A pleasant, woodsy out-and-back.
Hiking Trail Description
Situated among some of the most bucolic land in New York State, this quiet trail over lush peaks makes for a rich, rewarding and restorative hike.
The state forests surrounding Ashland Pinnacle and Huntersfield occupy some of the most northernly areas of the Catskills.
I drove up through the Irish enclave of East Durham in a part of the Catskills called The Irish Alps. Lots of shamrocks. Lots of poverty. After the 1950’s and 1960’s air-conditioning, airlines and assimilation did for East Durham what they did for the rest of the Catskills: killed it as a destination.
But it’s clear why we Irish settled here. To describe the land up here as bucolic is an understatement. It’s reminiscent of the rich, fertile Irish midlands — but on a scale that is pure New York.
Park on Bluebird Road
“Bluebird Rd“ seems to be a relatively new name. It’s the name shown on the NYNJTC maps of the area but Google doesn’t know about it. It displays “CCC Road” which is a reference to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s. The GPS long/lat coordinates at the bottom of this post will get you to the right spot.
The drive from West Durham to Bluebird Road takes you past many beautifully-situated empty second homes, eventually switching to unpaved dirt road.
On this day, there was no trail register and finding the trailhead in the lush growth took a minute. In the photo below, it’s directly behind my car.
Dig around, and you’ll find the sign. In July, this area at the start of the hike was quite wet and muddy. (The rest of the route was quite dry.)
This was the first hike I did after completing my first round of 3500’s. I was looking for something a little different and much quieter. This route gave me that in spades.
BTW, the blazing at the start of this route is daubs of Long Path aqua, rather than the usual colored discs found elsewhere in the Catskills and in the Adirondacks.
This area is old farmland. You’ll see lots of tumbledown stone fences. Keep an eye out for scraps of rusty old barbed wire, too. This pine grove is one of the first areas you pass through. It’s very unlike the majority of the forest which, for the remainder of the hike, is decidedly deciduous. But it’s a really beautiful section. This lame photo does not do it justice at all…
The trail takes a sharp left turn and heads south. There is one short 100 meter section that’s a little steep. At the top of it, as you come out of the pine forest, the trail enters an open area formed by a crossroads.
The Long Path (aqua blazes) continues down to the right. Cross over the road, head directly into the woods on the other side, and begin following the red blazes.
From the crossroads it’s just over a mile to the summit of Ashland Pinnacle. The summit is screened-in with deciduous trees and unremarkable. But the walking is pleasant: a mix of deep, quiet woods and open patches like this…
The trail is also hopping with life: birds large and small take shocking flight as you approach and, if you look down, you’ll see lots of wood frogs living their woody lives. I saw at least six of these lil guys on this hike. Their camo adaptation is so good you can only see them when they get startled and hop…
See if you can spot the wood frog again here…
From Ashland Pinnacle, the trail winds a bit but is mostly pretty level until the final pitch up Huntersfield’s summit. Again, the woods are lush green, with lots of fern to wade through, and you’ll hear plenty of life moving around on either side of the trail.
You’ll pass some small rock ledges and the trail seems to bend sharply to the left/southwest as it heads up one of Huntersfield four summit ridges. The summit is again treed in but a large split tree marks the spot.
Very close by, you can find the summit marker…
There is also a tall metal pole at the summit, right beside the tree. I don’t know its purpose. Maybe simply to catch and direct lightning away from the tree?
The trail down to the Lean-To is a little back out the way you came in. In just a few minutes, you’ll spot it. This is a very quiet spot and the view looks out across the valley
Descend further down the trail, and look for an opening on your left. The blazing here is all but non-existent so keep watch.
Eventually, you’ll make your way to a very lovely opening bounded by a well-placed fallen log.
The view looks northwest across the bucolic Schoharie Valley, directly over Gilboa, NY to Mine Hill and Mount Jefferson which are about 15 miles distant.
The large mountain on the right with the steep side is Stevens. To its left, and closer to Huntersfield, is Sicklers.
This is a great spot to rest and refuel.
From Huntersfield, there should be amazing views of the Northern Catskills, the Blackhead Range, and even some of the Devil’s Path mountains. Either I didn’t find the best viewing spots or the views are simply blocked when leaves are on the trees. From the west, there’s a much shorter route up Huntersfield, and it might be worth revisiting after the leaves have fallen.
From here, the fastest route back to the parking area is directly uphill, right over Huntersfield’s summit, and back along the trail toward Bluebird Road.
If you like this kind of terrain, you’ll probably enjoy hiking over Ginseng Mountain & Mount Hayden — the terrain and vibe are almost identical (lush, green, quiet / great for solitude) but with added steepness.
The parent mountain for this hike is Huntersfield.
Hey! If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below.
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