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Easy to navigate but tough to climb.
Hiking Trail Description
This is the most popular route up Plateau Mountain in the Catskills. It includes a very steep first mile which leads up to three fantastic lookouts, and then an easy 2¼ mile walk to the summit.
IMO, this is the least interesting way to climb Plateau. An equally steep approach, but a far more rugged approach, can be found on the eastern side of the mountain. See Plateau from Mink Hollow.
The most beautiful route is from the south. See Plateau via Daley Ridge — one of the nicest hikes in the Catskills.
However you climb this mountain, the long walk across its (mostly) flat ridge is one of the greatest trail sections the Catskills. I’ve been up there when it’s windy, when it’s snowing, on baking hot days, and in the rain — and it’s always just the biggest treat.
Stony Clove Notch Trailhead & Parking
The trailhead for this hike is ample but this is a very popular destination for hikers and nature lovers. The same lot serves hikes up Plateau to the east and Hunter Mountain to the west.
Notch Lake is small but beautifully situated, and many people come here just to hang out and do a little grilling.
Which is to say: on summer weekends, you’ll need to arrive early to grab a spot for your hike.
Plateau Hiking Trail
From Notch Lake, cross Route 214 and look for the trail signposts beside a short set of wooden steps. Once it gets going, the climb up this side of Plateau is relentless. On this route, a pair of trekking poles will really help support your knees and glutes.
It’s not the funnest route. It’s a bit of a grind and the road noise from 214 takes a long time to dissipate. Even among all the strange paper birch trees, you don’t feel far from the world — until, near the top of the hollow, the trail curves briefly to the right, then bends left/north until you arrive, finally, at the base of the big ledge called Orchard Point. Above 3250’ the trail levels out significantly and the remainder of the hike is a cinch.
Shorter people may have a little trouble scrambling up this giant cracked rock but, if you give yourself a minute to figure it out, it’s doable stuff.
From the large flat top of the outcrop, the multi-layered view of Catskills peaks is so great.
At the back side of Orchard Point there are some low rocks to sit on and rest, and the outcrop is suddenly dominated by spruce trees, young and old.
But this view, man…
From here, facing away from the views, walk into the opening at the back of the ledge, the one on the right. Here you can begin the beautiful 2¼ mile hike to Plateau Mountain’s summit. The trail is mostly even, a little rugged, and dominated the whole way by spruce, fir and moss.
A short distance from Orchard Point are two great lookouts. Both are on the left side of the trail. (There is a third, too, but it’s not so great.)
Plateau’s Beautiful Ridge
I did this hike in April. By then, much of the snow in the Catskills had melted but, up high, there was still a lot of monorail still in place. This video shows it clearly and you can hear my mircospikes crunching as I go…
The trail descends for a while near the middle, then rises slowly toward the summit.
A sharp turn left lets you know you’re nearly there. Keep climbing until you reach an obvious high point, then look for a very-rare-for-the-Catskills summit marker on a young spruce tree on the right side of the trail…
From here, return the way you came. (There‘s also a great lookout about 500 feet further along the trail — a split rock ledge with great views of Sugarloaf and Kaaterskill High Peak — but I was racing to get back to Orchard Point for sunset so, on this day, I skipped it.)
Final Views from Orchard Point
In bright sunlight, it can be hard to see but I had the idea that Hunter Mountain’s fire tower might be visible from Orchard Point. Sure enough, at dusk, I found it easily in silhouette…
One last look at those Catskills layers before a sketchy night descent down one of the Catskills’ steepest trails…
During summer months, on this route you may want to add a cap of some kind to protect your head and neck from the blasting sun. In colder months, a pair of gloves is a good idea for climbing the ledge at Orchard Point.
- If you like steep, check out this list of Steep Catskills Hikes.
- If you want a less steep way to climb Plateau, the route via Daley Ridge is your best bet. It’s not as rugged as the two Devil’s Path routes, but it has some beautiful forest hiking and a really fantastic lookout.
The parent mountain for this hike is Plateau.
If you do this hike, LMK how it went…
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Large popular lot that serves both sides of the Devil’s Path, east and west
Google Maps Location: 42.159521, -74.203178
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
Patchy but usable above 3000 feet. My network is Verizon. YMMV.