Hike Sugarloaf Mountain (Best Route)

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Hike Sugarloaf Mountain (Best Route)

A rugged, tough hike over one of the Catskills’ grandest mountains.

Hike Length: 7.0 miles (11.27 km)

Total Ascent: 1,900ft (579m)

Intensity: Difficult Hike

Route Type: Lollipop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent Sugarloaf

Similar Entries In: Best Hikes, Catskills, Difficult Hikes, , , , .

rugged, rocky mountain trail

Sugarloaf’s rugged western side

 Technically, a lollipop route but, really, it’s just a big loop.

Hiking Trail Description

I’ve hiked Sugarloaf from Roaring Kill in both directions: clockwise and counterclockwise. Purely as a matter of personal preference, this is my favorite route for the mountain. A counterclockwise route has the dual benefits of using Mink Hollow as a pleasant warm-up before the difficult climb up the western side of the mountain, and then of saving the beautiful hike through Pecoy Notch and Dibbles Quarry for the final part of the hike.

My thinking is that it’s both safer to climb the difficult side first, when one’s legs are fresh, and more rewarding at the end of the hike to walk through exceptional Catskills beauty.

Anyway, those are my two cents.

This route is not recommended for winter hikes. Once the snow and ice hits, the west side of Sugarloaf is known as “Suicide Mountain”. Sugarloaf’s western flank is one of the few places in the Catskills where full winter mountaineering kit — crampons, ice-axes, even rope — is recommended, along with the appropriate skills and experience.

In the warmer months, however, this route takes you through some of the most rugged, challenging and beautiful parts of the Devil’s Path: there are streams, rock chasms, boreal forest, mud, rugged climbs, split boulders, and several lookouts with great views.

Roaring Kill Trailhead & First Junction

Roaring Kill is a dirt road (unplowed in winter) between Mink Hollow Road and Dale Lane on the north side of Sugarloaf. It’s the same trailhead you’ll use to climb the very difficult west side of Twin Mountain from Pecoy Notch. The lot is small and fills up quickly on weekend mornings.

Sign in at the register which is a little way past the information board. After ¼ mile of easy woodsy hiking, you’ll come to the first junction.

junction signs in woods
Junction with two awesome options

Turn west/right, here, and begin your hike through Mink Hollow.

Mink Hollow

Around 2300’ the trail takes a sharp left and runs between two small but beautiful bluestone quarry walls.

quarry wall
Old quarry

Mink Hollow is a mix of beautiful woods, easy hiking, with a few rugged/rocky sections…

woods hiking trail
Beautiful trail
rocky woodsy trail
Beautiful Trail, Mink Hollow
rocky trail bed
A short rocky section in Mink Hollow

At 2700’, at a hairpin turn, a short spur leads down to a small viewing ledge. From this rock outcropping, you can see the eastern side of Plateau Mountain.

viewing ledge
View of Plateau

Return to the trail, and take the left side of the fork to carry on — otherwise, you’ll start heading back to your car.

Form here, the trail descends about 50 ft before turning south/left along a fairly level section until you get to this cute stream crossing. This stream is Roaring Kill, which has its source a little higher up on the mountain.

stream crossing
Cute crossing

You’ll soon come to a junction. A short trail section leads west/right to Mink Hollow proper where there’s a lean-to and lots of flat terrain suitable for camping. (The col between Sugarloaf and Plateau is huge.)

Turn east/left and begin heading up the most difficult part of this hike. It’s about a mile to the summit and, with almost 1200’ of elevation gain over extremely rugged trail, you will definitely feel it. Take your time. This is a good spot for a few M&Ms.

junction
Junction

Suicide Side

Immediately, the difficulty ramps up. It’s so much fun. This whole section of trail — from Mink Hollow over the summit to Pecoy Notch — is just wonderful.

rugged trail
Boulder city
dramatic boulder
Dramatic rocks galore

Just below 2800’, you’ll get to pass through this sweet rock channel. Watch your head.

teenager passing through rock channel
Rock channel

Just below 3000’ you’ll come to a tricky-looking cliff. The easiest way up is the left side. My daughter navigated it without issue but here is a good place to check your own feels and make your own call. This is the view from right above the cliff which shows the rock jutting out of the left side…

top of small cliff
Tricky climb up here

From here, the trail gets increasingly rugged…

tree roots on boulder
Rocks and roots
rocky trail
Devil’s Path

There are also patches of unique beauty…

tree roots on mossy rock face
Quintessential Catskills right here

At 3500’, this section is pretty hectic…

rocky trail
Hectic rock scramble

Above 3500’ things get easier, though by now you are tired from the climb.

