A long hike in and out, but the summit has so much.
Hiking Trail Description
This hike starts from Platte Clove in the south then winds around the east side of the mountain to tackle the final ascent via the easier northern route. You’ll hit all the major points of interest on Kaaterskill High Peak.
Kaaterskill High Peak is said to be neglected but, on this day, there were 20 people ahead of me in the register. Some hikers may have been going to Huckleberry Point, a popular short hike, but I met plenty of people on the mountain itself.
Every week, online, I see new photos from Kaaterskill High Peak. With hiking numbers up across the country, it seems to be back on the hiking radar.
Accessing Platte Clove
During the warmer months, when the eastern side of Platte Clove Rd is open, the dramatic drive up the winding cliff road is always 50% fun / 50% nerve-wracking — they close this route in winter for a reason. (Here’s the alternate route to use when Platte Clove Road is closed.)
The parking lot for this hike is the same one you use for hiking to Huckleberry Point, to visit Plattekill Falls, or even to hike into Echo Lake. The lot is large enough but it fills up quickly on busy weekends.
Kaaterskill High Peak Hiking Trail
The route is a nocturne. It has a calm beginning, a burst of high drama, and a return to calm.
The register is on the west side of the lot, and marks the entrance to the trail.
Sign in and begin your hike on the blue trail, heading north.
Cairns & Blazes
I was surprised to see so many cairns on the lower portion of this hike. They kept me company for quite a while, marking entry points into the woods heading west. I heard a lot of animal activity in this area. I suspect the cairns may be markers placed by hunters.
This trail is also a snowmobile trail so the trail blazes are doubled up: blue and red together.
After you pass the junction with the yellow trail, the woods switch abruptly to a hardwood stand. For the next while, the flora switches back and forth between hardwood and deciduous forest, over very wet and swampy terrain.
This hike is known for its long stretches of deep, thick mud — so a pair of gaiters is a good idea for this hike.
There are several footbridges to cross. The brooks and creeks and streams are very lively.
After about 2¼ miles, I came to the junction with a herd path that leads off the main trail. It appears on your left, and heads east, just before main trail bends northeast. Two young birch trees mark the start of the herd path. You can see them on the left side of the photo below.
Once you enter the woods, the camp is not far.
Turn left at the first big tree. In no time, you’ll find yourself standing in the camp, which is an obvious flat, round area.
From here, the herd path continues up the right side of the camp, winding mostly to the east. It’s not steep but it’s a bit of work, and the track through the dense growth is easy to lose.
Just keep heading east. You can’t go wrong. Soon enough, you will arrive up on the flat, wide snowmobile trail.
1987 Plane Wreck
From where I came out of the woods, the 1987 plane wreck was about 500 ft to my left. The trail was wet and thick with mud, and there were a lot of nettles.
The wreck is a small single-engine plane, scattered on both sides of the trail. The site is not dramatic.
Junctions 1 & 2
Turn around and head back along the trail, passing wherever you came out of the woods, and staying on it for quite a while.
This section of trail is flat and not too interesting. It’s a bit of a tramp. If you hit a dry spot and think, “Oh, great, the muddy part is over…” just wait. On this mountain, the muddy part is never over.
The trail descends until you reach the first junction which heads down to the right, back to the blue trail. (You’ll return to this spot later.)
Pass this first junction, hop across the pools of mud, and look for the second junction, which is the herd path that heads up to Kaaterskill High Peak’s summit. It’s marked by two blue painted blazes on trees, like a gateway. (A small ad hoc footbridge made of short rough planks to the right is a signal you’ve gone too far.)
The route to the summit is not long or hard, and is only steep in a few sections. On the way up, there are two dramatic-looking ledges; both are easy to navigate.
Kaaterskill High Peak’s Summit
After a steep climb, you come upon KHP’s summit suddenly. In the warmer seasons it’s a small open grassy area. Winter changes the character of this summit considerably, and you may need full crampons to ascend.
