Van Wyck (via Bear Hole Brook) plus Table and Peekamoose

A stunning hike up Bear Hole Brook to the exceptionally steep Van Wyck. Two bear holes. Two plane wrecks. Two talus fields. One of the most memorable Catskills views I’ve seen. This is a very difficult route. Best tackled in a group with experienced, knowledgable hikers.

Hike Length: 11.0 miles (17.70 km)

Total Ascent: 3,075ft (937m)

Intensity: Hardest Catskills Hike

Route Type: Loop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Unmarked Trail, Herd Path, True Bushwhack, Road Walk, Stream Crossing, River Crossing

Parent Van Wyck

scenic view mountain summits

Van Wyck seen from Peekamoose

Similar Entries In: Catskills, The Hardest Hikes, , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Disclosure: Links to external websites on this page may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 A very difficult hike that’s best tackled in a group with experienced hikers.

Hiking Trail Description

I did this hike in June 2019 with The Catskill 3500 Club. Frankly, this is the only way I’d attempt such a challenging route: in a large group, with far more experienced hikers around me.

The route is long and tough, but extremely rewarding the entire way.

The first quarter mile through Bear Hole Brook is dangerous and requires great care. The ascent of Van Wyck is extremely steep. After which, the descent on the other side passes brings you though a gnarly talus field that sits at the base of a steep cliff.

After all that, the bushwhack from Van Wyck to Table — in black fly season — feels truly endless.

In short, this is still one of the top toughest hikes I’ve done.

On the other hand, on this day, one member of our group was the lovely Marguerite, a septuagenarian, 420 gridder, and local hiking legend. It was a pleasure to spend time hiking in Marguerite’s company. Our group was led by Marv and Stefan.

Bear Hole Brook

Our group assembled at the trailhead for the Peekamoose-Table trail on Route 42, then hiked 1000 ft west on the road to gain entry to Bear Hole Brook.

The route upstream is canyon-like with steep rocky walls and lots of dramatic geology on view.

 Warning! The beginning of this route is very dangerous. Instead of this rough start, I recommend using the old woods road that begins about 300 ft further west on Peekamoose Rd. It joins up with our route after 1500 ft or so.

forest stream
Bear Hole Brook

We rock-hopped back and forth across the water several times. The sketch factor was high.

forest stream, hikers
Bear Hole Brook

Shortly after climbing up behind some rapids, we left the stream and began making our way up Van Wyck’s southern ridge. There are a lot of old woods roads here, and the area is dotted with stone ruins.

Plane Wrecks & Bear Holes

Very quickly, we came to the first of two plane wrecks on Van Wyck. The first is a single-engine modern military yet, a T-33 military trainer that crashed during acrobatics testing in 1962. Both occupants were killed.

The wreck is located at apx 2250’ at 41.92762 N, -74.43955 W.

The site is large and obvious, even in the spring growth. This is just a small part of it.

jet engine wrecked in forest
Jet engine

There are many plane wrecks in the Catskills. They are fascinating but tragic sites. Please be respectful.

We did not find the second site, a civilian plane wreck from 1977. We searched a wide area but I think we were a little too south.

I believe the wreck is close to 41.94647 N, -74.43687 W. But I also received a tip that it’s little further south at 41.94505 N, -74.43750 W — but that’s in the area our group scoured and we didn’t see any sign of wreckage.

However, both locations are basically right in the middle of the ridge, so it’s easy to hit them both on your way up.

Bear Holes

The bear holes are at 41.94923 N, -74.43612 W.  Basically: two very large holes, right next to each other, and quite odd to find in the woods.

The story is that they were somehow used to trap bears. I’m dubious. A bear would have no problem escaping either hole. Maybe they had steeper sides in the days of yore? Who knows?! As it is, their proximity to each other and their utility are equally mysterious. But definitely worth checking out.

Right after the bear holes, the route up to Van Wyck’s summit suddenly becomes intensely steep.

