snowstorm; Bridge near Diamond Notch Falls; Rusk Mountain from John Robb Lean-to; West Kill from John Robb lean-to; Hunter observer cabin in winter; Plateau Mountain from Hunter Mountain Spur Trail; John Robb Lean-to; Hunter Mountain fire tower.

Geeky Stuff

Elevation:4032′ (1229 m)
Lat/Lon:42° 10′ 40” N / 74° 13′ 49” W
Seasons:Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Activities:Hiking, Camping/backpacking, Cross-country skiing, Snowshoeing, Ice climbing (Stony Clove), Horseback riding (Diamond Notch and Spruceton Trails), Mountain Biking (Diamond Notch Trail)
Nearest higher neighbor:Slide Mountain SSW – 14.65 mi/23.57 km
Line parent:Slide Mountain SSW – 14.65 mi/23.57 km
Key-col:Highmount, NY 1900 ft/579 m
Prominence:2140 ft/652 m
Range:Catskill Mountains > Central Catskills
Land Unit:Rusk Mountain Wild Forest
Summit forest:Boreal
Maps and Guide:NY-NJTC Catskill Map Set
NY-NJTC Digital Trail Maps
ADK Catskill Trail Guide

The Dirt

The lands on Hunter Mountain are administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC works with numerous organizations to maintain the fire tower, trails, lean-tos, and campsites. In the Catskills, the maintenance is done by a volunteer force.

The summit of Hunter Mountain is technically in the Rusk Mountain Wild Forest. This is a land management designation for use and the fire tower. The adjacent Hunter-West Kill Mountain Area would seem more appropriate to house the summit of Hunter, but the land use would be more restrictive.

With that said we will treat the two areas as one on this page.

Hunter Mountain has 7 trails either alone or in combination to reach the summit. For the adventurous hiker there is a way to reach the summit without a trail.

History

As stated above Hunter has a rich history and is an important part of the Catskill experience. You can read our post on Hunter’s history “Hunter Mountain – Splintered, Burned, Battered but not Broken“.

Trail Approaches

Direct trailSpruceton Trail
Trails in combinationColonels Trail > Spruceton Trail

Becker Hollow Trail > Hunter Mountain Trail (return Devil’s Path)

Devil’s Path’s from Deep Notch > Hunter Mountain Trail (return Becker Hollow)

Spruceton Trail > Hunter Mountain Trail > Devil’s Path > Diamond Notch (north)

Diamond Notch (south) > Devil’s Path > Hunter Mountain Trail
Shortest approachColonels Trail > Spruceton Trail (seasonal and requires ski lift ride)
Easiest winter routeSpruceton trail
Hardest routeDiamond Notch (south from Lanesville) > Devil’s Path > Hunter Mountain Trail

From the Spruceton Valley

From the Spruceton Valley, you can hike from two trailheads. The two trailheads are found at the end of Spruceton Valley Road. On the Spruceton Trail, one can base camp at the John Robb Lean-to and hike Hunter and Rusk and Rusk’s east peak, a fine bushwhack. It makes for a nice weekend of peakbagging!

Spruceton Trail out-and-back

Spruceton Trail as an out-and-back will be a great hike for many, especially families with kids that wish to hike Hunter. The trail doubles as a horse trail. It is the only trail on Hunter that can be skied to the summit. One section would require an advanced skill level.

Distance:6.6-miles RTRoute type:Out-and-back
Total climb:1980′Hike type:Trail – Blue marked
How hard?Moderate-hardTrailhead:Spruceton Road

Trail and distances

Trailhead to bridge over Hunter Brook0.5-miles
Hunter Brook to Jones Gap1.2-miles (1.7-miles from TH)
Jones Gap to junction with Colonels Chair Trail0.66-miles (2.36-miles from TH)
Junction with Colonels Chair Trail to summit .95-miles (3.31-miles from TH)
Return to trailhead3.31-miles (total RT 6.62-miles)
Spruceton Trail Hunter Mountain
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Spruceton Trail Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain Loop from Spruceton Valley

Hiking the northern trailhead of the Diamond Notch Trail to Hunter is presented as a loop from the Spruceton Trail. In our opinion, if your goal is the fire tower go there first then return on Devil’s Path to the Diamond Notch Trail and back to your car. You’ll pass the John Robb Lean-to and primitive campsites at 2.2-miles on the Spruceton Trail with a great spring. Farther along the hike you reach the Devil’s Acres Lean-to at about the 5-mile point on the loop. There is good at-large camping nearby on the herd path to SW Hunter. Views from near the Becker Hollow junction and Geiger Point are outstanding. Any time of the year a visit to Diamond Notch Falls which is along the way is a treat.

