Hike Rochester Hollow

An easy hike through beautiful woods leads to a series of magnificent stone fences, ruins, and a memorial to John Burroughs. This is an underutilized and under-appreciated trail. Especially suited to skiers, trail-runners and animal track lovers.

Hike Length: 6.8 miles (10.94 km)

Total Ascent: 1,086ft (331m)

Intensity: Easy Catskills Hike

Route Type: Lollipop

Includes: Blazed Trail

Parent Rose

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Rochester Hollow Creek

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 Lollipop loop, very easy.

Hiking Trail Description

Rochester Hollow has three marked trails that can be stacked to make a 3.5 mile, 4.7 mile, or 6.1 mile out-and-back hike. These trails are underused — especially the Yellow and Red trails — despite being charming and historically vibrant, and a clear hotspot for forest wildlife.

From Exit 19 (Kingston) on I-87 drive along Route 28 for less than 40 minutes. Pass through Big Indian for 1 mile and then look for brown DEC signs for Rochester Hollow pointing to the right.

Make sure your nav system doesn’t guide you up Rose Mountain Road where you will be greeted by a sign that says “Not Matyas Road!”

Note: Matyas Rd was damaged by the severe storms of late 2020. The DEC page for Shandaken Wild Forest currently states, “Access to the Rochester Hollow Trailhead on Matyas Road in Shandaken Wild Forest is currently limited to 4-wheel drive vehicles due to damage sustained from the recent flooding events in the Catskill Forest Preserve. Please use caution when attempting to access the Rochester Hollow Trailhead. 2WD vehicles should not attempt access at this time.” So check that page before you travel for any updates.

Trailhead & Parking

The trailhead parking area is large and, judging by the trail register, rarely full.

DEC sign and parking area
Information board and trailhead
trailhead dedication
Dedication: Timothy O’Lear

Rochester Hollow Hiking Trail

trail sign
Colonel Rochester Trail Sign

The first 1.75 miles of trail is on an old road, so it’s wide and flat. Very suitable for skiers, snowshoers, joggers, trail-runners, walkers, and wheelchairs — it’s ADA compliant.

catskills trail
The main Colonel Rochester trail is an old road: wide and flat

There are two primitive camping sites near the beginning of the trail. The first is on the left, in a nice open flat area between the trail and the voluble tributary stream that flows down from the back of the hollow.

If you step down off the trail, you’ll see the amount of work that went into building it…

Colonel Rochester Trail trail-bed

The trail follows the tributary (which flows into Birch Creek) for most of the way. It‘s very pleasant even in winter, but I’m guessing it’s twice as beautiful in the three seasons.

Colonel Rochester Trail
woods and boulders on the east side of the trail
trail road
Colonel Rochester Trail

There are a lot of fine old hemlock trees along the lower part of this trail.

two trees
Colonel Rochester Trail

Higher up, you’ll pass a lot of birch and maple trees.

Rochester Hollow Burroughs Memorial Trail

After 1.75 miles you’ll come to a junction which is very difficult to spot. There is no sign. I walked right past it and had to double-back. If you look very carefully in the woods, you might be able to spot some yellow paint or blazes.

trail junction
Unmarked junction of Colonel Rochester Trail (left) & Burroughs Memorial Trail (right)

The trail markings switch between, for the most part, yellow paint daubs, and a few round DEC blazes. This section of trail is not ADA compliant.

yellow blaze on tree
Burroughs Memorial Trail

After winding and ascending, the Burroughs Memorial Trail heads west and passes through heavily farmed land with many impressive stone fences. These are the most numerous, the tallest, and the most intact stone fences I’ve seen in the Catskills…

old stone walls
Burroughs Memorial Trail

old stone walls
Burroughs Memorial Trail

old stone walls
Burroughs Memorial Trail

There are also a number of impressive old stone ruins.

This one is probably the foundation for an old maple syrup sap house

stone ruins, catskills
Sap House foundation (seen from front)

old stone ruins, catskills
Sap House foundation (seen from rear)

Keep heading west, past and through many more stone fences…

old stone wall
Stone wall, Burroughs Memorial Trail

Eventually, you come downhill and reconnect with the blue Colonel Rochester Trail. Turn right.

The next section is remarkably flat. On each side of the trail, there are numerous ruins and fences.

After about ¼ mile you’ll pass this conspicuously odd structure…

old garage ruins
Remnant of a garage used for carriages on Colonel Rochester Trail

Alan Via tells me this is the remnant of an old garage used on the Colonel Rochester Estate, and would have housed carriages; the long curved wall opposite the garage seems to bear this out.

Keep going. There’s lots more to see.

Before long, uphill on the right, you’ll see the Rochester Hollow lean-to. Close by is an outdoor privy, said to be the finest outhouse in the Catskills. Also ADA compliant!

Rochester Hollow Lean-To

To your left you’ll be able to see Balsam Mountain and Panther Mountain.

Not long after the lean-to the blue trail ends. This terminus also marks the end of ADA compliance.

Rochester Hollow Eignor Trail

The red-blazed Eignor Trail heads downhill, winding south and east over uneven terrain that was, again, heavily farmed. Lots more history on display all along this trail.

Early along this trail section is a small meadow which I’ve heard blooms beautifully in spring and summer.

Meadow on Eignor Trail

A little farther along, when the leaves are off the trees, you can see the ski slopes of Belleayre Mountain to the southwest.

squirrel prints
Squirrel prints

This section of trail is especially fun for trail runners. It undulates and winds, is never boring, and you can look down the very steep slopes into the hollow below.

After 1.35 miles you once again reconnect with the blue-blazed Colonel Rochester Trail. Turn right.

Very quickly, you come to the Burroughs Memorial on the left side of the trail.

Burroughs Memorial
Burroughs Memorial

I can’t wait to get back to this trail in the spring, when the wildflowers and ferns come in along the banks of the stream. There’s ample shade in the hot months, too. The entire hollow must be spectacular in the fall when the leaves are changing.

Close by is Phoenicia which has several solid restaurants. I stopped into Brio’s on my way home for a slice of well-earned pizza.

Colonel Rochester

For whom is this hollow named? Hoo-boy. Strap in. Nathaniel Rochester was the man who founded and developed the settlement of Rochester, NY. A man very much of his time: a wealthy capitalist, a prominent military leader, a savvy political operative, a land speculator, and not just a slave owner but a successful slave trader. This excellent article breaks down his slave profiteering in fine detail. Owning and selling human beings was an extremely sophisticated operation. The details are shocking in their specificity and widely-accepted mundanity. The river of capital that runs through (and largely defines) American history finds much of its source in people like Colonel Rochester.

Similar Hikes

These trails may yet make it onto the list of beautiful hikes — in spring, summer and fall I think this hollow is a definite contender.

It’s also a great hike if you don’t want at lot of elevation, and the main blue trail is ADA compliant — so I’ve added it to my growing list of easy Catskills hikes.

The parent mountain for this hike is Rose.

If you do this hike, LMK how it went…

Your comments are welcome here…

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Large lot, rarely busy. Make sure your phone’s directions take you to the correct location — about 1 mile west of Big Indian.

Google Maps Location: 42.115842, -74.453024

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Scraps of service at the trailhead. Zero service once you enter the hollow. My network is Verizon. YMMV.