Arizona Mountain View Blackhead on Escarpment Trail

The Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness is located in the Northeastern Catskills and encompasses about 17,000 acres of land. Its southern boundary is North-South Lake State Park, and the northern edge is at East Windham on State Route 23. The Escarpment Trail runs its entire length. The Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness is home to four peaks above 3500′: Windham High Peak, Blackhead, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole. It also contains many peaks above 3000′ notably, Burnt Knob, Acra Point, Stopple Point, Arizona Peak, and North Mountain, all with trails and West Stopple without a trial.

Colgate Lake and Elm Ridge Wild Forests

For purposes of congruence, we include the Colgate Lake Wild Forest and Elm Ridge Wild Forest on this web page.

The Colgate Lake Wild Forest is a 1500 acre parcel of land which the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness surrounds on three sides. The Colgate Lake Wild Forest features one trail, the Colgate Lake Trail, described below as it does enter the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness for about its last 1.5-miles before reaching the Escarpment in Dutcher Notch.

It is popular for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. One can fish the year-round for trout and the lake features an accessible fishing platform.

Colgate Lake Wild Forest features 6 designated primitive campsites, one of which is accessible, featuring an accessible pit privy and fire pit. At-large backcountry camping is allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water.

The Elm Ridge Wild Forest is a 1,355-acre parcel of land the borders the Windham-Blackhead Wilderness in the northeast. It contains 1.5 miles of the Escarpment Trail from RT 23 and the Elm Ridge Trail. The most significant feature of the Elm Ridge Wild Forest is the 25 miles of mountain bike – multiuse trails.

Trails in the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness

Escarpment Trail

(23.9 miles [16.25 miles, 4930′ ascent in the WBHW], blue markers) Escarpment Trail/Long Path North Trailhead | Schutt Road Parking Area

The Escarpment Trail is one of the most scenic footpaths in the Catskills. It crosses 7 peaks over 3000′ feet. It is also a section of the Long Path. Hiking on the Escarpment near and through the North-Lake State Campground, one is steeped in history as they walk. Taking the trail in sections and heading to North Point is outstanding! Backpacking on the Escarpment as the through-hike or doing half from Colgate Lake is challenging but rewarding. Options are plentiful on the Escarpment.

Elm Ridge Trail

(0.9 miles, yellow markers) Peck Road Parking Lot and Elm Ridge Trailhead

The Elm Ridge Trail is a short and fairly level access trail to the Escarpment Trail on Elm Ridge. It is a common start for people heading up Windham High Peak. It begins at the end of Peck Road and ends at the junction with Escarpment Trail near the Elm Ridge lean-to.

Black Dome Trail

(7.5 miles total, 1827′ ascent to Black Dome from Barnum Rd, red markers) Barnum Road Trailhead | Big Hollow Road Parking Area

The Black Dome Trail is dramatic and demanding. A 1-mile section goes from Big Hollow Road to the col between Burnt Knob and Acra Point. It seems that this should be its own connector trail.

View from the summit ledge on Black Dome looking south
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking View from the summit ledge on Black Dome looking south

The bulk of the trail is south of Big Hollow Road. The trail crosses the summits of Black Dome, Thomas Cole, and Camels Hump. Stiff climbing and outstanding views await the hiker. You can do the hike to Black Dome from Barnum Road or Big Hollow Road. Of course, with two cars or a long road walk, one can through-hike this section of trail.

Blackhead Mountain Trail

(0.7 miles, 543′ ascent, yellow markers)

The Blackhead Trail is a short but steep connector trail that leaves Lockwood Gap between Black Dome and Blackhead. The trail ascends 543′ to the summit of Blackhead. It provides wonderful views and is a common winter route. It is also a common descent section of the Blackhead loop. The upper section of the trail through the subalpine forest is nice, especially when coated in snow and ice!

Batavia Kill Trail

(0.9 miles, 518′ ascent, yellow markers) Big Hollow Road Parking Area

The Batavia Kill Trail is a connector trail that connects the Black Dome Trail and Escarpment Trail. The Batavia Kill Lean-to and a designated campsite are about 0.20-miles below the Escarpment Trail. It is part of the route if one is climbing the steep headwall on Blackhead or hiking Acra Point.

Dutcher Notch Trail

(1.9 miles, 1450′ ascent, yellow markers) Stork’s Nest Trailhead

The Dutcher Notch Trail is a stiff and pretty climb to the Escarpment Trail, where the junction meets the Colgate Lake Trail coming in from the west. If one were looking to climb Stopple Point to see the plane wreck, this might be a good place to start.

Colgate Lake Trail

(4.3 miles, 625′ ascent, yellow markers) Colgate Lake Trail Parking Area

The Colgate Lake Trail, yes, the Colgate Toothpaste family, is a wonderfully long and unusual trail that leaves you in Dutcher Notch. The route, with easy to moderate grades, winds through the valley over 4-miles. Great views of the surrounding mountains present themselves at points. Once an old turnpike, you’ll find interesting things along the way.

Camping in the Windham-Blackhead Wilderness

Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness features:

  • lean-to, a primitive campsite and a privy, located along the Batavia Kill Trail.
  • lean-to is located on the boundary of the adjacent Elm Ridge Wild Forest.

If not using a designated primitive tent site, your tent must be at least 150 feet from a water body, road, or trail. Do not camp in areas posted with “Camping Prohibited.” In the Catskills, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet between March 22 and December 20 (except in an emergency). Fires are forbidden year-round above 3,500 feet in the Catskills (except in an emergency).

Recommended video: Finding five-star backpacking campsites

Rules for lean-to and primitive camping

  • Tents are not allowed inside lean-tos and must be at least 150 feet from the lean-to.
  • Lean-tos are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved.
  • Lean-tos should be shared by multiple parties until filled to capacity (normally 8 people).
  • Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided.
  • Campfires must be less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter.
  • Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Use only dead and down wood for fires.
  • Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch.
  • Get your firewood from a local vendor (within 50 miles of your destination) and ask for a receipt or label that lists the firewood’s local source.
  • Use pit privies provided near popular camping areas and trailheads. If none are available, dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6″-8″ deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Camping for more than three nights or with 10 or more people requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

All primitive campsites are on a first-come-first-serve basis. You cannot reserve a site. Camping for more than three nights or 10 or more people requires a Forest Ranger permit.

Recommended video: How to Hang a Bear Bag: The PCT Method

DEC contact information

Windham-Blackhead Range 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 Cairo, Hunter, Jewett, Windham and Durham in Greene County
Map: View Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness Map - PDF (2.82 MB)
Amenities:Dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Cairo, Windham and Palenville.
Weather:Blackhead Mountain weather
Cell Service:Never count on your cell phone for rescue. Cell service in the Windham-Blackhead Wilderness is okay and one may have problems in ravines. We have not had problems with service.

Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness Map

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

Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness
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