Rugged and remote, it’s full of history for explorers
The Indian Head Wilderness contains 11,500-acres of land and is home to the eastern section of Devil’s Path. Abutting the Catskill escarpment on the east and Stony Clove on the west, it is home to 4 major peaks with trails including Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf, and Plateau. Additionally, three trailless peaks, Plattekill at 3100′, Little Rocky at 3060′, and Olderbark at 3448′. This wilderness unit offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the Catskills, but also the most rugged as one must climb on Devil’s Path to get to many of the vistas! Vigorous day hikes, mountainous backpacking, or short overnights await the outdoor enthusiast in the Indian Head Wilderness.
Trails in the Indian Head Wilderness
The Devil’s Path traverse is one of the most sought-after hikes in New York. It has the reputation of being brutal and thrilling along its 25 miles. The eastern end is especially difficult with relatively short and steep drops into cols between mountains with equally steep ascents to the next peak. You’ll ledge climb a lot with sections that could be considered a class 3-4 climb!
The eastern section of Devil’s Path crosses the summits of Indian Head, Twin and its lower summit, Sugarloaf, and Plateau. This section of Devil’s Path was built between 1929 to Mink Hollow and finished over Plateau by 1934.
The east section accounts for about 14-miles of the 25-miles total and includes about 4675′ of climbing and 4725′ of descent between Prediger Road and Stony Clove.
Many people day hike one or two peaks others attempt the entire traverse! Be forewarned, this trail is very hard to backpack. Fitness and experience are critical when attempting Devil’s Path.
Warner Creek Trail
(3.0 miles, blue markers) Phoenicia Trail Trailhead
The Warner Creek Trail provides southern access to Plateau Mountain and leaves you about 0.55-miles west of the summit. The start of the trail is technically in the col between Plateau and Silver Hollow Peak. You have a 0.5-mile walk on an old road to the height of land before picking up the trail. It’s a beautiful route and with a long road walk can make a nice loop hike taking Devil’s Path back to Stony Clove and a return road walk to the start.
The trail is well graded with some steeper sections. It provides a wilderness feel in a hemlock forest. The views are nice and plentiful on this trail.
Mink Hollow Trail
The Mink Hollow Trail is an old turnpike made trail. It crosses Devil’s path between Sugarloaf and Plateau Mountains. There are only two other spots where this happens, the Overlook Trail and Diamond Notch Trail. When used as a turnpike it provided a road for shippers to haul hides from the Hudson River to the tanneries in the Schoharie Valley. As other roads became improved the route was abandon in about 1823.
On the north side of Devil’s Path, the trail was rerouted away from the old road in order for it to end at the Roaring Kill trailhead. The trail will now dogleg and follow Devil’s Path in the col before turning down toward the Roaring Kill trailhead. Thus, the north side is now a footpath. The original route ended at Mink Hollow Road near Elka Park.
The trail has some steep climbing on both sides of the col. There is a lean-to and a designated campsite on the south side of the notch for people camping on Devil’s Path. There are two springs one on the north side of the notch and one on the shoulder of Plateau Mountain.
From the col, the climb up either Sugarloaf or Plateau Mountains is the steepest with the most vertical ascent (1200’+) in this section of Devil’s Path. This is the most dangerous section of the trail. It can be extremely windy as the wind channels through the narrow space between these two peaks.
Pecoy Notch Trail (1.8 miles, blue markers) Roaring Kill Parking Lot
Pecoy Notch Trail is one of the more interesting access trails which takes you to the col (Pecoy Notch) between Twin and Sugarloaf Mountains. Along the way, you’ll be treated to one of the best quarry views in the Catskills. A bit farther up the trail, you hike past a beautiful beaver pond which the trail skirts the dam.
There is a designated campsite above the quarry which can make for a great base camp to day hike peaks in the area.
Roaring Kill Trail
(0.3 miles, yellow markers) Roaring Kill Parking Lot
A short trail from the Roaring Kill parking area that meets the junction with the Pecoy Notch Trail and Mink Hollow Trail.
Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail
(1.6 miles, blue markers) Prediger Road Parking
The Jimmy Dolan Notch trail starts at the 0.20-mile junction from the Prediger Road parking area on Devil’s Path. This makes the hike to the notch 1.80-miles. The trail terminates between Indian Head and Twin Mountains.
As you hike along the trail it will swing left. The stream flowing downhill to your right is the headwaters for the Schoharie Creek. The waters here will make the 93-mile trip to reach the Hudson River. The Schoharie Creek is somewhat unique as it flows north. A bit of trivia. The Kaaterskill Creek, which starts in Hunter and flows south only has to travel about 26-miles to get to the Hudson!
The real payoff besides access to the peaks on Devil’s Path is the view from the southern side of the notch. It can be accessed by a herd path.
Related post: Best Hikes: Twin Mountain on the Catskill’s Devil’s Path
(4.8 miles, blue markers) Steenburgh Road Parking Lot
The Overlook Trail cuts through the Indian Head Wilderness as it starts in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest and ends in the Overlook Wild Forest. Having said that, most of it’s 4.8-mile length is in the Indian Head Wilderness.
The trail was in the past a turnpike the was used to haul timber and bluestone out of the area. It was also commonly used by hotel guests to make connections from the Overlook area to the Kaaterskill and North-South Lake resorts.
The trail is well-graded throughout and provides access to Devil’s Path, Echo Lake, Overlook Mountain, Plattekill Mountain, and Codfish Point.
Echo Lake Trail
(0.7 miles, yellow markers)
The Echo Lake Trail is a spur trail off the Overlook Trail at the 3.4-mile point from Platte Clove Road. It provides access to one of the few natural lakes in the Catskills and is a popular camping location. It has one lean-to and seven designated campsites.
The lake is 13 acres and has 0.43-miles of shoreline. Echo Lake has a self-sustaining population of wild brook trout. So pack your rod! But don’t forget your freshwater fishing license.
The Long Path
(12-miles, aqua markers)
In the Catskills, this section of the Long Path is the most demanding and one of the most beautiful. With about 12-miles of trail, you’ll cross the summits of Plateau, Sugarloaf, Twin, and Indian Head.
From south to north
Warner Creek trail to Devil’s Path to Overlook Trail.
Camping in the Indian Head Wilderness
Indian Head Wilderness features 10 designated primitive tent sites and 3 lean-tos located near:
- Junction of Devil’s Path and Mink Hollow Trail (3-tent, 1-lean-to),
- Devil’s Kitchen on the Overlook Trail (1-lean-to) and
- Echo Lake (7-tent, 1-lean-to).
At-large camping is also allowing. Camping must be 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. Camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Catskills, between March 21 and December 21.
Fishing in the Wilderness
Echo Lake is located in the Indian Head Wilderness Area. Anglers that enjoy hiking into remote locations will like this location. Access is provided by trail and is roughly a 4-5 mile hike. Echo Lake has a self sustaining population of wild brook trout. It is important not to bring in any other fish species. Popular techniques for catching trout include casting small spoons and in-line spinners. Small trout worms are also very effective. Special regulations apply. See the Freshwater Fishing Regulation Guide (PDF).
The nearby Schoharie Creek is a trout stream with public access for fishing. Parking is located along Elka Park Road.
DEC contact and other information
|Indian Head 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:||Towns of Saugerties and Woodstock in Ulster County, and the Town of Hunter in Greene County|
|Map:||Map of the Indian Head Wilderness|
|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:||Sugarloaf Mountain Weather|
Trail Map for Indian Head Wilderness
Click map or here for interactive version of the map.