A direct run up to Lockwood Gap, the col between the two peaks, then up and down each and back out.
Hiking Trail Description
Blackhead was one of the first Catskills I climbed, in November 2018, when I wasn’t used to hiking. It felt so hard! But the sweeping view from the western ridge is one of the highlights of the Catskill Park. I’ve been back many times since. This hike adds Black Dome which has since become one of my favorite mountains to hike. The sum of this route is truly greater than its parts.
Note: in the winter, once the snow arrives, the last section of road to the Big Hollow parking area remains unplowed. You’ll need to park at the outer lot which is about a mile away—adding a total of two miles to your hike.
Big Hollow to Blackhead
The half-mile hike from the parking area on Big Hollow Road to the first junction is well-blazed and pleasant, with sturdy footbridges for both stream crossings. After the second footbridge, the trail winds gently uphill through deciduous woods until around 2750’ when the steep climb to the col begins.
At 3000’, a spring on the left always seems to be running decently.
Once you get to the switchbacks, the first climb is almost over. The enormous blocks of blue ice that form on the trail here are a perennial winter landmark.
As the trail flips back toward Blackhead, the western side of its summit begins to come into view between the branches.
Not far above is Lockwood Gap, a moderately-sized col with a legal campsite. I want to camp here. To the south, when the trees are bare, you get hints of the epic view that opens up as you climb higher. Late in the day, and at sunset, this whole area is really special.
After a break, and maybe a layer change, head east to begin climbing Blackhead. The climb from the col doesn’t take long but it’s steep and rocky and demands attention.
The section just below the scenic viewpoint is trickiest, especially in winter conditions when you’d be mad to climb here without microspikes, trail crampons, or snowshoes.
But that view. Holy cow. A small flat ledge at around 3750’ gives you a chance to turn around and take it all in. Across the col, Black Dome looks imposing.
Continue climbing toward the summit ridge, which is long and viewless but strong on mood. As you tramp east across the top, listen for the ravens that live up here. On a bitter winter’s day, as you make your way to the junction that marks the mountain’s summit, the birds circle overhead caw-caw-ing ominously. I don’t know who said, “Winter is Mother Nature’s way of saying, Die! Die!” but I always imagine that’s what those ravens are yelling.
If you have time, there are views to be had a little farther along the Escarpment Trail to the east; on this day, I did not have time.
The return journey to Lockwood Gap gives you another chance to take in that amazing view. By the time you get back to the ledge, the light will have changed, the clouds will have shifted, and often you get a brand new view.
Descend carefully to the col.
From Lockwood Gap, the climb up the eastern side of Black Dome is so much fun. There are sections that remind me of The Devil’s Path — nothing scary but you’ll get a sense of what those trails are like.
At around 3750’, you come to, IMO, one of the grandest views in the Catskills. Look for an opening on the right side of the trail that leads down to a layered rock ledge. The view is mainly of Blackhead across the col, but you also see, to your left, Acra Point, Burnt Knob, Windham High Peak, and the vast flatlands north of the Catskills — all the way past Albany to the southern Adirondacks. To their right, you can see the Green Mountains of Vermont. Meanwhile, looking back to the right of Blackhead, your line of sight is across Colgate Lake to Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top. Altogether, it’s a bananas view. And the seasons alter the vista radically. I see can myself visiting this ledge several times a year, forever.
Return to the trail and continue climbing. It’s a little intense…
Black Dome’s summit is viewless but offers a fine walk through wonderful boreal woods.
Past the summit, a little farther down the trail toward Thomas Cole, a short spur to the left leads you to a third exceptional lookout. From the opening here, you get a new angle across the valley, looking over Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top to the eastern Devil’s Path mountains.
Return to Lockwood Gap once again.
From the col, the descent to the parking area takes only 45 minutes.
If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Description: Small lot on unplowed dirt road. Very popular. Arrive early.
GPS Location: 42.289055, -74.115381
Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.
Decent once you get up to the col and higher. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)