West Kill via Diamond Notch Falls

One of my favorite hikes in The Catskills, the route from Diamond Notch Falls to Buck Ridge Lookout and the summit of West Kill Mountain is just so beautiful.

Hike Length: 6.2 miles (9.98 km)

Total Ascent: 1,780ft (543m)

Intensity: Difficult Catskills Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent West Kill

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Sean looking disappointed

When the lookout is socked-in

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 A straightforward out-and-back from Spruceton.

Hiking Trail Description

I love this West Kill hike so much. It’s so lovely, so rewarding. It was one of the first hikes I did in The Catskills — on newbie hiker legs — so it was great to finally revisit this trail on stronger legs with a much deeper appreciation of everything it has to offer.

The walk in from the trail head to Diamond Notch Falls is an easy and delightful mile.

The hike from Diamond Notch to the summit of West Kill is a tiring but very lovely 2½ miles.

On this day, I had exceptional luck with the weather and my early morning timing. Not only had it just snowed, it continued to snow very gently, covering everything in fresh coating of white paint. By the time I was coming back down the mountain, most of it had melted away.

I’ve always wanted to hike through fresh winter wonderland landscape. This was that hike.

Spruceton Trailhead & Parking

Park at the small lot at the end of Spruceton Road, on the right. On the way in, you’ll pass the lot for Hunter Mountain and Rusk Mountain on the left. Keep going another 1000ft or so until you come to the lot for Diamond Notch Falls and West Kill Mountain.

Get ready for the cold / hike safe

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Hike to Diamond Notch Falls

The trail from from the trailhead to Diamond Notch Falls is just shy of a mile. It’s a very easy trail, with no real elevation gain, that almost anyone can do.

Follow the blue blazes.

Much of it follows the West Kill stream…

west kill stream
West Kill

Diamond Notch Falls is a great destination all by itself, and many people come just to visit the dramatic and beautiful double falls.

For mountain hikers, the falls are a real treat on the way back down from from Hunter, Southwest Hunter and West Kill. Here’s what they look like in summer…

two waterfalls side by side
Diamond Notch Falls

You can also make your way out onto the rocks above the falls…

Diamond Notch Falls can also be reached from the south through Diamond Notch Hollow via the Diamond Notch Trail which starts in Lanesville.

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West Kill Mountain Hiking Trail

After reaching the falls, cross the footbridge and then turn right at the trail signpost to begin the real work of climbing West Kill Mountain.

snow-covered footbridge
Diamond Notch Falls footbridge

You are now on the Devil’s Path. Follow the red blazes.

Spruceton is well-named. You will pass so many spruce trees on this hike, some of them really glorious.

The spring just above 3000’ was flowing well.

Nearby, a bobcat had recently left a long line of tracks on the trail…

bobcat prints in snow
Fresh bobcat prints in the snow

I passed this magnificent boulder

snow-covered boulder
West Kill has many beautiful boulders

There are several ledges to contend with, and so many beautiful sights like this…

trees covered in snow
Tree growing on boulder

Rock Overhang

After tramping through a flat and somewhat boggy section, you’ll come to Rock Overhang just above 3500’. It’s a famous spot and a great place to rest before your final push.

west kill rocky outcrop covered in snow
Rock Overhang on West Kill Mountain

You are now just 1.1 miles from the summit.

You will pass over several nubs, some of which will feel like false summits.

But the hiking is so lovely…

Eventually, you will climb up one last ledge and then, not long after, arrive at Buck Ridge Lookout.

Buck Ridge Lookout

Buck Ridge is actually a series of lookouts, all on the left side of the trail. The largest one is marked with a very rare Catskills wooden location sign.

west kill mountain / buck ridge lookout very snowy
Buck Ridge Lookout

The process of adding wooden signs to summits and destinations in The Catskills (like we have in the Adirondacks) was halted when ordinance prohibiting changes to the wilderness came into effect — right after the process had just begun. Such is life. There are only two wooden location signs in The Catskills. Both of them are on West Kill mountain.

Sean looking disappointed
When the lookout is socked-in

You could say I had bad luck with this view…

west kill mountain / buck ridge lookout very snowy
Buck Ridge Lookout

But, actually, I would disagree…

west kill mountain / buck ridge lookout very snowy
Buck Ridge Lookout

west kill mountain / buck ridge lookout very snowy
Buck Ridge Lookout view

On a clear day, the view takes in Diamond Notch Hollow but also Hunter Mountain and, in the distance, the Blackhead range.

View from West Kill’s Buck Ridge Lookout
View from West Kill’s Buck Ridge Lookout, one of the finest lookouts in the Catskills

Just above Buck Ridge Lookout is a second lookout with a slightly different angle.

Get ready for the cold / hike safe

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A Second View?

Directly opposite Buck Ridge Lookout, on the other side of the trail, look for a short herd path that leads to this large boulder.

large boulder in snowy woods
Buck Ridge Lookout, the other side

No view from the top of the boulder on this day, but I think it must look over the Spruceton Valley toward Rusk and East Rusk mountains.

Return to the trail. Keep climbing. You’re almost there…

West Kill Mountain Summit

Just 500 ft or so from Buck Ridge Lookout is the summit of West Kill. It’s wooded and very quiet, and marked with that second wooden sign.

wooded summit
West Kill Mountain summit

The forest beyond the summit is really lovely too. The trail continues to St Anne’s Peak and the western terminus of the Devil’s Path.

wooden sign at summit
West Kill summit sign

Most people turn around at the summit but, if you have the time, a 10 or 20 minute walk in the woods past the summit — for some quality nature therapy — is definitely worth the time.

From the summit, hike east, back across the nubs, and then down to Diamond Notch Falls. On a hot day, at the end of a tough hike, there’s nothing better that cooling your feet in that stream.

West Kill Similar Hikes

IMO, this is one of the most beautiful hikes in The Catskills.

The views also qualify this as one of the great scenic hikes in The Catskills.

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The parent mountain for this hike is West Kill.

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 popular lot, fills up quickly on busy weekends

Google Maps Location: 42.181334, -74.267894

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

No service in the hollow. Spotty service up high. My network is Verizon. YMMV.

Your comments are welcome here…

Hi, I’m Sean

🏔 I help hikers find amazing hikes — at all skill levels
🏔 Catskills, Adirondacks, Hudson Highlands — Gunks coming soon!
🏔 For you: trail guides, gear tips, guidance, goofiness
🏔 My content is available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (most active)

Grab this before your next hike…

Winter Gear Checklist

The perfect quick reference to keep you safe on your next cold weather hike