Background

Background you can feel free to skip: As I stood on the steps of the fire tower at Hunter Mountain, looking at the amazing panorama unfolding in all directions, I had two thoughts:

1)  Duuuuuuuude.  So glad I came here today.

2)  Dude, why have I never been here before?

One answer to the second question: I’ve always had this notion that Hunter Mountain (the hike) was closely related to Hunter Mountain (the ski area).  I pictured the chair lift dropping off people next to the fire tower all summer long, and having to elbow my way through the flip-flop-wearing masses to get to the view at the top.

The reality, though, couldn’t have been any different.

On the day I visited (a beautiful late-October Sunday), I had the tower to myself for thirty minutes, until I finally forced myself to put down the camera and descend. (I also got up before the crack of dawn and arrived at the trailhead just before daybreak, so if you wake up at a sane time, you’ll probably have more company up there.)

For the entire hike, I saw zero signs that this hike shared a mountain with a popular ski area, except for the drive through Tannersville, which felt like a cool little ski-town place to hang out (and probably a nice spot to grab a bite before heading home).  This hike is a beautiful wilderness romp from start to finish, complete with a sign at the summit that informs you that the nearest chair lift is 2.1 miles away.  If somebody makes it to the fire tower wearing flip-flops, then they earned that view, more painfully than the rest of us.

During the busiest hiking weekends, the awesome folks at the Catskill Center open the top level of the fire tower (thanks, Catskill Center!).  If you visit at a different time (as I did), you won’t be able to get into the top of the tower – the trap door is locked.  The views are absolutely amazing from the two platforms immediately below that padlock, though, and I can’t imagine they’d be much different from a few feet higher.  You shouldn’t feel too deprived if you can’t get all the way up there.

Besides the gorgeous tower, which offers one of the finest views in the Catskills, the trail is everything you’d want to find in a mountain hike, assuming you want to be immersed in wilderness while spending a few (thousand) calories clambering your way up very steep inclines.

For all the beauty to be found here, this mountain is not to be tackled lightly.  At 4,040’, Hunter Mountain is the second-highest peak in the Catskills and one of the 35 peaks in the Catskill 3500 Club.  A friend of mine who eats mountains for breakfast described the ascent of Hunter as “relentless.”  I agree with that assessment – if you tackle this hike, come prepared for the 2,200’+ vertical ascent, and the steep, rocky terrain.  It never becomes steep enough to qualify as a “scramble,” but it just keeps on going up, up, and up.  Then up again.

In addition to steeling your legs for the relentless ascent, be sure to also steel your retinas for the insane views.

This is an amazing spot that should absolutely be in your hiking rotation.  Bring a camera and high expectations, but you can leave your snowboard at home.

Note: The hike detailed below shows you the shortest, steepest route to the top of Hunter Mountain.  There are several other ways to get there, including a slightly gentler (and horse-accessible) 8-mile hike from the Spruceton Road trailhead, saving yourself around 300 vertical feet.  Personally, I’d rather climb the extra 300’ and chop off three miles, but you can find a nice write-up of the Spruceton Road route on this trail guide from CatskillMountaineer.com.  If you want to cheat and take the chairlift (which still requires a four-mile hike and owning the knowledge that you cheated), you can find more details on the Hunter Mountain Scenic Skyride page (okay, it actually looks like fun).

Gratitudinal aside:  Thank you to Monique Quigley for posting this suggestion to the site’s Facebook page:

You were right, Monique!  Many thanks for bumping this one up the queue.

Trail Guide

Trail guide:

1. From the parking lot (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), head over to the kiosk and see if you can’t learn a thing or two.

2. When you’re ready, hop on the blue-blazed Becker Hollow Trail (heretofore referred to as the Blue Trail), heading between those two stone pillars to your left (assuming you’re facing the kiosk). Off to a great start – only 5 miles and 2,217 vertical feet to go!

3. Follow the Blue Trail on some single-track that will widen shortly. In just a moment, you’ll notice a burbling brook down below, to your right.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Man, this beats pretty much anything else you could be doing today, doesn’t it?

Less than ten minutes from the trailhead, you’ll come to a picturesque wooden bridge that crosses the burbling (or roaring, depending on the conditions when you visit) brook.

4. Perhaps five minutes after the bridge, you’ll see the remains of an old dam on your left. There’s apparently a nice little waterfall here sometimes, but it was barely a trickle on my visit.  The trail here is wide and relatively flat, luring you into forgetting that you’re climbing a mountain.

5. Just past the dam, let the relentlessness begin!

At least it’s a beautiful relentlessness.

If you got up ridiculously early this morning, you might even catch some leftover sunrise to your left, through the trees.  Makes getting up before dawn worthwhile.  Sort of.

