View of the Burroughs Range from Ashokan High Point's meadow

Ashokan High Point and Red Hill stand out, but this place has more to offer.

The Catskills Sundown Wild Forest is the southernmost section of forest preserve in the park covering over 31,000 acres. The wild forest contains many peaks above 2000′ and several above 3000′. The area is home to one of the five Catskill restored fire towers located on Red Hill. Notable peaks and ridges include Ashokan High Point, South Mountain, Ashokan Cobble, Mombaccus Mountain, Little Rocky, Samson Mountain, Bangle Hill, and Spencers Ledge. The area offers good fishing, camping, hiking, Catskill 67 peaks, waterfall viewing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling in winter.

The area is bordered in the north by the beautiful Slide Mountain Wilderness, to the east by private land and the Ashokan Reservoir, in the south by the Catskill Blue Line, and it is linked with the Vernooy Kill State Forest and west by private lands that separate it from the Willowemoc State Forest and the Big Indian Wilderness. The most southern part of the Long Path passes through the area.

Trails in the Sundown Wild Forest

Kanape Brook Trail to Ashokan High Point (9 miles (does not include Ashokan Cobble, ascent 2000+, red markers) Kanape Brook Parking

This hike has a lot to offer. A beautiful and unusual forest, views, streams, at-large camping, a bushwhack to Ashokan Cobble, and a downed plane to boot! The first 2.4 miles on the old Kanape woods road are suitable for mountain bikes. In the winter, the first 2.4-miles of the trail provides for excellent cross-country skiing.

Ashokan High Point Lollipop Route: Read the trail description here.

A section of the body of the plane wreck on Ashokan High Point
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking A section of the body of the plane wreck on Ashokan High Point

Vernooy Kill Falls Trail (3.5 miles, blue marked)

Although a point-to-point from Upper Cherrytown Road in the south to Dymond Road in the north, the trail is part of an extensive snowmobile-equestrian-multiple trail network. 1.7 miles is part of the Long Path. This hike’s most attractive feature is the 30-foot cascading Vernooy Falls and swim holes and the old spillway’s remnant for the “Cornelius” Vernooy Mill complex. There is not much reason to hike beyond the falls.

Red Hill Fire Tower (1.2 miles, ascent 900′, yellow markers)

The sixty-foot Red Hill fire tower sits atop 2,980-foot Red Hill. It affords a panoramic view of the Catskill peaks to the west and north and the Rondout Reservoir from behind Denman Mountain. Follow the yellow-marked Red Hill Tower Trail from Coons Road (formerly Dinch Road) just outside of Claryville-a moderate, three-mile, round-trip hike. The Red Hill Fire Tower is open most weekends when staffed by volunteers from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. On all other days, the tower is available just below the cab.

Hike the tower: Red Hill Trail from Coons (Dinch) Road

View from Red Hill Fire Tower
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking View from Red Hill Fire Tower

NEW: Red Hill Fire Tower from Denning (2.0-miles, ascent 1,270′, Blue marked)

The trail leaves Denning Road from a parking area with room for 8-10 cars. The trail traverses both city, and State Forest Preserve lands through rocky outcroppings and hemlock-laden forests; across NYCDEP land and meeting with the NYSDEC trail at 1.4-miles. Turning right, it is another 0.6-miles to the summit and tower. See information about the tower above.

Hike the tower: Red Hill Fire Tower Trail from Denning

Long Path (9.28 miles, Aqua marked)

As with much of the Long Path, it uses existing trails to traverse areas. This, the most southern section of the Long Path in the Catskills, takes the hiker to the beautiful Vernooy Falls at 1.7 miles from the Upper Cherrytown Road parking area.

Leaving the Vernooy Kill Falls Trail, the Long Path turns sharply northeast, climbs on gentle terrain, and then swings north-northwest at 1 mile. The trail rises quickly over Pople Hill and then levels again before it reaches the top of Vroony Kill at 1.43 miles and shortly after swings west. There are nice at-large camping spots in this area, especially after the trail swings west.

From the kill and traveling west for about 1.44 miles, the trail will swing back northwest and from here to the end continues to alternates between west and northwest as it descends to a col and climbs to Bangle Hill at 2.71 miles and finally begins its drop to Peekamoose Road which is 1 mile from Bangle Hill.

Camping in the Peekamoose Valley

Peekamoose Valley: The Peekamoose Valley (County Route 42 in the Town of Denning) is a popular rustic camping area (undeveloped, no vehicle access to most campsites, no running water, no garbage pickup, no picnic tables, and limited port-a-potty toilets). Camping is restricted to 24 designated campsites marked with the yellow camping symbol.

Camping permits are now required to reserve primitive tent sites in the Lower, Middle, and Upper fields. Visit Reserve America’s website to make a reservation.

The following rules apply:

  • Lower Field: Camping is restricted to 10 designated sites. Two group sites are available. All other sites are restricted to a maximum of 9 people and 3 tents.
  • Middle Field: The 6 middle field camping sites are each limited to 9 people and 3 tents. No group camping.
  • Upper Field: Camping is restricted to 8 designated sites, between Peekamoose Road and the Rondout Creek. Two group sites are available. All other sites are limited to 9 people and 3 tents.
  • Trailer Field: Camping in this area is by permit only, and is limited to trailers at 6 designated sites. The two accessible campsites located within the Trailer Field are equipped with fire rings, accessible picnic tables and a nearby seasonal accessible port-a-john.

Read more about the rule changes in this area.

Accessible Features

The Peekamoose Valley Camping Area provides opportunities for accessible camping, hiking, picnicking, and fishing. There is a 0.25-mile accessible trail that leads to a streamside picnic area and accessible fishing pier. Two accessible campsites are located within the Trailer Field and are equipped with fire rings and accessible picnic tables. A seasonally accessible port-a-john and an accessible informational kiosk are available nearby.

Fishing in the wildforest

The Rondout Creek stays cold all year and is the largest fishable stream in the area, with stocked and wild brook trout, as well as a few wild brown trout. A series of small parking lots along the north side of Peekamoose Road provide access to 4.5 miles of the creek. The second largest trout stream in the area is the Vernooy Kill in the Towns of Rochester and Wawarsing (partially within the Vernooy Kill State Forest). The Kanape and South Hollow Brooks are small, but both have native trout populations. Mettacahonts Creek and its feeder streams contain trout, even though the upper tributaries may dry out in summer.

Source: NYSDEC

Peekamoose Riparian Corridor

The nature of the wetlands in the Peekamoose Valley has required the State to create special regulations for its use, especially the Peekamoose Blue Hole.

Sundown Wild Forest Information

Sundown Wild Forest
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
Phone: (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM)
Emergency, Law Enforcement & Rangers: (518) 408-5850 or 911
Location: Towns of Denning, Wawarsing, and Olive in Ulster County and Town of Neversink in Sullivan County
Map: Sundown Wild Forest recreation map
Amenities:See Ulster County web site
Weather:Ashokan High Point Weather

Sundown Wild Forest Map

Click on the map or here for an interactive version of the map

Sundown Wild Forest Map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sundown Wild Forest Map
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