In late 2019, the Catskill 3500 Club added a canister. You can pop off the top and sign your name with the date.
On the ground nearby are two geodetic survey markers. One is right on the trail. The other is just inside the woods. Both are only a short distance from each other.
The summit of Kaaterskill High Peak has no view, but it’s a good spot to collect yourself for a minute.
Follow the herd path southwest. You’ll loose about 150’ of elevation heading down to the ledge. The trail winds this way, then that, but you can’t miss the ledge.
To the east you can see the Hudson River snaking through the flatlands. But it’s the view across the valley that’s so great. Laid out right before you are Plattekill, Indian Head, Twin, and Sugarloaf.
Through the notch between Indian Head and Twin, depending on exactly where you stand, you may be able to see Ticetonyk and Mombaccus.
The following key was made with the PeakFinder app…
The ledge has plenty of space to hang out. There’s also a lower section with a better view of the Devil’s Path mountains. It’s worth poking around.
In summer, you may be mobbed by swallowtail butterflies.
The herd path continues south from the ledge, but is rocky, almost vertically steep, and extremely dangerous to descend. (It’s on my list to do, as a climb coming up.)
When you’re ready, return to the summit.
1983 Plane Wreck
Back at the summit, the trail down is to your left. But notice there’s also an opening to your right. This opening leads to the herd path that will bring you down the east side of the mountain.
Although it’s not quite as worn-in as the herd paths you’ve been on since you left the blue trail, the track is pretty easy to follow.
If you come, seemingly, to the end of the track — at a sharp drop-off with no way forward — you’ve gone too far. But only slightly.
Retrace your steps and look for the tree below. It has a near horizontal trunk. It was on your left as you came down but, when you’re heading back from the ledge, it will be on your right.
Duck under this limb and keep going.
Follow the bottom of the cliff face to your left.
You’ll come to a mossy corner and you may spot some small pieces of wreckage on the forest floor.
There’s also what looks like a flat stone panel embedded in the mossy rock, in the corner. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Climb up that corner and, suddenly, you’re there, right on top of the crash site.
From below, you can’t see anything; the wreck is hidden above eye-line.
Once you climb up, you see the fuselage; still shockingly intact after 36 years.
The terrain above the wreckage is very steep. If you decide to explore, be super careful.
After the wreck, head back up to the summit, enter the clearing, and then turn right to hike down the main herd path that leads back to the trails.
On the way down, a small view at 3500’ looks through the trees to the Blackhead range.
When you get to the junction with the snowmobile trail, turn right, skip over the mud, and then turn left down the short connector trail to arrive at the blue trail. From here, turn right to head back toward Platte Clove.
On the way out, this trail passes through an area called the Pine Plains which I wanted to visit, if only to avoid going back the same way I’d come in. The trail is a little less muddy but, after a long day’s climbing, it’s lumpy and tiring on your feet. But it has its charms, too…
This is a long hike and you really feel it on the way out. Take your time.
I’m not one for signs but, at the very end of this hike, which was my final 3500’ hike, a Scarlet Tanager flew down in front of me, and started taking his afternoon bath in a dirty puddle, right in the middle of the trail.
He let me get quite close. I was too tired to pull out my good camera. I also didn’t want to scare him away. After five hours immersed in deep summer green, that little bobbing red dude was the reddest thing I’ve ever seen.
This was my final Catskill 3500 hike. It was such a great mountain to finish on. From Hurricane Ledge, I was able to look directly across at Indian Head where my mountain hiking journey began. That was a very special feeling.
If you’re working on your 3500’s, keep a few special ones for the end: Sugarloaf, Black Dome, Twin, Hunter and Balsam Lake all offer wonderful views of multiple Catskill peaks. It’s such a nice way to bring your quest to a close.
The parent mountain for this hike is Kaaterskill High Peak.
Hey! If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below.
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