Distance:8.0-milesRoute type:Loop
Total climb:2,229′ total on loopHike type:Trail
How hard?DifficultTrailhead:Spruceton Road

Trails and distances

Trailhead to bridge over Hunter Brook0.5-miles
Hunter Brook to Jones Gap1.2-miles (1.7-miles from TH)
Jones Gap to junction with Colonels Chair Trail0.66-miles (2.36-miles from TH)
Junction with Colonels Chair Trail to summit.95-miles (3.31-miles from TH)
Summit to Becker Hollow Trail junction0.30-miles (3.61-miles from TH)
Becker Hollow Trail junction to Junction with Devil’s Path1.30-miles (4.91-miles from TH)
Devil’s Path to Diamond Notch Trail/Falls2.10-miles (7.01-miles from TH)
Diamond Notch Trail to Spruceton Road0.7-miles (7.71-miles from TH)
Road walk back to parking area0.32-miles (8.03-miles total)
Spruceton Valley Hunter Mountain Loop
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Spruceton Valley Hunter Mountain Loop

From Stony Clove

Both approaches from Stony Clove are steep with significant vertical gain to reach the summit. The Becker Hollow Trail is the steepest trail on the mountain. Devil’s Path is full of history as you’ll climb through the Devil’s Portal and if you wish, try to find the Devil’s Pulpit. If day hiking Hunter from Stony Clove, in our opinion, the best way to experience this is to do a loop using the Becker Hollow Trail, Hunter Mountain Trail, and Devil’s Path with a road walk back to your car. One could add an overnight at the Devil’s Acres Lean-to.

You can read about it here.

Hunter Mountain Loop from Stony Clove
Distance:7.4-milesRoute type:Loop
Total climb:2476′ on loopHike type:Trails/road walk
How hard?DifficultTrailhead:Becker Hollow

Trails and distances

Becker Hollow Trailhead to Bridge0.3-miles
Bridge to concrete dam0.1-miles (0.4-miles from TH)
Concrete dam to 3500′ contour1.4-miles (1.8-miles from TH)
3500′ contour to Hunter Mtn Spur Trail0.1-miles (1.9-miles from TH)
Hunter Mtn Spur Trail to Summit0.3-miles (2.2-miles from TH)
Summit to junction with Becker Hollow trail on the Hunter Mountain Trail0.3-miles (2.5-miles from TH)
Becker Hollow junction to Devil’s Path Junction1.3-miles (3.8-miles from TH)
Devil’s Path junction to Notch Lake in Stony Clove2-miles (5.8-miles from TH)
Road walk from Notch Lake to Becker Hollow TH1.6-miles (7.4-miles on loop)
Stony Clove Hunter Mountain Loop
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Stony Clove Hunter Mountain Loop

From Lanesville

The start from Lanesville is at the southern trailhead for the Diamond Notch Trail off Diamond Notch Road. The last 0.2-miles of the drive to the parking area is wild on a single lane rutted dirt access road that at times runs next to and above Hollow Tree Brook. Cars with low clearance may want to avoid this trailhead. Do not park on the road.

Hunter from the Diamond Notch Trail from Lanesville

Lanesville is not a usual starting point to climb Hunter but it has its merits. Starting at the southern trailhead for the Diamond Notch Trail, one climbs the notch and can get unique views back to the southern Catskills. You also pass the Diamond Notch lean-to which can make a nice base camp for hiking in the area providing access to SW Hunter, West Kill, and Hunter. It is one of the longer routes and you’ll climb 1000′ into the notch and drop about 400′ to Diamond Notch Falls and Devil’s Path. The Diamond Notch Trail also doubles as a primitive mountain biking trail.

Distance:12-miles RTRoute type:Out-and-back
Total climb:3584′ RTHike type:Trails
How hard?DifficultTrailhead:Lanesville on Diamond Notch Road

Trails and distances

Trailhead to bridge over Hollow Tree Brook.0.15-miles
Bridge to Spring0.95-miles (1.1-miles from TH)
Spring to Diamond Notch Lean-to0.7-miles (1.8-miles from TH)
Lean-to to Devil’s Path & Falls0.7-miles (2.5-miles from TH)
Diamond Notch Falls on Devil’s Path to Geiger Point1.5-miles (4-miles from TH)
Geiger Point to Devil’s Acres Lean-to0.5-miles (4.5-miles from TH) and from lean-to another 300′ to junction with Hunter Mountain Trail
Hunter Mountain Trail to Becker Hollow Trail1.35-miles (5.85-miles from the TH)
From Becker Hollow Trail cont on the Hunter Mountain Trail to summit 0.3-miles (6.0-miles from TH)
Summit back to Parking6.0-miles (12-miles total)
directions_bike

Diamond Notch Primitive Bicycle Corridor

The Diamond Notch Primitive Bicycle Corridor traverses the Hunter – West Kill Wilderness. It is located in the Town of Hunter, Greene County, and is about 3 miles long and 100 feet wide. It is approximately 36 acres. The Diamond Notch Foot Trail is located within the corridor and from the south connects the Diamond Notch Road in Lanesville to the Spruceton Road to the north.
There is parking at both the north and the south terminus of the trail.

