Straight out-and-back. One super-steep section. Probably the fastest route from the parking area to the summit.
Hiking Trail Description
I didn’t think too much of Halcott when I did it last spring, but this hike changed my mind. There’s a lot to see: the woods are spectacular, the ravines are beautiful and, at sunset, the summit is a Catskill photographer’s dream. Deep snow brings out the best of this mountain.
On the other hand, there’s nothing tricky to contend with: no ledges, cliffs, or scrambles.
This is just a walk.
After parking your car in Route 42’s aptly-named Deep Notch, head past the notice board to the small-but-pretty waterfall at the base of the mountain. It’s about 200ft from the parking area.
The way up is to the right of the waterfall so, when you’re ready, head back, but only 75ft or so. Climb up above the waterfall’s rim. The noise from below subsides.
Cross the brook and head south.
You’ll pass this cairn on the way, on your right.
My favorite section of the hike is this wonderful stand of mature hemlock tress that starts just below 2000’ and extends upwards to 2250’ or so. These are some of the oldest hemlocks in the Catskills. The terrain here is lovely, too, with many undulations, and water gurgling down the deep furrow to your left.
After this, the track bends left/southwest, crosses the drainage, and the real work begins.
Starting just below 3000’ there’s an incline that’s really an extended super-incline — at times, the grade must be 120% or more. And it goes on forever. You will feel it. You will not forget it.
How to Hike this Section: Lean forward more than you’ve ever leaned forward on a steep grade. The weight of your backpack is more than enough to change your center of gravity and, if you lean back, you’ll absolutely feel it on this incline. If you’re not careful, you can easily tip backwards and start rolling downhill — and there is a lot of hill to roll down. So bend at least 100° at the waist. Use your hands for extra balance and steadiness.
After that, the terrain levels out. But guess what? There are two more steep pitches.
Mercifully, they are both short.
You’ll have plenty of stops to catch your breath. If you turn around, carefully, you’ll see, through the bare trees, Sleeping Lion (on your left) which is connected to Halcott via the col between the two summits. On your right is Mount Sherrill.
The woods in this area look like this…
Above the steepest section, the trail winds through hobblebush for a while until, up ahead, you see the obvious summit knob.
In the spring, when I approached the summit from the northeast, it felt like there were fifty false summits — just one fake-out after the next. But this approach from the east is, mentally speaking, much less taxing.
Some websites say the canister is located on the west side of the summit. It’s not. It’s on the east side of the summit, about 200ft southeast from the summit icon you see on Gaia GPS.
It took me two hours to reach the canister. The temperature up there was 15°F (-9°). I had fun times eating my frozen sandwich. After ten minutes, once the cold started creeping in, I took two swigs of summit whiskey and started down. I can tell you that Snickers plus whiskey is a fine mix.
It was hard to leave, though. I’d timed things well, getting to the summit just as sunset was peaking. It really was this lovely up there.
As I was leaving, I popped off a few last shots…
I was worried about time and darkness. I’m well-prepared for hiking in the dark. But having met some new friends who were on the way down as I was going up, I knew I was the last one coming off the mountain. I was worried about heading down that steep incline alone. As it happens, when covered in deep snow, Halcott is a wonderful mountain to descend. I was back to the parking area in half the time it took me to get to the summit.
The inclines were no problem. The two shorter ones were a good refresher for my buttsliding technique. The third one, the super incline, was so much fun I started laughing out loud half way down. Just super, super fun.
Buttsliding Tip: If you gain too much speed, dig your elbow into the snow to get some traction. Or try, as I did, to grab some tree trunks. LOL.
So there were no issues coming down. Although hiking the last 150 yards in the dark was enough for me to confirm my (entirely self-diagnosed) chronic Hiker’s Proximal-Mons-Nix-Auto-Mortem-Irrationali — the preposterous fear of dying on a mountain, in the snow, 500 ft from your car.
If you like steep hills, boy, are Halcott, Rusk and Friday Mountain your new best friends. On the opposite end of the spectrum are easy, delightful mountains like Balsam Lake and Slide, both of which have amazing views.
If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Description: This lot is tiny, with enough space for 5-6 cars max. But it’s not a crazy-popular destination. You’ll probably get a spot.
Address: 1088 NY-42, Shandaken, NY 12480
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.
Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.
The tiny parking area for Halcott is in a deep notch that’s literally called “Deep Notch”. Expect nothing. Coverage improves as you climb but the signal is weak and intermittent. I was able to text from the summit. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)