Clockwise loop from the north.
Hiking Trail Description
After signing the register and making your way along the short yellow-blazed connector trail for ¼ mile, you’ll come to an open woods area with signposts pointing straight ahead and to the right. Turning right here begins the counter-clockwise route over Sugarloaf. I went straight ahead. The trail curves up and to the left.
You’ll pass a very small quarry on your right. Then the trail passes through a dark stand of trees, and pops down a small ledge. From here, turn right and you’ll be at Dibble’s Quarry. It’s worth spending some time here as there are several sections to explore.
The trail curves around the back of the quarry and soon descends into one of my favorite sections: an easy stream crossing (downstream from which is a waterfall I’ve not yet explored) and immediately up into a stand of old hardwood trees. It’s really idyllic.
After this, you pass a small pond to your right; sometimes the pond is dry and looks like an open field. The trail turns left but shortly curves back to the right and winds around the edge of a Beaver Pond. From this angle, Sugarloaf looks deceptively easy. Rock hop your way across to the far side.
On the way up, there are two ledge systems, close together. The blazing is not ideal on either so take your time to figure out which way to go. At the first ledge, the trail goes to the left for a few meters before switching back to the right. Then you’ll walk along the base of the second ledge a little way before, once again, the route switches back sharply, this time to the left.
But everything here is fantastic: the rocks, the trees, the trail, the low key scrambling, the smell. Sugarloaf is immediately exceptional and delightful.
At around 3100’, look for a break to your left which leads down to a rock ledge with a fire-pit. The view is of Twin mountain, with rock slides visible among the trees.
Head back up to the trail and enjoy the next section to enjoy a series of classic Devil’s Path rock scrambles.
Eventually, you come to a large split boulder. The trail goes right through it, then to the left. Super fun.
Above this, you reach Sugarloaf’s enormous flat ridge which leads gently up to the summit. In the spring, the long hike along this side of Sugarloaf is boggy tramp: moss and pine-needle carpeting is dotted with patches of thick, dark mud. The woods are very quiet; the mood, primeval.
Sugarloaf’s summit is not marked and not obvious. But there’s a tree with a distinctive split in its bark (on the left side of the trail) that matches up with the summit marked on the NYNJTC Trail Map.
From here, descend for 4-5 minutes to the yellow spur trail which turns left to reach a small but wonderful ledge/lookout. From here you can see Cooper Lake, the Ashokan Reservoir, the Burroughs Range, and Olderbark’s crooked upper ridge.
Behind you, in the woods, is a small camping area.
The west side of Sugarloaf is completely different. Imagine a landslide into which someone has tossed hand-grenades: giant shattered boulders, loose sliding rocks, cliff bands of pure sketchiness. There are sections of the trail, here, where the word “trail” seems like a gross exaggeration.
The west side of Sugarloaf is exceptionally wet, with water dripping everywhere. My hunch is that, in the winter, Sugarloaf doesn’t get ice so much as it grows ice. In winter, this side of Sugarloaf is called “Suicide Mountain”. It’s very New York.
One ledge in particular really stumped me for a minute. I didn’t know if I could do it. Climbing down looked exceptionally dangerous but, in fact, it’s quite easy—just make your way around to the right, to the ledge that juts out. You’ll see the way down.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the col between Sugarloaf and Plateau. Leave the Devil’s Path and take the blue-blazed Mink Hollow Trail to the right/north. This section is mostly flat but be careful: the wetness continues and the rocks are sometimes quite slippy.
After a pleasant stream crossing, one last steep section leads up to a dramatic view of Plateau at a very sharp v-shaped fork. When you come back up from the view, make sure to pick the right hand fork or you will descend back down the wrong way like a certain person who was me because I was very tired by now.
This section of Mink Hollow Trail is not always well-blazed, and it feels like a very long 2½ miles. At one point, I followed a herd path off course and had to bushwhack my way back up to the marked trail. There are several swampy sections. All-in-all, after climbing Sugarloaf, quite a draining section. There are pros and cons to climbing Sugarloaf from either side. I’m looking forward to reversing this route, using this section as a warm-up, and knowing the rest of the hike is triple-A fun.
Make your way under a leaning tree and then through a small quarry. You’re almost back at the yellow-blazed connector trail, which leads left/north to the parking area.
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Address: 149 Roaring Kill Road, Elka Park, NY
Due to the nature of rural addresses, this address is an approximation; it’s the “close enough address” I use to get driving directions from my phone. Click to launch Google Maps in a new window/tab.