Background you can feel free to skip: Since my second son was born, most of my outdoor experiences have taken place in the Babies R’ Us parking lot. So when the universe aligned so that I could take a day all to myself, free to hike wherever I wanted without any children in tow or on my back, I immediately looked to the Catskills to see if I could find a challenging hike with a big payoff.
The hike up Indian Head Mountain and Twin Mountain gives you everything you could want in a Catskill hike – sweeping views, nice rocks to lounge upon, challenging climbs, the feeling that you’re visiting someplace wild and remote, an excuse to eat half a large pizza by yourself when you get home, etc.
But this is not a casual little romp in the woods. You need to be prepared for a serious day out there. My feet would have been killing me if I’d worn regular sneakers, rather than some stiff-soled hiking shoes. And if the weather’s iffy, don’t chance it. The steep, rocky terrain would be extremely treacherous in the rain.
Oh, and you might get eaten by a bear. Well, probably not, but this is bear country, so read up on how to be as safe as possible around black bears.
In the very nice Catskillmountaineer.org write-up for Indian Head, the author says, “I do not recommend this trail for children or animals.”
I absolutely agree about the kids – don’t even try it, unless your kids are actual, literal mountain goats. I left my dog at home, too. Perhaps she could have done it, but there were several spots where I would have had to hoist her over some steep rocks. It would definitely have been a challenge, and probably not so smart. Without having verified whether she could do it, I’m leaving this hike in the “Not recommended for doggies” category, too, even though I hate to go hiking without her. Better to be safe.
But for all the difficulty of climbing Indian Head and Twin Mountains, the payoff makes it all worthwhile. When you’re walking along the mountaintops with the wind whispering through the pines, you’ll feel like you’re visiting a very special and wild place.
Because you are.
If you find this free trail guide useful, please provide payment by picking up at least one piece of litter on your hike. Cha-ching! Thanks for being awesome! (And here’s a quick primer on Leave No Trace, too, to help us keep the trails nice and fresh for each other.)
1. From the DEC parking lot at the end of Prediger Road (see Directions to the trailhead below), take a moment to check out the kiosk and mileages to various destinations. Sign the register, then hop on the Red Trail to begin your trek. And this will be a trek indeed.
2. In seven minutes or so, you’ll come to your first trail junction. This is where your loop begins. When you visit this spot again later in the day, you’ll have a few new muscles and several great new memories. Or a few great memories and several new muscles.
Take a left here to stay on the Red Trail and begin wrapping around the base of Indian Head Mountain.
3. Enjoy the relatively flat terrain until the next trail junction, which is coming up in 1.3 miles. You’ll ascend 263 feet in this stretch, with some small descents. About halfway through, you’ll cross a cool little stone bridge over a creek, and you’ll see some other nice trailwork, too. With some stops for pictures, it took me 34 minutes to reach the next junction.
4. The Red Trail takes a hard right turn when the Blue Trail joins from the left. Turn right to keep heading uphill on the Blue-and-Red Trail (they’ll separate again in just a moment). You might also notice some green Long Path markers, but you can ignore them.
5. Two or three minutes after the Blue Trail and Red Trail join forces, they’re already done with each other. Turn right to stay on the Red Trail. Remember how we’re climbing some mountains today? In case you’d forgotten, your reminder is right here.
6. From that junction, you’ll climb 921 feet to your first inkling of a view, a narrow look through the trees down upon the Platte Clove Community. It took me about 40 minutes to trudge up this stretch, following the Red Trail.
You’re probably looking for a break, but don’t stop too long at this view! There’s a certified overlook just around the corner. Continue another .1 miles to the expansive Hudson Valley view at Sherman’s Overlook, through the break in the trees on your left in just a few more minutes.
7. Sherman’s Overlook, also known as The Sherminator (in my head), is a very nice overlook, surveying the Hudson River, Huckleberry Point (to your left), and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge way off in the distance (to your right).
Stop here and soak it in for a bit. This isn’t the best view you’ll see today (that’s on Twin Mountain), but it is a nice warm-up for your eyeballs. There’s another (much better, I think) view in ten minutes, so whenever you’re ready, start trekkin’ again.