6. Your next landmark is the 3500’ altitude sign, which is being swallowed by a tree in the middle of the trail. Took me fifty minutes of huffing, puffing, and following the blue blazes to get to this sign from the old dam.  See you there!

Standing in front of this sign, you’ve now climbed 1,708 feet over 1.9 miles.  Just 529 more vertical feet and .5 miles until the tower!  You could do that walking on your hands, right?

7. Enjoy the occasional, limited views to your left, and the changing makeup of the forest – as you continue climbing, the vibe becomes decidedly more alpine.

8. The next landmark is the well-marked junction with the Yellow Trail, about 10 minutes after the 3500’ marker. From the signage, you can see that this is a loop trail – you can get to the tower going either left (.6 miles) or right (.35 miles).  Take a right turn here to hop on the Yellow Trail, the shortest route to the tower.  (We’ll come back to this spot later via the other trail to complete the one-mile loop.)

9. In three minutes, after following those yellow blazes through the woods, you’ll notice a spring-fed pipe just off the trail, to your left. As a general rule, I don’t drink untreated water, unless I’m in the mood to invite potential violent gastrointestinal distress into my life.  It’s probably fine, but I recommend slaking your thirst from the water you packed instead.  (Unless you have a water filter with you – in which case, happy pumping, and bottoms up!)

10. Continue climbing on the Yellow Trail, taking some time to appreciate the nice trail work in this section. Thanks, people who did that!

About twelve minutes from the water pipe, keep an eye above the trees, to your left.  THAR SHE BLOWS!

11. As the trail wraps underneath the tower, you’ll see a funky wooden structure straight ahead (I asked my friend about this, and he explained that this is a stand for making it easier to mount/dismount from a horse, to help make the Spruceton route up here more handicap-accessible, which is a pretty cool goal, and a better explanation than “funky wooden structure”), then you’ll emerge into the clearing with the ranger’s cabin and the tower.  (There’s also a well-marked trail to an outhouse on the far side of the clearing, if you’re feeling adventurous.)

The tower!  You did it!  Let’s climb that bad boy.

12. Going up!

Maybe there are better Catskill views somewhere else.  Maybe there aren’t.

When you’re done letting your eyeballs marinate in the view, head back down.  Wait, one more moment!  Okay, let’s head back down.

13. Walk over to the ranger’s cabin and notice the trail signs just behind its back-right corner. Those signs are where we want to be.

Turn left at the signs to follow the Blue Trail toward Devil’s Acre Leanto.

14. Enjoy the flat stroll through the alpine forest, following those blue blazes as you go. This was one of my favorite sections of the hike – just flat, peaceful, and piney.

It took me seven minutes to arrive at the next junction, with the Yellow Trail.

Take a right turn here to visit a short yellow-blazed spur trail (one minute or less) to a ledge with a very nice view.

15. In just a moment, you’ll see the little ledge straight ahead.

And then, sha-BAM!  More views!

The views are partially obstructed, and we’re spoiled from the panorama at the tower, but this is still a great spot, right?  It also feels more wild and secluded here, so you’ve got that going for you.  Which is nice.

16. When you’re done checking out the view, return to the junction with the signpost from a few moments ago.

Here, you’ll follow the sign straight ahead, toward State Rd. 214 (2.3 miles) on the Blue Trail.

You can verify that you’re going the right way in just a moment, when you’ll stroll across a large, flat rock, and pick up a blue blaze entering the woods on the far side.

(Make sure you’re not following the Yellow Trail off into the wild green yonder, which would happen if you visited the ledge view, then accidentally turned right onto the Yellow Trail.  Don’t do that!)

17. It’s all downhill from here!  A mere 2.2 miles and 2,103 vertical feet back to your car.  Following the beautiful Blue Trail, it took me eight minutes to reach the junction from Step 8 above, where our loop around Hunter’s summit began.  Remember this spot?

18. From this junction, keep heading straight/right on the Blue Trail.

From here, no more turns or junctions to worry about!  Just a straight shot, retracing your steps, following the Blue Trail all the way back to your car.  Nothing much to do now but enjoying the scenery and putting one foot in front of the other about a million more times.

From the junction at the start/end of the loop, it took me one hour and nine minutes to get back to my car.  And what a pleasant one hour and nine minutes they were.

Hello again, car!  Nice to see you again.  Take me to food.

Hope you enjoyed your Hunter Mountain hike today!  Aren’t you glad you didn’t take the chairlift?  (Or should we wait to discuss that until after the blisters have healed?)

Have fun hunting down a large pizza for dinner tonight – you’ve earned it!

