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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.
We rock-hopped back and forth across the water several times. The sketch factor was high.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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The parent mountain for this hike is Van Wyck.
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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