8. In another .2 miles and 125 feet elevation gain up the trail, you’ll come to a view on your left that I labeled in my GPS as “Sweetness.” This is what it’s all about right here – the best view on Indian Head Mountain. Here’s a three-shot panorama:
There aren’t wide open rock ledges here, but there are enough places to perch that you can hang out and enjoy a nice long gaze. This is exactly the kind of view I’d been hoping to find on this hike, just endless rolling mountains, and as soon as I saw it, all the work to climb up here was immediately worth it. I couldn’t tear myself away.
“Time to go!” my brain said.
“Stuff it, Brain!” my eyeballs replied.
Enjoy the view for a while. When your brain wins out over your eyeballs, just keep heading along the Red Trail.
9. From the Sweetness view, you will soon approach the steepest section of trail for the day. There’s one spot in particular where you’ll have to use roots to help you clamber up a very steep rock face.
Directly after that rock face, you can relax for a moment upon another nice ledge. The view here is decent, but there’s a mountain blocking the views straight ahead. Hey, down in front! (Update 9/19/2014: Check out this very cool photo sphere of the view at this spot, taken by Dan Novin and submitted on the site’s Facebook page.)
10. From the ledge, it’s less than ten minutes to your next trail feature: a little mini-chimney that you have to shimmy your way up. It’s really only chest-high on a tall person – I could have easily picked my dog up and placed her on top of it. Still, you’ll probably need to stare at it for a minute before figuring out the best way up. Have fun going up the chimney, Santa!
11. A few minutes after the mini-chimney, you’ll see a small ledge on your left, the last view from Indian Head Mountain. Not much to write home about, but worth a stop for a moment.
12. Shortly after the small ledge, the trail begins its precipitous drop toward Jimmy Dolan Notch. On the way, you might catch a glimpse of Twin Mountain through the trees. Over the next .4 miles, you’ll descend 400 feet.
Don’t worry – you’ll get all that altitude back when you climb Twin Mountain in a few minutes! Hooray! Try not to think about that right now.
13. From the small ledge, it took me twenty minutes to reach the well-marked trail junction at Jimmy Dolan Notch, where the Blue Trail departs to your right.
From here, you can see that’s it’s another 1.1 miles to the summit of Twin Mountain. If you absolutely don’t have any gas left in the tank, you can skip the climb to Twin Mountain – you’ll be missing out on the best views of the day, but also (and I hate to say this to you right now) some of the most strenuous climbs.
The best overlook of the day is .4 miles up that trail – during which you’ll ascend 400 feet over very rocky terrain. Past that overlook, it’s another fairly easy .7 miles to the summit of Twin Mountain, which has a very nice (but smaller) view that some would probably classify as optional.
My strong recommendation is to at least go to the first overlook, especially since you’ve already come this far. But if you’re too tired, it could be dangerous to attempt it. You can bail out and head down the blue-blazed Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail back towards the car – it’s the same way we’ll be going after we check out Twin Mountain. If you need to bail, you can skip ahead to step 20 to complete the loop, and start descending now.
14. Still here? Excellent! Let’s climb this sucker. Keep heading straight on the red-blazed Devil’s Path to ascend Twin Mountain. Enjoy all the rocks! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
As you’re clambering your way up here, just remember: it’s only .4 miles to the awesome overlook. A really, really long .4 miles. You’ll know you’re getting fairly close when you pass the signs marking 3,500’ in altitude. The view is at 3,540’.
15. And then, biggity bam! Here it is. Here’s a five-picture panoramic stitch of the view.
This has to be one of the nicest views in the Catskills. How could it not be?
16. From here, once you’ve lazed about on the rocks and enjoyed a granola bar or two, you have a decision to make: bag the summit of Twin Mountain, or head for home? It seemed silly to me to be so close to the summit and not go for it. If you decide to do it, be forewarned that you’re already standing at the nicest view you’ll see today. The summit of Twin is a nice spot, too, but not as nice as this.
It’s .7 miles to the summit, and it goes pretty fast — it’s a veritable walk in the (Catskill) park compared to what you’ve just done. But this hike is getting pretty long, so if you want to chop off 1.4 miles, now’s your chance.