Directions

Directions to the trailhead: From the town of Tannersville, NY, head west on Main St (NY-23A).  Just over two miles outside of town, turn left onto NY-214.  In just about one mile, look for the gravel parking pulloff on your right, marked with a brown-and-yellow “Trailhead Parking” sign by the far entrance.  (If you come to Lane Rd, you’ve gone just a little too far.)

Hop out and let the adventure begin!

You can also get directions by checking out the Hunter Mountain entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

Sorta nearby address for your GPS: As far as I can tell, they don’t appear to be too big on “addresses” out this way, but Bear Creek Landing Restaurant is right on the intersection of Rt 214 and Rt 23A.  So if you pop this landmark into your device, it’ll take you just one mile from the trailhead, then you can head southwest on 214 to the pulloff described in “Directions to the trailhead” above.  Give this a shot (or just click the GPS coordinates below):

Bear Creek Landing Restaurant
Hunter, NY

GPS coordinates of parking area: 42.181825, -74.196879 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)

Resources & Interactives

Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:

Google Terrain Map of hike route:

Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:



Comments (11)

Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
  1. Dennis H Nguyen

    I just did this hike on 10/31. First off, I want to say thank you for the Google Maps path! It saved my life.

    When I got there, I somehow ventured off the blue path and entered some strange areas. Let’s just stay I was climbing areas that were not marked. I was getting stabbed by tree branches and far from the recommended road. Fortunately, I had this whole article downloaded to my phone so I used the path to find the blue trail and made my way up to the tower!

    When people say the hike is relentless, they were not joking. Areas are steep and it is even worse going back down. I should warn readers that it is difficult when ice forms on these steep hills. I fell dozens of times going down. Fortunately, I do not have serious injuries.

    Thanks for this awesome guide, and again for saving my life!

  2. Anthony

    This is a great post. However, I caution all that this is not up and down. It’s relentlessly up hill and gets steeper the higher you get. Eventually, you’re climbing up about a 40 degree slope for over 40 minutes and the “trail” is less of a trail and much more a path littered with medium sized thin stone shards hovering over marble like rocks splashed with plenty of running water and mud.
    It’s also very narrow with little room to maneuver. In the fall? With wet leaves everywhere? I think you’re asking to get hurt. The pic below is what I could take. The rest was too dangerous to take pics.
    Do we regret doing it? Absolutely not!
    Would I do it again? Probably not.
    Total time: 5 hours but this included frequent short rests and about 30 minutes at the top. If you’re a machine, you can probably do it in 3.5 to 4 hours.

  3. Jeff Barber

    Awesome description and helpful photos here, as usual, and I was glad to have such a detailed write-up to prepare for a fast-paced hike on September 9. Used this trail as an inaugural hike for my FastPath! Meetup group, and we managed to complete the circuit in 3 hours 15 minutes, but it was exceedingly tiresome. We rested as often going down as we had on the way up. Appreciate all your efforts here.

  4. Bill H

    Did this hike Aug 29th, 2018. I was alone on the mountain except for one other solo hiker who turned back about half-way. Long grueling uphill with no breaks. I would hate to do this when it is wet above 3300 feet, it would be dangerous especially coming down. My wife asked for a comparison, it’s like two Mt Beacon hikes stacked atop each other. One note, NY DEC has reconstructed the wood bridge over the creek, and smoothed/widened the approach from the parking lot. You could drive a parade float up to the bridge, don’t be fooled, this is a tough hike with a great payoff. Even on a humid hazy day the view was the best I’ve found in the Catskills.

  5. Aislinn A Stanton

    Do you ever do any hikes in the Catskill’s or Adirondacks? With your discriptions my mate and feel very safe doing your hikes. You give very good details and I never feel lost. Thanks for what you do!

  6. Shelly

    April 29, 2018

    My husband and I are close to 60 years old. We are training for a big backpacking trip out West and thought this would be a good way to test stamina. We were able to climb a solid 2.0 miles before turning back today. The hike was beautiful with chartreuse moss and gushing streams.

    We ran across some hikers on their way down who reported that there was snow and ice near the summit and that we would need grippers. Last weekend we attempted Panther Mountain (Great Ledge) and it became very hairy toward the top with hard-packed snow and ice on some scrambles. We were ill-equipped then and we were ill equipped today to tackle that kind of terrain. We mistakenly thought the warm weather and rain would have obliterated the ice and snow. This is part of the reason we turned back before getting to the summit today (wobbly legs helped seal the deal).

    We look forward to doing this hike again in a few weeks with weight on our backs–and making it all the way to the top sans snow and ice. Thank you for such a thorough and fun description.

  7. Max Nova

    My wife and I love your trail & hike descriptions, reliably informative and fun.

