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Out-and-back, with steep but non-technical trail.
Hiking Trail Description
Above Route 23, the Long Path follows the Catskill Escarpment north over Ginseng Mountain and Mount Hayden toward Mount Pisgah, Richmond, Ashland Pinnacle, and Huntersfield. The smaller scale of these northern Catskills means there are no High Peaks vibes — little to no boreal summits — though the mountains are beautiful and exceptionally quiet.
Michael Kudish says that Ginseng Mountain and Mount Hayden have been extensively cut, but not burned. The trees here are all second growth forest — meaning they are forest that has bounced back after previously being cleared of old, original growth — which is true of most of the forest in the Catskills.
The land up here was used for pasture and logging, and the mountains are covered in old logging trails; the trail over Ginseng and Hayden runs along, and crosses, many logging trails.
These are great trails to hike if you need some solitude.
Five State Lookout
The drive along Route 23 from I-87’s Exit 21 is a new favorite of mine. The road winds along the Escarpment peaks, eventually passing right through them. It is very scenic.
In Durso Corner, a spot on the right side of the road called The Five State Lookout is worth pulling into.
I believe the mountains visible to the east (back down Rte 23) are the Taconics.
I thought my phone would direct me first to the Elm Ridge parking area for Windham High Peak, and then head north, but it had me turn off Rte 23 sooner, at Old Road, which connects directly with Jennie’s Notch Road from the east.
Jennie’s Notch Road is a gravel road, very picturesque. It terminates at a pretty house on the right. Do not park here; it’s private property. Instead, continue up a short dirt road, just 200 feet or so, until you see the iron gate below, and park in the small area to its left.
There is no trailhead sign or trail register.
Best Anti-Tick Treatment
This route is blazed with aqua paint which, unlike the disc blazes in the rest of Catskill Park, is not reflective at night.
There are no grand views on this route. Everything feels modest — even the steep sections, which are very steep but also short.
A scenic view is marked just south of Barlow Notch, but I didn’t notice anything as I hiked. It may be a little off trail, or that view may open up when the leaves are off the trees. (Lake Heloise is to the southwest.)
The first part of the trail follows the route of an old 19th century mountain turnpike gently uphill toward Jennie Notch. A very detailed description of this trail section can be found on this Trail Conference page for Section 26 of the Long Path.
A lot of the trail looks like this…
Currently, the gate near the north end of this section is knocked over.
Soon enough, you pop up into Jennie Notch.
Jennie Notch is a small wooded col between Ginseng mountain to the west and Mount Zoar to the east. Keep an eye out for these dual aqua blazes indicating a sharp turn left…
Right after Jennie Notch is an exceptionally steep section of old logging road; a real huffer. There are several such sections on this route, but this is the steepest; I think it might be the very steepest grade I’ve hiked.
You’ll pass at least one side trail, which you can ignore.
Ginseng Mountain’s Summit
The trail does not pass directly over the actual summit of Ginseng. But the summit is only a short bushwhack from the trail. As it happened, I wandered off trail unconsciously and found myself wading through the fern grove next to the summit, following in the tracks of someone who had previously made the same mistake. (And a few weeks later, some friends made the same mistake. So keep your eyes peeled as you come up the summit knob.)
The summit is marked with a low round cairn…
The fern glade is south of the summit, right next to it. It’s large enough to be visible on satellite imagery.
I bushwhacked northwest, following old roads and passing this wonderful tree…
…before eventually reconnecting with the Long Path. On the way down, I passed this magnificent Bear’s Tooth Head mushroom (which I regret not harvesting)…
Back on the trail, at 2840’, I came to the only rugged part of this hike. It’s very short and barely worth mentioning. It only stands out because the rest of the trail is so easy-going.
I thought things might kick up a notch, here — but, no, the trail reverts to easy hiking as it passes through grassy woodland…
Barlow Notch is the col between Ginseng and Hayden. It’s notably sweet and is the site of a memorial plaque.
The plaque reads:
“In memory of / Donald A. Sutton / hunted this mountain / for forty years / 1923-1978.”
I don’t know anything about this person, but there is a Sutton Road nearby and I’ve been told there is a history of Suttons in the area.
Not long after this post was published, descendants of Mr. Sutton reached out to me. See the comments below for the personal history behind this plaque.
The plaque is down off a flat section of trail which confused me twice. The trail here is an old road, so flat and clear I just zoned out while walking it. I found myself walking past the turn below, which is marked with a small cairn. I continued on down the road for 1000 feet or so until I realized I’d lost too much elevation, doubled back, and reconnected with the correct trail.
Later, on my way back out, I again missed a turn on this section. This time it was the turn-off to start heading back up Ginseng. It took me a minute to realize and to reconnect with the Long Path — a reminder that there are no trail signs on this trail, only painted blazes and a few genuinely helpful cairns.
Climbing Mount Hayden
Anyway, right after Barlow Notch, there’s a short, steep climb to the summit that includes this incredible fern goodness…
The Mount Hayden section of this trail guide is accessible to members who kindly support this content…
My original plan was to go on to Mount Pisgah but, between the steep sections and the wind/rain, I wasn’t feeling it. I decided to turn back and made a plan to hike Mount Pisgah and Richmond Mountain another time.
From the summit of Hayden back to my car, with no wrong turns, it took about 1h 50m.
Heading back down, I came across this tiny stand of bright red Wax Cap mushrooms.
Fauna: Efts Galore!
Somehow, I’ve never seen these guys in real life — until this day, when I saw about 500 of them on Ginseng Mountain; well, there were so many, at least, that I had to watch where I walked. The rain brings out salamanders in numbers.
Eastern Newts can live 12-15 years in the wild. These are efts — the stage between larva and adult; this stage ends when the newts are 2-3 years old.
These efts are easy to catch, and don’t seem too freaked out to be held gently for a minute — but I’ve since learned that this isn’t a great idea. (They are mildly toxic, which is not usually a problem but you wouldn’t want to get any secretions from them in your eye.) Handling newts damages their protective mucous covering which leaves them vulnerable to pathogens. Hudson Valley One has a short, informative article on Red Efts. So this is a picture of me doing something I won’t be doing again…
The most comparable mountain hike I’ve done is over Ashland Pinnacle and Huntersfield; the terrain and hiking there and here is very similar.
This is a moderate hike.
If you like steep routes, this hike has several short steep sections.
It’s great for solitude.
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The parent mountain for this hike is Ginseng.
If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below. Your feedback makes this site better.
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Very small. 3-4 cars tops. Do not park by the house. You must drive up the short dirt road to the gate.
Google Maps Location: 42.327832, -74.188462
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
Spotty but I was able to get texts out from several points, including the trailhead. My network is Verizon. YMMV.