If you’re heading for home, you can climb back down to Jimmy Dolan Notch, then skip ahead to step 20 to complete the loop.
17. Still up for more, crazy person? Okay, let’s bag one more summit today. Top of Twin Mountain, here we come! Keep heading along the Red Trail to get there.
Over the next .7 miles, you’ll ascend (approximately) 211 feet and descend 119 feet to reach the summit at an elevation of 3,651 ft.
I was hustling (worried about getting home late) for this stretch and did it in about 15 minutes.
The trail pops you out onto another ledge that is not immediately recognizable as a summit, but it is the summit indeed.
If you hadn’t just been spoiled by the previous overlook, this place would look even more awesome. But it is still an excellent place to sit back, gaze over the horizon and ponder just how much pizza you’re going to eat tonight.
18. Once you’re done at the summit, turn around and face the Red Trail(s). Was that fork there before? If you know which way to go, you’re a better hiker than me. Two trails enter the ledge seemingly side-by-side, and I’d been sitting there for so long that I had no idea which trail I’d come in on. (I chose incorrectly at first and had to backtrack.)
You want the trail on the left. The trail on the right continues across Twin Mountain to Sugarloaf. Not to your car, sweet car.
So pick the left fork and retrace your steps along the Red Trail back to the previous overlook, then all the way back to Jimmy Dolan Notch.
Over the next mile, you’ll descend 638 feet to the Red/Blue Junction at Jimmy Dolan Notch. It took me about 30 minutes.
19. On the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference map for this hike, there’s a view shortly off of Jimmy Dolan Notch, to your right. If you’re looking for extra hiking, you could turn right here, just past the signpost, and check out the view about two minutes down the trail. If you’re spent, I wouldn’t bother – it’s a nice little overlook, but you’ve already seen several better views today.
20. Time to lose some altitude! Turn left onto the blue-blazed Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail, which will descend steeply to bring you back towards civilization. It’s 1.7 miles from here to the next trail junction, and you’ll lose 1,031 feet between here and there. (The sign says 2.5 miles to Platte Clove Road, but you parked on Prediger Road, so it’s not a full 2.5 miles back to your car, if that’s any consolation.)
Just watch your step and carefully pick your way down the rocky trail, following the blue blazes the whole way. It took me about 50 minutes to reach the next junction. Dude, 50 minutes? Yeah, sorry, 50 minutes. I stopped to take some pictures, though! Maybe you’ll be faster. (The second picture here is looking back up the trail.)
21. Just as the Blue Trail starts to flatten out a bit, you’ll hop across a burbling stream, then you’ll arrive back where this loop began so many miles ago. Recognize this spot, or are you too delirious?
Turn left at the sign post to rejoin the red-blazed Devil’s Path.
22. Just a quarter-mile hop-and-a-skip to your car from here. Hello, trail register! Hello, kiosk with various warnings, maps and regulations! Hello, sweet, sweet gravel parking lot! Oh, and my car – my poor car, left all alone in the woods! Hello! I’ve missed you all so much.
That was quite a day, wasn’t it? Congratulations on conquering a very tough hike. You’ve earned a good 2,000-calorie meal somewhere. If you happen across half a large pizza anytime soon, be sure to devour it before it gets away.
Directions to the trailhead:
From the NY Thruway (I-87) headed north, take exit 20 for NY-32 toward Saugerties. From the off ramp, take a left onto NY-212 (Saugerties-Woodstock Road) and stay on it for 2.3 miles, where you’ll then take the right fork onto County Route 35 (Blue Mountain Road). After 1.5 miles, turn left to stay on County Route 35, which becomes W Saugerties Road, and then becomes County Route 33 as you keep heading straight. This road departs civilization and becomes Platte Clove Road, which climbs steeply and is unmaintained in the winter, closed from Nov 1 – April 15. I was once here on November 12, before there had been any snow, and everyone seemed to be cheerfully ignoring the “No Vehicle Traffic Beyond This Point” sign. I imagine in the spring, this road must take a while to thaw out. I wouldn’t press my luck with this road, and I’d advise you not to, either. Best to try it after April 15 or before Nov 1.
