This full loop has an easy start, then a steep climb, then a moderate descent back to the junction that includes two or three sections of steep trail.
Hiking Trail Description
Ashokan High Point is a very popular destination for casual day hikers and overnight campers. Its hiking trails have a unique mix of ease and difficulty, beauty and ruggedness, views, geology, and other elements that keep this route pleasant and rewarding the whole way through.
You can expect this mountain to be busy year round, particularly the two trail sections that lead directly to the summit.
I usually avoid popular spots at weekends so I tried to mitigate the likelihood of running into too many people by planning this Saturday outing as a sunset-summit-hike. I started hiking around 3:30 pm with sunset due around 6:30 pm. Even so the trail was quite busy with people finishing up their hikes.
But later, while walking out in the dark, it was super fun to see so many active campsites with campfires and small groups of friends having a great time.
The Kanape trailhead was closed earlier this year while the DEC made significant improvements to the parking area.
The newly-expanded lot is large and level, with a lot of space for many cars — necessary because this destination is popular with both day hikers in search of beautiful hiking trail and campers looking to camp out in one of the sweetest and most accessible locations in the Catskills.
Ashokan High Point Hiking Trail
If you’re coming from Route 28, the lot is on the right side of the road, on a bit of a curve. Pull in and park. The information board is at the back of the lot, and the trail also begins at the back of the lot — which is not immediately clear, so that’s where to head.
Walk to the back of the lot, and look toward the road. You’ll see an arrow sign with a red blaze pointing down and across the road…
Cross the road, and continue over the footbridge.
Not long after, you’ll come to the trail register. As a precaution in these COVID days, disinfect your hands before signing in, then disinfect your hands again when you’re finished.
The trail follows Kanape Brook. It’s really lovely the whole way to the junction in the col between Ashokan High Point and Mombaccus Mountain at the back of the hollow.
John Canape was one of the first settler-farmers in the area. You’ll pass the remnants of hillside farms, and there are many great spots on both sides of the brook to camp out.
About a mile into this hike, I was set upon by yellowjackets. That’s never happened before. Who doesn’t enjoy a new experience?
Yellowjackets have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and they typically sting repeatedly — something I learned by picking up 8 stings in about 20 seconds. They were so aggressive! Head, front, back and arms. It was more or less instant.
Luckily, I’m not allergic and I carry alcohol swabs in my pocket, so I was able to deal immediately. Other than being a bit sore, it didn’t slow me down.
But it made me think that for any allergic person, it might be wise to pack an Epi-Pen on hikes — especially in the fall.
During the fall, many stinging insects become super aggressive as they prepare their queens for the winter. And they’re especially protective near their hives.
About half way along the first section, just before the trail crosses Kanape Brook, it runs through a lovely Norway spruce plantation — reminiscent of the magical spruce forest on Windham High Peak.
It’s another great place to camp out…
The DEC’s Catskills Hikes page states, “Once these trees would have been used for lumber and logs, and protected the farm that stood here from winds and snowdrifts.”
Ashokan High Point Col & Campsite
The trail to Ashokan High Point is on your left.
Straight ahead, however, you’ll notice some logs strewn across the trail. This is a common way-finding technique that means “Not this way!”
But just past the logs is a primitive campsite on public land. It’s a nice grassy open patch and looks like a great spot to spend a night. This campsite also has a good LTE signal — which may be a bonus, or not, depending on your needs.
Don’t follow the old road any further, as the land soon becomes private property.
Ascent to Ashokan High Point
Head back to the junction and turn right. The trail starts gently, and you’ll almost immediately pass the connecting junction (on the left) that you’ll be coming back down later.
For now, stay to the right. The trail begins to get steep.
Much of the trail is packed on either site by thick stands of mountain laurel. Also some maple, white pine, and oak. I didn’t notice too much beech.
Some sections are rocky and rugged…
Just above 2500’, you’ll come to a dramatic set of rock stairs. I didn’t get a good photo, so please now imagine a dramatic set of rock stairs. Okay, thank you.
The trail continues to switch between dense vegetation and slightly more open rock trail. Some sections are quite steep. Take your time, resting as needed.
Around 2800’, there’s a very cool erratic rock overhang that would be fun to take shelter under during a downpour.
Ashokan High Point’s Summit Ledge & Views
Just below the summit of Ashokan High Point, you’ll pass this excellent boy…
This rock outcrop is a marker for two things: 1) a herd path right in front of it leads around, off-trail, to the lower summit ledge, and 2) you can continue out that way to Little Ashokan via a difficult bushwhack route.
For now, walk right past the outcrop, heading uphill a few more feet to reach Ashokan High Point’s upper summit ledge.
