Indian Head Catskills Hike

Fantastic terrain, epic views, a beloved cliff ascent, a long boreal summit, a steep and rugged descent, and an easy walk out through beautiful woods — this is my absolute favorite single-mountain hike in the Catskills.

Hike Length: 6.3 miles (10.14 km)

Total Ascent: 1,600ft (488m)

Intensity: Moderate Catskills Hike

Route Type: Loop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent Indian Head

Similar Entries In: Catskills, The Best Hikes, The Difficult Hikes, The Most Popular Hikes, , , , , , , .

knoll and mountain from indian head

Indian Head’s “chin” and Overlook Mtn from Indian Head’s “nose“

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 The classic route allows you to warm up slowly over fairly level terrain, then takes the super-fun turn up the eastern side of the mountain.

Hiking Trail Description

Indian Head is the smallest peak on the infamous Catskills Devil’s Path trail, but it’s also the most delightful.

The other five mountains are wonderful too, of course, each in their own way — the scale! the drama! the views! — but hiking Indian Head is a special, intimate, and rewarding experience.

Fantastic terrain, epic views, a beloved cliff ascent, a long boreal summit, a steep and rugged descent, and an easy walk out through beautiful woods — this is my absolute favorite single-mountain hike in the Catskills.


There are multiple locations named “Indian Head” in New York State. The most famous and scenic is Indian Head in the Adirondacks. This trail guide is for Indian Head in the Catskills, on the Devil’s Path.

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Indian Head Catskills Hiking Trail

The Indian Head Catskills hiking trail includes…

  • The eastern terminus of the infamous Devil’s Path trail
  • Original growth hemlock stands
  • Sherman’s Lookout
  • A giant Devonian panini press
  • A wonderfully do-able rock chute climb
  • One of the great Catskills scenic views
  • A boreal summit
  • My favorite Catskills boulder
  • A classic Catskills notch
  • A beautiful walk-out

Allow 3-5 hours for this hike. A full breakdown is provided in the trail notes below, with 30+ breathtaking photos.

iced-up boulder
Large boulder on Indian Head’s western slope

Indian Head Catskills Trail Notes & Gallery

The parking area at the end of Prediger Road is a generous loop, with lots of space for cars, but this is a popular destination — even on frigid weekends the lot can fill up early.

Note: Between November 1 and April 15 every year, the eastern end of Platte Clove Road is closed. Use this alternate route to Platte Clove Road.

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Similar Hikes to Indian Head Catskills

If you love Indian Head, the most obvious mountain to climb next is Twin, which you can access from Jimmy Dolan Notch, the col between the two summits.

For more of a low-key-day, try Balsam Mountain. If you’re not sure about tackling the Devil’s Path, try Balsam to feel yourself out.

Heading up to Giant Ledge and Panther makes for a longer day – but it’s suitable for anyone who can handle Indian Head.

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The parent mountain for this hike is Indian Head.

If you do this hike, LMK how it went…

6 responses to “Indian Head Catskills Hike

  1. Mid September must be one of the best times to summit Indian Head.
    For the best experience, I’d encourage a clockwise way of summering and then looping back.
    We headed out mid morning, signed in at the trailhead and moved through the forest. Slowly making it higher and higher. There are a LOT of roots and you’ll need to keep your feet high so as not to catch your boots and suffer an reverse ego trip. The ground was damp and to some extent wet , but never over the toes of my boots. All of this time we wore baselayers and a vest – it was low 50°’sF.

    At the junction the trails switches from red to blue markers this is where the work begins. Roots turn to rocks but the forest is spectacular and you’ll be covered from any showers, should they happen and the effort is made all the more charming with the vistas.
    Be prepared to sweat a little on the ascent. You’ll know you’re on the right route when you come across the blue baseball hat from Maine!

    At the upper parts of this section you’ll need to make three climbs, almost vertical and you can thank heavens for Mother Nature and her profuse roots that you can hang onto as you make your way up.

    The first lookout is simply spectacular and the following ones build on it.
    As with many peaks in the Catskills, the summit is not much to write home about and we simply walked past and started the descent.

    While the ascent was roots and damp ground with a couple of near verticals, the descent is knee jarring, energy sapping and became frankly annoying. It just makes sense to have a nice time on your way up and thank you Sean for the recommendation to go clockwise.

    Our loop took 4+hrs and we’ll sleep well tonight. Have fun. Be safe and healthy and please. Wear a mask when you meet others on the trail.

  2. Something kinda cool to note, the buildings in the photo from Sherman’s lookout is the old NYC Police Camp where policemen and their families gathered on vacation every summer for decades. Ironically, my dad had been telling me about this camp where he had spent many summers with his parents. We stepped out onto Sherman’s lookout and there it was! He was so excited to see it from the lookout. He couldn’t recall exactly where it was until he saw it from the ledge 🙂

    1. Your dad is the second person to mention the old old police camp there. How wild. Or maybe he’s the same guy who told me about it before?

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Trailhead Info for this Hike

The circular parking area is quite large but fills up quickly on weekends.

Google Maps Location: 42.133939, -74.104120

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Indian Head is somehow in a decent spot for cell service, but coverage is flaky. For the first half of the hike, you’ll wander in and out of service. From the summit, you can get a weak signal. When you start heading down Jimmy Dolan notch, the signal drops more often than not. However, back at the trailhead, I was able to get texts out from the parking area. My network is Verizon. YMMV.