Shortly after the well-marked Platte Clove Community on your right, turn left onto Prediger Road. Hello, mountains in our face – we’re coming to climb you!
Follow Prediger Road all the way to the end and park in the gravel DEC lot. Let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Indian Head Mt and Twin Mt entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: This address will get you very close to the trailhead:
1 Prediger Road
Elka Park, NY 12427
Once on Prediger Road, just follow it for a couple of minutes until it dead ends in the DEC lot.
Note: If you’re coming from the south or east, make sure that your GPS route knows Platte Clove Road is accessible. I noticed Google Maps likes to avoid that road, perhaps because it’s closed in the winter. Going the long way (through Tannersville) will cost you 25 minutes.
GPS coordinates of parking area: 42.13405, -74.10433 (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:
- A great write-up from Catskillmountaineer.org of a shorter hike that just tackles Twin Mountain
- A great write-up from Catskillmountaineer.org of a shorter hike that just tackles Indian Head Mountain (if you’re just climbing one mountain today, though, pick Twin)
- If you’re into the whole brevity thing, here’s a much shorter description of the same hike documented above from Localhikes.org, along with plenty of nice user reviews
- Some decent background info on the Indian Head Mountain Wikipedia page
- A nice pic of Indian Head and Twin from Kaaterskill High Peak
More Indian Head and Twin pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:
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Comments (52)Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
very silly question but after reading the other comments, and thinking back with the 3 catskill hikes I did during covid (panther mtn/giant ledge, wittenberg, huckleberry point), I read in a few comments that for that strenuous trek of 8+ miles, that the view isn’t worth it (ie., the hike up is just bare trees, you’re in the woods, no views…just strolling along in the forest. then you ascend x amount and you’re at the top). I remember the Wittenberg trail was like that, and it seemed endless at a few points, but of course the view was soooo worth it. So I’m debating if I should give this one a shot, or look into Tremper Mountain instead!
I’ve also done breakneck, beacon, mt. tammany, gertrude’s nose, etc. which were shorter and had more money spots around. The trail overall was more scenic than the VIEW itself at the top. But part of me really wants to try this hike, I love being on top of the world!
I have a very athletic Vizsla dog. In addition to the Catskills I’ve hiked all over the White Mountains with him. I really wanna tackle Indian Head with him but have seen all the warnings about it not being dog friendly. Is there a preferred direction (from the east or west?) to the summit that would make it more dog friendly? Can I just do an out and back from the Prediger Road trailhead to the JD trail to the summit and back?
Hi Chris, you shall be fine for as long as you can lower your dog from a ~4 foot rock step in a place or two.
Thanks Ivan. But are the 4 foot rock steps only on the out and back i.e.. from Jimmy Dolan Notch trail to Indian Head and back or for the whole loop going JD east to Indian Head and coming down Indian Head?
Reason I ask is because there’s supposed to be a 30’ drop or climb (depending on the approach) on the east side of IH with roots on a sheer rock face.
As far as I remember, rumors are a bit exaggerated. I did the hikes along and around Devils Path multiple times, summer and winter with my Border Collie and have never had to turn around when I was alone with the dog – he would scale that “drop” in 3 seconds, slightly hesitating in the middle. As always, going up shall be reasonably easier. I think the most challenging chunk of a trail in that area is a steep and extremely icy in winters rock slab between Twin and Pecoy Notch – that spoiled a couple of my winter family hikes.
Chris, I agree with Ivan’s advice. I wouldn’t expect an athletic dog to have too much difficulty on this hike. The part you mentioned in Step 9 is the main reason I didn’t bring my dog, but I suspect she would have scampered right up without my help. The rocks on the Devil’s Path leading to Twin’s summit could potentially wear on the pads of his feet, but while this hike is generally strenuous, I don’t think you’ll find any showstoppers out there for your pooch. Hope that helps – best of luck to you both if you give it a shot! Would love to hear how it goes!
So I did it yesterday. Only had to lift him up one time to get to the bottom part of the steep rock face (step 9). Otherwise easy breezy for super dog . I also made the wise choice to go from west to east over the summit. He’s a much better climber than repeller (to your point).