Van Wyck

At the 3000’ contour look for a small cave.

Above 3000’ the terrain gets a little easier, though the brush is very thick. You may find a herd path or two. Make your way to the summit, which is well treed-in but marked with a small cairn.

A little southeast of the summit is a grassy ledge that’s the perfect spot for lunch. The view is apx 180° but centers dramatically on Table and Peekamoose to the east…

Get full access now and enjoy member-only benefits.

Get full access…

Get full access to this website instantly and enjoy great supporter benefits!

Hot on the website right now…

Follow for more…

Follow my @TotalCatskills account on Instagram for regular hiking inspo and safe, inclusive community.

I also stay active on Facebook and Twitter.

Open for later…

The parent mountain for this hike is Van Wyck.

If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below. Your feedback makes this site better.

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Small and busy. Get there early.

Google Maps Location: 41.914934, -74.429457

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

8 responses to “Van Wyck (via Bear Hole Brook) plus Table and Peekamoose

  1. Completed this hike 11/7/20. Used the old logging road for the first 1.5 miles or so that led directly into a herd path that has been blazed with cut out beer can bottoms nailed to trees for about another .75 of a mile. Not sure how recent this was done but the expiration dates on the beer cans were printed with a 7/20 date so Id imagine that this is fairly new. So essentially, the real bushwhack didnt start until about 2.5 miles in. Following the summit of Van Wyck through the leafless trees made the relatively flat trek fairly easy. With luck, we stumbled upon one of the plane crashes just before the ascent up. The debris field is absolutely massive with this wreck. Upon our poking around of the site, we noticed a small plaque strapped to a tree memorializing the 5 victims of the crash as well as the Nov 5, 1977 date the accident happened. The gps coordinates for the crash are 41.94505, -74.43769. This also happened to be exactly mile 3 of our hike. After that, it was an extremely steep ascent to the summit of Van Wyck where we found the stunning views of Table, Peekamoose and the ridge line we would follow to get there. The summit of Table loomed intimidatingly as we got closer but the climb never really got very steep to the summit. From there it was a very quick pace over to Peekamoose as we were finally back on trail which felt like a paved road considering the first half the hike. Definitely doing Van Wyck again….and again lol. Sorry for rambling but this was just a great hike!

  2. Is this bushwacking in keeping with LNT principles? I worry that especially with the reach your page has, that people will trample and harm these lands.

    1. Yes, it is, if done correctly. It is one of the best ways to experience wilderness. No-one should step off trail without being fully prepared in terms of knowledge, gear, and principles. LNT is about not trashing nature. It is not about not experiencing nature.

    1. Which waterfall? What you see on Bear Hole Brook is more of a rapids with a drop of a few feet. A few people stop there in conjunction with Peekamoose but it is hardly a waterfall. There are several in this area but they are all roadside falls so people can easily access them.

  3. I have done this hike with a few modifications. I did not bother to hike up the brook but took the woods road for about .3 miles before heading NNW. After picking up the first crash site, I headed due north along a “spine”, hitting the second crash site and the bear holes.After that the climb up Van Wyck which is steep at 27%. This can be mitigated by heading slightly west and then up. After taking in the view from Van Wyck, I headed along Catskill divide which was pretty open until the final ascent up to Table or at least the trail to Table. This is interesting as you can easily see that the land drops off on both sides. This is about a 1.2 miles walk after the descent off Van Wyck or about 2 miles total. From There I went to the “summit” of Table and the followed the trail to Peekamoose and downhill all the way to the car.

    1. That sounds like a plan for my next time up there. I would not hike the brook solo, but the rest sounds very doable. Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated.

Your comments are welcome here…

Hello, I’m Sean

I write independent hiking content to help hikers like you find amazing hikes in the Catskills, Adirondacks, Gunks, Hudson Highlands, Taconics and beyond.

On social media, I’m @TotalCatskills. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

My free weekly hiking newsletter is low key awesome.

You won’t regret signing up…