A straight-forward run up Slide, then over the summit to a solid view. Return by the far more interesting Curtis-Ormsbee Trail.
Hiking Trail Description
When climbing Slide Mountain, if you stick to the standard route you’ll see only a small amount of what this vast mountain has to offer. Instead, follow this loop route to squeeze way more out of your hike — with hardly any extra effort!
The Slide Mountain Parking Area on Oliverea Road / Route 47 is quite large. But Slide is well-known as “the tallest Catskill”. It’s also pretty easy to climb — so it attracts a lot of attention. In summer, this is a busy, busy destination. Plan to arrive early. GPS coordinates at the end of this post.
Slide Mountain Hiking Trail
Start at the DEC Slide Mountain trailhead on Oliverea Road. After parking your car, checking your ten essentials, and signing the register (which may save your life), the first thing you need to check is if the Neversink River is even passable…
East Branch Neversink
The name “Neversink” comes from an Algonquian phrase meaning “mad river”. Indeed, the river is sometimes dry, sometimes a brook, sometimes a stream, sometimes an uncrossable river, and sometimes a raging 6 foot torrent.
In fact, this is one of two Neversink Rivers, the East Branch Neversink.
The West Branch Neversink behaves somewhat similarly after rain. It’s banks are hikeable but extremely tricky — the unmarked picturesque herd path is known as the Fisherman’s Path.
On this day, luckily, the East Branch was mostly frozen over, making it easy to pick my way across.
Ascent to Slide
After crossing the Neversink, I took the quick, standard route to climb Slide Mountain. I made it to the summit in about 90 minutes.
First, pass through some open woods, following the yellow blazes of the Phoenicia East Branch trail.
Then climb through a short rocky section.
At the top of the stone steps, turn right, and walk along a short flat section which soon leads to the first junction.
At the junction, turn left, switching to the red-blazed Wittenberg Cornell trail.
The next mile or so is pretty boring. It’s just a straight climb over rocky trail. It’s one of my least favorite miles in the Catskills.
A primitive campsite on the right, about half way up, is a great place to camp out overnight.
Soon enough the terrain and woods change. After the switchback, a lovely ascent through a spruce forest begins. It’s almost tunnel-like.
Pass a junction on your right — but make a mental note of its location. (You’ll come back to this junction later.)
Continue upwards. The next ¾ mile is lovely.
Slide Mountain Scenic Views
This is also the last spot you’ll have cell coverage; there is none at the summit.
Slide Mountain Summit
The summit is marked by the one remaining footing of the old fire tower that used to stand there.
In deep snow, the footing will be covered and the summit may be hard to find if you’re not already familiar with it. But there is a somewhat obvious low mound in the area, on the left side of the trail. That is the actual summit.
There is no view here. However, continue on just a little more…
Not far past the summit, a large flat rocky area opens up. Here, you can rest, hang out, and snack — remembering to always Leave No Trace.
Far below, you can see the Ashokan Reservoir — so small and foreshortened, you might mistake it for a river.
The open rock ends at a ledge. Walk around the right side of the open area. Below, around the far side, you’ll find a plaque which commemorates John Burroughs who brought the Catskills area to fame.
More Scenic Views
Most casual hikers don’t know about these views which lie beyond the summit.
With the Burroughs plaque behind you, look into the evergreen woods. The red trail continues downhill toward Cornell and Wittenberg mountains. It can be a little tough to find the trail among the densely-packed trees. Poke around until you spot a red blaze.
Warning! Do not attempt this next section without proper hiking footwear. The trail here is steep, rugged and slippy. It is dangerous for inexperienced and casual hikers.
The trail down is steep and rugged. If there is any ice or snow, you will absolutely need microspikes.
Descend carefully for 5-10 minutes. You’ll come to a large, distinctive, oblong boulder which protrudes toward Cornell and Wittenberg. If you climb up on the boulder — a sketchy proposition — this is the view…
Continue down. The trail is increasingly rugged and difficult. You will need to use your hands.
You will come to a very steep wooden staircase. Basically, a ladder — to me, the angle is precipitous and vertigo-inducing. But at the bottom of the staircase, on a short flat section of trail, is a wonderful open view of Wittenberg and Cornell…
The same view in winter…
To the left, is a spring…
Do not drink mountain water without treating or filtering, unless you want to risk giardiasis. Here I am collecting water from this spring in the summer after camping out overnight between Slide and Cornell…
From here, you must climb back up to the summit before beginning your descent.
Descent from Slide Mountain
Turn around and head back up to Slide’s summit. Turn left at the Burroughs Plaque and head back up to the open area. From there, follow the trail out.
30 mins or so from the summit, you’ll return to the junction you made a mental note of earlier. Straight ahead is the red-blazed trail you first came up. To your left is the blue-blazed Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. Turn left and head down this trail.
The trail winds down through several distinct varieties of woodland, past a good view of Table Mountain that’s just off trail and, finally, a huge split rock chasm that’s worth stepping inside. (It’s on your right as you descend, very near the junction.)
At the bottom of this trail, notice the small dark Curtis Ormsbee monument.
Turn right to follow the yellow-blazed trail back down to the parking area. You’ll pass the bottom of the red trail you used to ascend. Keep going, then keep watch for a small sign that points to the left downhill. Otherwise, it’s easy to hike past the final turn which leads you back down through the rocky section and out toward the Neversink East Branch and your car.
A very similar easy mountain hike is Balsam Lake — with the bonus that the fire tower at Balsam Lake’s summit has a truly amazing view.
For mountain hiking noobs, I always recommend Windham High Peak as one of the most accessible and rewarding Catskills hikes. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a list of the most popular Catskills hikes.
Maybe you’re even thinking about starting the classic Catskills 3500’s challenge…?
You can also Hike the Catskills Fire Towers — 5½ excellent hikes!
These are the best hiking apps you can download right now.
And here’s a list of the best places to eat in the Catskills for hikers.
The parent mountain for this hike is Slide.
Hey! If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below.
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Trailhead Info for this Hike
Large lot, popular destination. Arrive early, especially at weekends and on vacation days.
GPS Location: 42.009183, -74.427463
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
There is cell service just below the summit. Otherwise, the signal is patchy to non-existent — very typical for the Catskills Wilderness. My network is Verizon. YMMV.