Did this hike today. Rained the day before. Good loop suggestion, but do NOT recommend the first leg on Devil’s Path if you enjoy hiking for views…. the first 2 miles were an incredibly uninteresting, awful muddy boot sucking, ankle twisting mess after the rain. On the upside, I ran into exactly 2 other people on a decent fall Sunday on the first leg, so if you’re looking for solitude and mental/physical challenge on the ankles this will do it. Approaching Indian’s Head from the west does provide a few interesting outlooks on the last 2 miles though which you would not necessarily get by heading up Jimmy Dolan Notch, but potentially you could skip a lot of the muddy rock pile by starting at a trailhead further west (the one heading to echo lake i think will link up). To make a loop you probably have to walk further along the road back to your car. Or do the whole thing as posted with really heavy duty boots. (I usually find climbers’ approach shoes to be more comfortable for rock hopping, but it was so wet and muddy today that I really wished I had fully waterproof tall hiking boots)
i agree with previous commenters, that if you are not sure about your ability to complete the loop, head up jimmy dolan notch to the twin mtn outlook. the JD trail was much drier and easier (if less technically interesting, without as many chimney scrambles), and the first outlook from twin is the most interesting view anyway. the downside of this is that the descent down DP is probably more annoying than the ascent, so if you’re fairly sure you want to do the loop i would still start with that.
Sorry you didn’t have a better experience out there today, MJ! As for the mud, I just came from a different Catskill hike today, and there’s plenty to go around all over. Hopefully the rain will let up one of these days!
Did these two summits yesterday! Had the trail all to myself. I stalked the weather to make sure no rain / storms, but still somehow got a rain shower in the early afternoon. I’d highly recommend bringing a friend if you have any concerns with heights; it can get a little spooky out there in the wilderness on your own. Especially when the sunny sky randomly turns gray… also the rocks on the way down the blue trail can be slippery even when dry! Otherwise, it was a great challenge! Never so happy to see my 10 year-old car before. Ha.
It also makes an excellent winter hike, I did it on December 30. The upper terrain calls for microspikes. If you bring a dog with you be ready to get it down from ~4 foot rock steps in a couple of places.
So a warning, a suggestion, and a frank opinion about this hike which I just completed today…
1) Warning: Absolutely heed Mike’s #18 instruction above. I made the mistake of overlooking it and I made the same mistake that Mike mentions – namely hiking 3/10ths of a mile down a very rugged steep decline towards Pecoy Notch. This is NOT something you want to do!
2) Suggestion: For those who aren’t quite sure if they’re up to the challenge of this hike, you might want to consider hiking it in reverse to what’s suggested above – namely hike up the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail to Twin Mountain first before tackling Indian Head. In my opinion it’s easier and gives you more options – namely you could decide simply to do Twin and return the way you came (a roughly 6.5mile hike). Or you could continue on to Indian Head via Devil’s Path and climb it from the west which is considerably easier than from the east. You could simply continue to the Indian Head summit and return down the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail, or continue down the very steep eastward side of Indian Head following Mike’s instructions in reverse. One caveat: the descent off Indian Head is quite steep, so if you’re one who is afraid of heights it might actually seem less stressful to follow Mike’s path.
3) My opinion: I’ll caveat this by saying that this was my first and only encounter with the Devil’s Path. And that your mileage might vary (no pun intended). But frankly I was rather disappointed and disillusioned by this hike. The view on top of Twin was every bit as awesome as Mike described. But it was really the only point of interest, or more accurately the only meaningful point of BEAUTY. To put it bluntly: the vast majority of this trail IMHO is quite unattractive (particularly the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail): basically mud, ugly bare tree roots, ugly bare rocks If you’ve ever seen a trail that’s been victimized by extreme overuse – whether from hiking, or more particularly from ATV vehicles or mountain bikes, that’s what this trail looks like. I’m not saying that any of these are the cause of the above (extremely unlikely that anyone could negotiate this trail with an ATV or mountain bike). It simply has that look. I’ve logged hundreds of miles on trails in the New York / New Jersey area (Palisades, Harriman, Sterling Forest, Gunks, Appalachian Trail) and this is right up there on the list of the most unattractive I’ve encountered. Case in point: I usually take scores of pictures on every hike I take. On this hike I only took a few: basically of the views on Twin and Indian Head. Maybe other sections of the Devil’s Path are different. But I came away thinking: if this is typical, unless you’re into this strictly for the physical and mental challenge of hiking the Devil’s Path, it’s really not worth the effort.