There are several sets of stone steps to make the final climb a little sweeter…

stone steps on trail
Stone steps

Sugarloaf’s Summit

At this time of year (late August), the blackberries are just coming in along the trail’s edge.

About 200’ before the summit — which is viewless as it’s completely treed-in — you’ll pass a yellow spur trail on your right. It leads down to a sweet ledge with a view of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding mountains.

ledge view
Summit lookout
ledge scenic view of reservoir and mountains
Sugarloaf summit view

Return to the Devil’s Path and head east/right. In a minute or two you’ll come to this tree, on the south/right side of the trail, which marks the summit. It’s noticeable due to the long vertical gash in its bark. (Unlike in the Adirondacks, there are no summit signs on any Catskill summit — except, oddly, on West Kill’s summit.)

hiker at summit tree
Catskill summit No. 7 for this beast

Descent to Pecoy Notch

If the west side of Sugarloaf is rocky, the east side (especially along the summit ridge) is muddy. Please don’t widen the trail by walking around the edges of the mud, a classic noob error. Just walk right through the mud. Leave no trace.

muddy trail bed
Long muddy summit

The east side of Sugarloaf is actually my favorite. There are so many beautiful sections and at least two great views on the way down…

mossy logs in woods
Mossy logs
rock ledge in forest
Rocky outcropping

At 3350’ on the east side of Sugarloaf, keep an eye out for a good view of Twin Mountain (named for its two summits) and the unnamed hollow between Twin and Sugarloaf.

mountain view
View of Twin Mountain
scenic view
Unnamed hollow

Who doesn’t love this split boulder channel thing at 3100’? Nobody. That’s who.

teen girl between split boulders
Rock channel

Not far below the rock channel is a second view. It can be tricky to spot as it’s well off the trail. I managed to walk past it on this hike. D’oh.

There’s still plenty of rugged hiking on the descent…

rocky ascent trail
Rugged trail

And this beautiful squid-lookin’ tree with its tentacle-like roots…

horizontal tree on boulder with tentacle-like roots
Squid tree

It took about an hour of steady hiking to get down to Pecoy Notch from the summit.

Walk Out to Roaring Kill

Pecoy Notch has some nice boulders to sit on. It’s a good spot to catch your breath before the final walk out. From here, it’s about two miles to your car. At leisurely pace, with a stop to attend to some nettle stings and a short rest in Dibbles Quarry, it took us 1h 10m.

trail signs on tree
Pecoy Notch

You’ll hike down past the beaver pond, through a beautiful stand of hemlock trees, across a stream…

hemlock woods
Hemlock woods south of Dibble Quarry

Once you get to Dibbles Quarry, it’s only about a mile to Roaring Kill Road.

quarry view
Dibbles Quarry, with Kaaterskill High Peak in the distance

(A future post will cover this section in detail.)

Similar Hikes

With its combination of difficulty and scenery, as far as I’m concerned, this one of the best Catskills hikes. If you’re up for it, it’s a fantastic single mountain hike.

A hike up either side of Twin Mountain is somewhat comparable, though Sugarloaf is a much bigger mountain. The east side of Twin is easier than Sugarloaf, but the west side (i.e. from Pecoy Notch) is more difficult and intense. A hike up Twin and Sugarloaf on the same day is a big day.

If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Medium-size lot, popular.

GPS Location: 42.151240, -74.131199

Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.

Cell Service

As ever in the Catskills, coverage is very spotty. Typically at this trailhead I can get a text out but on this day I was not able to. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)

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