An easy hike up to the ridge-line and then a moderate hike back and forth along it before returning to your car
Hiking Trail Description
Be warned: when it snows, the dirt section is never plowed, and you have to park roadside, at the end of the asphalt section, and hike in. This adds a mile to each side of your hike, which can make a big difference during the shorter days. Start as early as you can, and always make sure you’re prepared to hike safely.
From the parking area, the trail goes immediately into the woods toward a footbridge that passes over Batavia Kill. The register is on the far side of the footbridge.
The first ¼ mile of this hike, which crosses the riparian corridor, is really lovely. There are several fun stream crossings.
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The remaining ¾ mile up to the col is an easy ascent following the red blazes. At the junction, you’ll see signs for the blue-blazed trail pointing right to Acra Point and left to Burnt Knob and Windham High Peak.
Side Quest: Acra Point
The trek to Acra Point, through open woods and over a few rocky outcroppings, is short and uneventful.
On the summit knob, there are two lookouts, both on the right side of the trail. Skip the first one: the view from it is obscured and it would be better to let this spur return to nature.
The second lookout is really great. From an open ledge, the view of the Blackhead range is majestic. You can also see Arizona Mountain peeking out from behind Blackhead’s eastern flank. To your right is Burnt Knob, obscuring Windham High Peak.
Return to the junction and begin hiking toward Burnt Knob.
At about ¼ mile from the junction there’s an acute switchback. Winding past some very steep terrain, the trail turns sharply to the right before a hairpin turn to the left.
Not long after this, down a short herd trail to your left, is a truly epic ledge that offers a panoramic view of the entire Blackhead range across the valley: Blackhead, Black Dome and Thomas Cole and Camel’s Hump are laid out in a line.
Return to the trail and turn left, heading west along the side of Burnt Knob.
Burnt Knob got its name from one of the many forest fires that have ravaged this part of the Catskills over the centuries.
The trail does not pass directly over the summit. Instead it follows the contour, and therefore stays pretty even. However, in November it was muddy.
On this day, with daylight fading, I chose not to bushwhack to the summit. It looks straightforward enough. Next time.
On the far side of Burnt Knob is another scenic view, this time on the right side of the the trail. An open area looks north to a classic escarpment scene: the flatlands around Albany and the beginnings of the Adirondacks.
Further along the trail, back on the left, you’ll come to two small ledges that look southwest, out the mouth of the Maplecrest valley.
You also get a great view of Windham High Peak. From here, the summit is about 45 minutes.
Windham High Peak
Descend to the col, down through one slightly tricky rock ledge.
As you ascend Windham, at about 3150’, you pass this wonderful sandstone boulder which has cleaved into perfectly parallel layers.
The uphill hiking here is moderate, with a few steepish pitches, but no tricky business.
Ledges & Lookouts
You’ll come to a small ledge which marks the eastern end of the summit. Climb up onto the flat section. On your right is an excellent escarpment lookout, and a good place to rest with a large boulder to lean on.
Beside the boulder is a wonderful gnarly tree. I can’t believe I’m developing relationships with individual trees but I love this crazy guy on this lovely summit.
A little farther down the trail is the actual summit, marked by a geodetic survey marker. The last time I was up here was in the snow, and I couldn’t find the survey marker. This time, I found two. From this direction, you find the secondary marker first: it’s on a rock that protrudes onto the right side of the trail. On it you’ll see an arrow which points to the primary marker just a few feet away.
Return to Car
From here, the hike back to the parking area took two hours. Most of it was done by headlamp.
As I was coming down the east side of Burnt Knob, I met one other person coming up. He was also navigating by headlamp. He’d begun a through-hike of the escarpment trail early that morning, starting at the horseshoe turn near Kaaterskill Falls. Amazing!
If this length and intensity of hike appeals to you, check out the list of moderate Catskill hikes.
And here’s the table of moderate Catskill peaks.
The parent mountain for this hike is Windham High Peak.
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
There’s a lot at the end of the road but, for this trail, you can street park right by the signposts. The last section of Big Hollow Rd is unplowed in winter, so leave a little extra time to hike in.
Google Maps Location: 42.289288, -74.116144
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
No service at the trailhead but some service up high. Patchy. I was able to send out a final text from the last junction, before heading down the last stretch to the trailhead. My network is Verizon. YMMV.