Great description. Maybe I take the short way up.
“this is right up there on the list of the most unattractive I’ve encountered. Case in point: I usually take scores of pictures on every hike I take. On this hike I only took a few: basically of the views on Twin and Indian Head. Maybe other sections of the Devil’s Path are different. But I came away thinking: if this is typical, unless you’re into this strictly for the physical and mental challenge of hiking the Devil’s Path, it’s really not worth the effort”.
I completely agree with Steve in Jersey.
Hi there, just have a couple questions about his hike. First, I am not a very experienced hiker, but as an in-shape person, should I be able to compete this loop? Second, what months out of the year would you say this trail is hike-able?
I’m no expert by any means, but I recently did this hike and can give some info! I have hiked about 4 times in my life before I hiked Indian Head. However, I am in pretty good shape. For this, you need pretty good cardio, balance, and strength skills. But in reality, you can take as little or as much time and therefore that is what my group did! We took about 5 hours to complete this, stopping when needed. One friend had never hiked before and struggled a little, but enjoyed and finished it. We went April 20th and there was a considerable amount of snow and ice at the top of Indian head. We opted to only do Indian Head which is a good start. Hope you enjoy it!
Seriously man., I love your site… Thanks for this write up. I thought this view was on this route. Am I mistaken?
This is indian head in the Adirondacks. There are two different ones.
Thanks, Devon! I wasn’t sure where that picture came from – good to know. I’m kind of bummed it’s not in the Catskills, though 🙂
Thanks to you both for the info..
I’ve been looking for this same spot – saw it on insta and thought this was the trail..ugh! lol
I gotta figure that out now… Cause, I really want to do that trail… That view is just, DAMN… It’s by Lake Placid so it’s a hike to a hike. I may have to take the trip one day.
It looks tough but I’m debating on making the trip (looks worth it) let me know if ya make it up there!
Was gonna head up there this weekend., but decided against it. The drive is insane. Gonna do this hike tomorrow instead. We will see how it goes!
I made the same mistake.. lol. I blame Google. That’s not something you want to drive, if like from NYC area. I’d fly close then rent a car.
I’m wondering about camping options. I’m looking for a two day loop hike in this region. Would I be able to camp?
Hi, Lydia! I saw some backpackers during my day hike, though I don’t have any personal experience with camping up there. The summits of both Indian Head and Twin are above the 3,500′ limit for camping in the Catskills, so it is not allowed up top, but anywhere below 3,500′ and more than 150′ from the trail should be fair game.
You can find a complete list of camping regulations here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7872.html
You can find some great bear resources (and other back country camping info) here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/41282.html
Hope this helps!
First off, thank you for your helpful trail guides.
My friend and I have just done Breakneck Ridge and loved the whole rock scramble challenge. The views were awesome and you felt like you were really climbing a mountain rather than walking. We want more of a challenge in the rock scramble aspect, and plan on doing Indian Head/Twin MT, Gertrudes Nose, and Bonticou Crag. Out of the three, which do you think is the best choice for us? Again, something similar to Breakneck but a bit more challenging as far as rock climbing goes.
Thank you for your time!
If you’re looking for a scramble, then definitely choose Bonticou. The others you mentioned have only very light scrambling. The Mohonk Mountain House Labyrinth & Lemon Squeeze should also definitely be on your radar, if you haven’t already been. Hope that helps – happy adventuring!
Anyone headed up this way either Tuesday or Wednesday? I’m in need if a ride from the Hudson Valley and will but lunch!
Thank you for putting together this – and all the other – really useful guides.
My fiancee and I have been following quite a few of your routes over the last 6 months, including Anthony’s Nose/ Breakneck Ridge, Gertrude’s Nose, Bull Hill, Sam’s Point, the Lemon Squeezer to Lichen Trail, and most recently Indian Head/ Twin Mountain.