I’d heard the view from Ashokan High Point wasn’t so great but, in fact, it’s pretty sweet. You can see Mohonk, Skytop and the Shawanagunk Ridge. The mountains in the background are the Hudson Highlands.
You can also look down at the lower ledge. These friendly people were setting up their camp for the night.
It’s a great spot. The lower ledge is well protected from the elements.
Before you go: on a rock on the left side of the upper ledge, notice four anchor bolts — remnants of an early observation tower.
Descend Ashokan High Point via the Loop
From here, you can turn around and head back down the way you came — it’s 1.1 miles back to the main junction.
Or you can continue onwards and descend Ashokan High Point via the longer western route — it’s a 2.5 mile trek back to the main junction.
About 1000’ northwest of Ashokan High Point’s summit, you’ll find two blueberry heaths.
This DEC Sundown Wild Forest page states: “Repeated fires have created a ridge-top blueberry heath with impressive westerly views of the Rocky-Balsam Cap-Friday Mountain ridge, especially adjacent Hoopole Mountain.”
Hoopole Mountain is a reference to pair of small knobs you’ll hike over before your final descent to the main junction.
This area has been well-known since the 1800’s as a great place to pick blueberries.
Michael Kudish states — in his fantastic The Catskill Forest: A History, pp 149 — that Ashokan High Point has been burned over, repeatedly, for thousands of years.
With improved land management practices, we should see far fewer mountain fires — in which case, these beautiful heaths may eventually disappear.
For now, especially at sunset, the partial view of Slide Mountain and the Burroughs Range feels very serene.
That DEC page also states, “A good view of the Ashokan Reservoir and the Rondout Valley framed by the Shawangunk Ridge is available from a large blueberry patch, a short but hilly bush walk to the northeast.”
At the time, I did not know about this, so I’ll have to look for this reservoir view on my next trip. It must be off in the woods to the right…? Or is this a reference to Little Ashokan? It sounds like it might be…?
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The trail descends a little into a small col, before one last bit of elevation gain as you climb over Hoopole Mountain.
Honestly, this pair of knobs barely qualifies as a mountain, and I can find no modern map reference to “Hoopole” — though Kudish mentions “Hoop Pole Mountain” on page 150.
In any event, once you’re over the knob, the trail takes a very sudden and sharp 90° left turn that’s easy to miss. I didn’t notice any double-blazes to alert me to the turn, but it was dusk… Anyway, watch for this sudden turn left.
New Herd Path
After 300’ or so, look for a new herd path on the right. It’s not marked on the NYNJTC maps. I only noticed it on Gaia’s map post-hike.
If you zoom in to this area on GaiaGPS, you’ll see the binoculars icon and then, if you zoom in even more, the herd path will appear.
Worth investigating. Let me know below if you find it!
Roughly ¼ mile from the sharp left, look for another opening into the vegetation. It leads into the woods on the left side of the trail. When I got there, it was marked with a small cairn — but when you get there, that may not be the case.
Head uphill, not too far. The site is only about 100’ from the trail. Even in the dark, I was able to locate it easily.
The wreck is small, but not as small as descriptions online had led me to imagine. There are several substantial hunks of wreckage strewn about the area I visited.
Steep & Rugged Descent
Return to the trail by walking downhill. Turn left.
Almost directly after the wreck, the first steep section gives you a good sense of what’s coming. Watch your footing here, especially if it’s wet or icy.
The trail back to the main junction alternates between steep trail, rugged/rocky trail, and easier/more level patches. There’s also (currently) a lot of blowdown to climb over.
The trail is mostly pretty well blazed. I was able to pick out the red blazes easily in the dark. (Catskills blazes are reflective, so they shine nicely whenever your headlamp flashes on them.)
Take your time, watch your footing, and rest as needed.
Soon, you‘ll be back at the small connecting junction you passed on the way up. Keep right and continue downhill.
Moments later, back at the main junction, turn right again and begin the easy 2.7 mile hike out to the Kanape parking area.
Through the hollow, with its mix of beautiful stream and early settler history, the first part of this hike reminded me of Rochester Hollow. The steepness and thick stands of mountain laurel reminded me of the new trail up Ticetonyk Mountain. The blueberry heaths reminded me of hikes at Minnewaska. And the small plane wreck reminded me of the two small plane wrecks on Kaaterskill High Peak.
If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Description: Large lot for popular destination. Good LTE signal.
GPS Location: 41.935832, -74.327768
Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.
This is rare hike in the Catskills that has pretty good cell reception almost the entire way. A few patches without. Otherwise surprisingly good! (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)