    Today we got a late start with our 8-yr-old son & 8-mo-old golden doodle, both seasoned hikers, on our way to North South Lake for the North Point trail. Stuck behind a giant slow moving crane on Route 214 we randomly (ahem, impatiently) decided to check out the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower hike instead.

    When we the 2,35 mile distance marked on the trail sign we thought why not? That shouldn’t take too long, eh?

    Well, relentless is right. It was brutal, especially as the mercury was flirting with 80° around 1pm. We were absolutely dying. We stopped counting how many breaks we were taking somewhere around 20. Passed two sets of hikers coming down the trail, both turned around before making the summit.

    Of course this only steeled our resolve to conquer this puny little 2 mile walk in the woods, but above the 3500′ mark we started to wonder if we were supposed to pack ropes and harnesses. Steep –and relentless indeed!

    We finally made it to the top and boy oh boy was it worth it! Even with the top of the tower closed this was one of the very few peaks with 360° views AND you’re looking down in every direction. Incredible.

    The trip back down became another existential gut check, legs already rubber, footing slippery in the fall leaves, smaller rocks sliding and tumbling in the steeper sections, and the sun quickly setting behind the ridge to our backs. The pooch was fine, the rest of us monkeys were trying to work out if we could spell out SOS in Morse Code via smoke signals (below 3500′ of course).

    Needless to say, this will be the last hike we’ll ever do without at least a little research first. Like starting with your fantastic site (BTW, there’s a ton more hikes we’d love for you to review, starting with Mount Tremper 🙂

    All of that said, I feel like you might wanna do one of those things where you repeat certain warnings and caveats to your readers who are prone to skipping to the good bits (you know, like Mr. Impatient – yours truly). You’ve definitely made it clear that this hike is definitely relentless and warrants a solid 9 in Difficulty, but those dang 2.35 miles on the trail sign are just way too tempting.

    Or you could just tell me to add s reminder to my calendar to read your reviews before heading for the hills every weekend.

    Thanks for continued great reads, and a very happy trails!

    1. Mike

      Thanks so much for the thorough review and feedback, Max! I’m impressed that your eight-year-old son successfully did this one – sounds like his hiking career is off to an awesome start 🙂

      On your recommendation, I’ve added Mt. Tremper to the “Coming soon(ish)” section of “The Hikes” page. I’ve hesitated on doing that hike for two reasons: The rattlesnakes and the shrinking view from the tower as it becomes overgrown (both reported by catskillmountaineer.com’s Mt. Tremper review). Have you done that hike before? Curious to hear from someone with recent experience on whether the views justify hopping around the rattlesnakes.

      Your comment will be helpful in level-setting expectations for Hunter – it’s a tough hike for sure. Thanks so much for your comments, and best wishes to you and your family on your continued adventures!

      1. Max Nova

        Thank you Mike for the shout-out!

        Our Mt. Tremper experience isn’t recent, about eight or nine years ago, so I’d take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

        That said, I think Tremper is a must for most Catskills hikers.

        Yes, the warnings about rattlesnakes should be taken seriously. But Overlook has more warnings and more rattlesnake sightings (and rattlesnake skins at the ranger station up top), yet it’s the most popular hike near Woodstock.

        To the point of making Overlook a locally regular uphill jogging destination.

        I can’t speak to the overgrowth up top. When we did it the fire tower happened to be open, which offered breathtaking panoramic views above the trees, looking down on the Ashoken Reservior, but it’s possible and perhaps likely that these views have become more obscured with continued growth since we hiked it.

        So I defer to you. Hike Mt. Tremper – I mean, why not? If it’s rattlesnakes you’re worried about, well, you’ve already ascended the snakepit at Overlook, and like me, you’d probably do it again

        Which is to say, it’s high time we brought our nine year old (and our new pup) back up Mt. Tremper!

        1. Mike

          Thanks for the thoughtful response, Max! You’ve convinced me. I’ll get to Mt. Tremper one of these days. As for the concerns raised in the other trail guide, they could both be alleviated by making this a late fall or early winter adventure, after the leaves are down and the rattlesnakes are snoozing. If you make it back there before I do, I’d love to hear a report! Thanks again.

      2. Byron P. Howe

        Hiked Hunter 08/15/2018. Relentless is one way of describing it. Last hiked 41 years ago what I remember it was tougher down than up. Coming off knee surgery 05/18 And not healing well. Decided it do or die. Heavy rains day before trail slippery and muddy. DEC. Working on the bridge. Did Tremper last year in pain with the torn Meniscus no snakes just a lot of rock hopping. I guess I don’t remember all the rocks 50 years ago. Thanks for the great review. Tremper will be easier.

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