All of them fantastic hikes. That’s why we were a bit disappointed after finishing the Indian Head hike, which doesn’t really live up to the scenery and/ or technical difficulty a Gertrude’s Nose and Breakneck Ridge hike have to offer.
We found that approx. 90% of the hike is deep in the woods, therefore lacking a nice scenery for most part of the route. Awarding 5 cameras on the scenery rating feels slightly too positive, considering there are so many beautiful hikes out there with plenty of scenery all along the trail.
As it relates to 10/ 10 difficulty: I was initially concerned it might be too tough for us, based on the write-up. Turns out this is more a 7/10 and I should not have been very concerned. Yes, it is a somewhat challenging path from a fitness aspect. Approx. 1,000 yards in total ascent/ descent did make us sweat… But most of the ascent is gradual with only a few sections requiring a proper scramble. None of the scrambles are truly exposed. As I usually try to avoid exposed heights due to vertigo, I can say that this one was quite an easy hike with no real “challenge” (compared to Breakneck Ridge, for example, which seems to me a lot more demanding and dangerous, given the ascent on an exposed wall).
Hope these comments help some interested hikers out there to put this hike into perspective. Great hike if you have already finished some of the other ones mentioned above, but just not as top notch when compared to some of the other Catskill trails.
Thanks for the feedback, and I completely understand where you’re coming from. It not for the length of the hike, I would have rated the difficulty lower — for this site, though, this is definitely one of the hardest hikes here, and I wouldn’t want anyone to underestimate how tiring it can be to climb two mountains over 8.4 miles. For the views, I just really dug the feel of this hike from start to finish, and perhaps I graded on a curve as result. If you have other recommendations for Catskill hikes you think would be more deserving of a 5-camera review, I’d love to know about them! I’ve heard that some of the overlooks on Blackhead/Black Dome are becoming overgrown, and that was next on my queue — I’m in the market for a different option now.
Thanks for taking the time to leave these comments – other hikers will benefit from seeing your perspective, too. Happy adventures out there!
this is exactly what I was searching for. I just did Breakneck Ridge three days ago. I am terrified of heights and the repeated sensation I am about to fall to my death, but have gotten to become okay with scrambles that are not exposed…but that Breakneck Ridge Trail was just too much! So many places seemed like death with just a slight footing error.
This is a great write-up. I am planning to do this hike on Saturday. I have a quick question, hopefully not too silly, but is there any advantage of hiking up the red trail and down blue opposed to doing it in reverse (up blue/down red)?
Have a great hike, Frank! No great advantage either way — my thinking in doing it the way described above was that I could get a better gauge on whether to tackle Twin Mt. or not, since I’d have much more of the hike behind me at the decision point than if I came up the reverse way (on the Blue Trail to Jimmy Dolan Notch). But either way would work just fine. Whatever you decide, hope it’s a great day out there!
What a hike! Just finished the loop yesterday. Definitely one of the most challenging hikes I’ve encountered but doable if you’re a seasoned hiker. I brought my friend with me that has only hiked Wittenberg and he did great. This was the first time using this site as opposed to catskill mountaineer and I’ll definitely be coming back here for my next hike. Took pretty long breaks -> took us just under 6 hours.
Just finished this hike! We ended up taking 6 hours to do just Indian Head! We were a bunch of goons with little to no hike experience who probably shouldn’t have braved the trail but we did and it was so worth it. I printed out this guide and took it with us and it was a life saver. Thank you for writing this so well with the pictures! Cant wait to go back and do some more.
Great summary!!! Such a helpful site!
Did this hike yesterday and agree it was definitely a strenuous hike. A fabulous one though. So much fun. Like an obstacle course hike! My dogs are avid hikers and both came and did fine. Did hoist them up a couple of times but mostly they did great. Fabulous write up about this hike and it was truly a spectacular day. Took us about 4.5 hours to go 8 miles – we continued straight at the last turn off to climb the last mountain and then came back down and continued to the parking. What a great day!
My husband and I recently got into hiking and I came across your website – I love it! Thank you for your helpful insights and making the info so much fun to read.
One section I would love to see in your descriptions is “Transportation” – we live in Manhattan and don’t have a car, so unfortunately accessibility is an important issue for us, and there’s not enough information out there on getting to these great locations via public transport. Do you happen to know if this specific trail is accessible by Metro North or another line originating in Manhattan?
