This route includes a 3 mile (5 km) road walk at the end which takes about an hour; with two cars, of course, it becomes a quick shuttle.
Hiking Trail Description
This route begins at the very end of the Devil’s Path in Spruceton. Starting with a beautiful section of easy trail through deciduous and old growth stands, you’ll pass giant boulders and a swamp before the hiking turns steep and tough. From St. Anne’s Peak to Buck Ridge Lookout, and back down to Spruceton Road, you will marvel at the sheer scale of West Kill Mountain.
From the Mink Hollow parking area, the first ¼ mile is a little steep but then the trail levels out and the next ¾ mile is pretty delightful. I love the woods here, the sound of the brook down in the hollow, but particularly the dramatic boulders that dot the landscape to your left.
After that, there are two left turns you need to keep an eye out for as the trail starts to wind uphill. Before long, you reach the junction with the trail signs that point back to the parking area and, to your left, up toward St. Anne’s and West Kill.
The section of trail that goes up St. Anne’s is steep. I met several exhausted-looking couples and solo hikers who were coming down. Many were completely unprepared, wearing only sneakers, or cotton clothing, or without water or even maps. One couple had even turned around at St. Anne’s thinking they had reached the summit of West Kill. Considering the size of West Kill, this struck me as really remarkable. Check out the planning section for some basic items you can bring on every hike to make sure you stay safe.
At the top of this incline, the trail turns sharply to the right and you’ll see a tree with a large burl. The way to St Anne’s Peak from here is easy to moderate hiking, with some beautiful rock outcroppings and woods.
The summit of St Anne’s is very small. The actually summit is off-trail, a short bushwhack into the woods. On this muggy fall day, I chose to skip bagging the actual peak and make my way directly down the other side. The east side is extremely steep and rocky; take your time and watch your footing.
The col between St. Anne’s and West Kill is large and its woods are quiet. I came across several mounds of bear scat, packed with unchewed berries. In late summer and early fall, keep an eye for black cap raspberries.
As you get closer to West Kill the woods become more piney. In fact, the west side of West Kill has a stretch of boreal woods that peakbaggers who come up from Diamond Notch rarely get to experience. It’s mossy, with soft pine-needle underfooting, and smells amazing.
Before much longer, you reach the summit of West Kill—the only Catskill summit marked with an official-looking wooden sign, the sort that are common in the Adirondacks. There are no views from the summit but, from here, it’s a five minute walk to Buck Ridge Lookout, which is actually two lookouts less than 100’ apart, each with slightly different views. Both are worth visiting for their angles.
Buck Ridge Lookout also has a wooden sign. I don’t know the history of this signage but it’s definitely a curiosity that they appear only on West Kill.
There is also a second lookout somewhere on the other side of the Buck Ridge Lookout sign. I absolutely forgot to check it out and am so mad. IIRC, it requires some poking around, minor bushwhack stuff, but the view is across the valley toward Rusk, East Rusk, etc. Oh, well. Next time.
My original plan for this hike was to head back to the Mink Hollow parking area. However, it was getting dark and I was not in top form so I made the calculation that it would be safer to head down the east side of the mountain and walk back to my car along Spruceton Road. This adds a mile to the day but the walking is easy.
On the way down, it got dark and foggy enough that I had to crack out my headlamp. I met a father/daughter who were camping out for the night, and a spooky thru-hiker searching for a spring in the dark. The road walk was Felliniesque: a wedding reception at Spruceton Inn, a massive heron that launched into the sky from a foggy garden as I approached, and a drunken close-talker stumbling around with his snarling dog. I was very glad to get back to my car.
The parent mountain for this hike is West Kill.
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
Address: 1518 Spruceton Rd, West Kill, NY
Due to the nature of rural addresses, this address is an approximation; it’s the “close enough address” I use to get driving directions from my phone. Click to launch Google Maps in a new window/tab.