Hunter Mountain from Lanesville
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Hunter Mountain from Lanesville

From the Hunter Ski Center

The Colonels Chair Trail

The Colonels Chair Trail is one of the most unusual and costly trails on Hunter. It comes the closest to a motorized ascent of any Catskill High Peak by taking the Kaaterskill Flyer lift. Although lifting you up to the Colonel’s Chair and upper lodge at the Hunter Ski Center, you’ll still face a stiff climb to the summit. The knob and trail were named in honor of Colonel William Edwards an early tanner in the area who ran logging operations on Hunter. The views on the lift and from the 3200′ knob are outstanding! This option is only available May through October, CALL the Hunter Ski Center for specifics.

Distance:4-miles RTRoute type:Out-and-back
Total climb:902′Hike type:Ski lift and Trails
How hard?ModerateTrailhead:Top of Colonels Chair
Top ski lift to Spruceton Trail1.01-miles
Junction with Spruceton Trail and Colonels Trail to Summit0.95-miles (1.96-miles to Summit)
Summit back to ski lift1.96-miles (3.92-miles RT)
Colonels Chair Trail to Hunter Mountain
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Colonels Chair Trail to Hunter Mountain

Camping

Closest camping
John Robb Lean-toSpruceton Trail 2.2-miles from the TH. Short spur trail lead downhill to lean-to.
2 primitive campsitesSpruceton Trail (adjacent to John Robb Lean-to)
Devil’s Acres Lean-toDevil’s Path 0.10-miles west of the Hunter Mountain Trail junction
Diamond Notch Lean-toDiamond Notch Trail about 0.4-miles south of Diamond Notch Falls
Devil’s Tombstone State CampgroundOn RT 214 in Stony Clove

Camping at the lean-to is first come first serve and no lean-to or designated campsite can be reserved. Lean-to capacity is about 7-8 people. All designated primitive tent sites have yellow and black “Camp Here” markers. Many sites on lakes and ponds are identified by a yellow number against a dark brown wooden plaque typically attached to a tree near the water’s edge.

At-large backcountry camping is also allowed. Campsites must be below 3,500 feet in elevation and at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water.

Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Safety and Wellness

Please sign in at all trail registers, here’s why.

Bears

There are an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 black bears in the Catskills. The following are the recommendations from the DEC on bear management:

  • Use bear-resistant food canisters. These are a highly effective means for preventing bears from getting your food, toiletries, and garbage. Use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry, and are required in Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park.
  • Pack a minimal amount of food. The less food to store the better. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods.
  • Cook and eat before dark. Bears become more active after sunset.
  • Cook away from your campsite. Choose an area at least 100 feet away from your sleeping area.
  • Be neat and clean while cooking. Avoid spills and drippings. Do not pour grease into your fire pit.
  • Keep food in storage containers. Only take out the food you plan to cook. Keep containers nearby and store food immediately if a bear approaches your cooking area.
  • Avoid leftovers. Carefully plan your meals and eat all that you cook.
  • Never leave food unattended. Bears may watch from a distance waiting for opportunities to steal food.

DEC Fact Sheet on Bear Encounters (PDF)

If You Encounter a Bear at Your Campsite

Do:

  • Use noise to scare bears away: Yell, clap, or bang pots immediately upon sighting a bear near your campsite.
  • Stay calm: Walk slowly and speak in a loud and calm voice.
  • Leave slowly: Cautiously back away from the bear and leave the area.

Don’t:

  • Approach, surround, or corner a bear: Bears aggressively defend themselves when they feel threatened. Be especially cautious around cubs as mother bears are very protective.
  • Run from a bear: They may chase.
  • Throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear: This will only encourage bears to approach and “bully” people to get food. By teaching a bear to approach humans for food, you are endangering yourself, other campers/residents, and the bears.

A note on water

Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets, or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.

Contact

Hunter-West Kill Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Email: r4.ump@dec.ny.gov
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.
WeatherHunter Mountain Weather