Also, what would you say is the most difficult and long hike you have been on? We’ve done Breakneck (3 mi trail) and Beacon (8.5 mi trail) so far, and I’m looking for something as strenuous and lengthy as Beacon, but with as much scrambling as (and hopefully even more than) Breakneck.
Thank you again, and please keep adding more posts!
10 out of 10 difficulty? Gut busting? Seems like you have not too many difficult hikes. For a strong or moderate hiker this is a solid hike but no where near 10 out of 10. I can think of several 10 mile or less hikes in the Catskills that have significantly more elevation gain than this hike. I also think the total elevation gain is more like 2300 ft.
Nice to meet you, Kenneth! Sounds like you might be one of the people who sweats Power Gel and keeps a Clif Bar in an ankle holster, as mentioned in the answer to this FAQ: “Why aren’t there more long hikes (5+ miles) listed on this site?” — http://hikethehudsonvalley.com/frequently-asked-questions/#Ten
I hope you can still get some use out of this site. Happy adventuring!
i am going to hike this trail after reading your story and im wondering if i can do it on 4/2/2015 do you think there will still be snow up there? thnx
There probably will still be snow, but like I said, if you think you can handle it, go for it, it’s challenging, but fun
Thanks for this guide- it was spot on
I went today March 24, 2015 and followed the red markers like you suggested. Still a lot of snow on this trail, probably about 2 feet in most areas, which makes for a fun surprise when your foot breaks the thin layer of ice on top and shoots down 2 feet. If anyone is heading out in the next few days, keep your head down and watch your step- if you stay in the middle of the trail, the snow is packed in a bit more and you shouldn’t break the surface.
Regardless of that, it was beautiful, bright snow, dark evergreens, reasonable uphills to get your heart pumpin’ and fun downhills that was almost like skiing because of the snow and ice- as long as you’re capable of navigating the snowy terrain for downhills and uphills- it’s a lot of fun!
I didn’t go far- just past the first steep rock face to the view with the hill blocking the straight ahead views- I loved this view though- I hung out there for a while. ****The steep rock face was VERY DIFFICULT with the snow and ice- I don’t trail regularly and never climb, but I consider myself athletic and in real good shape, so luckily I made it out alive- if you haven’t climbed before or don’t think you’re in really good physical shape, DO NOT ATTEMPT in these conditions- it was treacherous- just fun because the prospect of being seriously injured is a rush…. way down might have been more difficult than way up*****
I live in NYC, but have a place in West Saugerties at the foot of Platt Cove Rd, again, just a reminder, it’s closed until April 15 I believe, YOU CAN’T GET THROUGH! Take 23A through Palenville to Tannersville!
Your guides usually err on the side of caution, so I was surprised to see that you didn’t hype the ‘scarier’ parts of this hike like others have. I guess I was looking for you to talk me out of doing it…but no…so as soon as the weather gets better. I Hike!
Hey, Jeff! If I neglected to make something sound scary, that’s probably just because I’m not knowledgeable enough to know what we’re supposed to be scared of. I think you’ll really enjoy this one, though, once the weather takes a turn for the better. It will do that someday, right?
And if you see something scary that I neglected to mention, please let us know! Assuming, you know, that you’d still be in a position to.
This is one of my more favorite hikes. Very nice write-up. If you have a dog that is a good hiker, I wouldn’t consider this too difficult a hike. Yes there are a few spot you may need to hoist your dog, but I’ve done this hike twice now with my 30lb dog, and neither time presented any real problem for her.
Just my $.02.
Thanks for the comment, Dan! Glad your dog enjoyed it – I expect many people would have a similar experience, but wanted to encourage pooch-people to make careful decisions. I think my dog might still be holding a grudge that I ditched her.
We just hiked this trail over the weekend (10/5/13). It was a quite the hike, but it was great. The views are worth the trek. We really loved all of your commentary and appreciated the insight you offered on the trail. Can’t wait to try one of your other hikes soon!
-Amanda & Cam
Thanks so much, Amanda & Cam! Really glad to hear it.