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

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Hike 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 Hike

Route Type: Loop

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

Parent Van Wyck

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

scenic view mountain summits

Van Wyck seen from Peekamoose

 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.

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.

scenic view
Table and Peekamoose seen from Van Wyck

From here, make your way down along Van Wyck’s northeastern ridge, toward the col between Van Wyck and Table.

Van Wyck to Table

The hike from Van Wyck to Table’s summit is only about 1.75 miles but it took us over two hours.

From memory: we came to a cliff at apx 3000’ that was sheer and had no obvious way down. After poking around for a bit, we descended to the right. You can see it on my GPS track.

After this we made our way through a dramatic talus field.

A second talus field / ledge appears at 3250’ / 41.95595 N, -74.42245 W

All of this needs exceptional care and attention.

I found these miles very difficult. I was so tired, partly due to the difficulty, but partly because of dehydration. During the drive to the trailhead, my reservoir had somehow emptied. I thought I might have to abandon the hike right at the start. But my fellow hikers saved the day. One hiker gave me a spare bottle of water before we started out — he’d packed a spare just in case! Others shared their water with me at several points during the hike. Thanks to those kind folks!

Table & Peekamoose

Once we got to the summit of Table, it was easy trail hiking back to the parking area. The trek down is long and uneventful, but broken by two excellent lookouts on Peekamoose.

IIRC this final view of Van Wyck is visible from the second ledge on Peekamoose at 3500’.

scenic view of mountains at dusk
Van Wyck at dusk, seen from Peekamoose Mountain

If you want to do this hike, please get on one of the Catskills 3500 Club group hikes, or a similar group effort with experienced hike leaders. Keep an eye on the 3500 Club schedule to see when the hike is open next.

This is one of the most memorable and scenic Catskills hikes, and also one of the hardest hikes in the Catskills. By following a less tricky route, you could visit the plane wrecks without too much trouble.

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

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Small and busy. Get there early.

GPS Location: 41.914934, -74.429457

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

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

  1. 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.

    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.

  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.

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