Halcott, Sunset Bushwhack

A short but intense hike through beautiful woods to a large, flat summit packed with twisted trees.

Hike Length: 3.5 miles (5.63 km)

Total Ascent: 1,600ft (488m)

Intensity: Difficult Catskills Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: True Bushwhack, Stream Crossing

Parent Halcott

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snowy trees at sunset

The canister is now very easy to spot

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 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.

Like hikes up Friday Mountain, and Rusk, this hike goes up immediately and does not stop. The grade is moderate most of the way, but there is one very steep section.

On the other hand, there’s nothing tricky to contend with: no ledges, cliffs, or scrambles.

This is just a walk.

And yet…

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.

waterfall, rocks
Waterfall at base of Halcott Mtn
halcott waterfall
Waterfall at base of Halcott Mtn

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.

above the waterfall
Right above the waterfall

Cross the brook and head south.

You’ll pass this cairn on the way, on your right.

beautiful cairn
Large beautiful cairn, probably for ye olde agricultural land-marking purposes

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.

trees, forest, snow
The start of a beautiful passage through the hardwood forest

After this, the track bends left/southwest, crosses the drainage, and the real work begins.

The Incline

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…

These trees are younger than the trees lower down, due to a forest fire in 1908

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.

halcott summit
Summit & Canister
halcott summit
Summit & Canister
halcott summit

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 HalcottRusk 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.

The parent mountain for this hike is Halcott.

If you do this hike, LMK how it went…

Your comments are welcome here…

Trailhead Info for this Hike

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.

Google Maps Location: 42.184194, -74.414804

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

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.