Hike Windham High Peak from Cross Road

WHP is one of my favorite Catskills to hike from any direction but this route is my new favorite — it’s just so lovely.

Hike Length: 7.5 miles (12.07 km)

Total Ascent: 1,800ft (549m)

Intensity: Easy Catskills Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail

Parent Windham High Peak

boulders and trees on summit

Summit guardians

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 A straightforward out-and-back with only one junction turn.

Hiking Trail Description

Hiking Windham High Peak from Route 23 is my new favorite way to hike this wonderful mountain. The large parking area, and the easy first mile of boardwalks and hemlock-rich woods, make for such a pleasant beginning and end to this beautiful day hike.

On the drive up, Route 23 itself is beautiful. It winds along the Catskill escarpment, from Cairo through Acra and South Durham to East Windham (passing between Mt Zoar and Kate Hill). On a sunny day, it’s just a lovely route with great views of the escarpment peaks.

Patrons of this website can view a 3 minute walk-through video of this hike.

Parking

The Elm Ridge Parking Area is only 45 minutes from Kingston which, for me, means 15 minutes less travel time than heading to the Peck Road trailhead. The 30 minutes I gain is spent in the woods.

From the parking lot, Windham High Peak is visible on the opposite side of Route 23.

mountain and road
Windham High Peak seen from the parking area on Cross Rd

Windham High Peak Hiking Trail

Cross Route 23 carefully — it’s a very busy stretch of road — and look for the trailhead sign.

The trail dips down and crosses a footbridge with this view, looking east.

stream and flora, clouds above
Footbridge view

The first part of the trail is multi-use, so you’ll see hikers and bikers sharing the 1.4 miles to the junction: lots of fun trails for the bikes, and lots of easy trail for the feet.

trail register
Trail info board and register

There are also a number of sweet boardwalks.

boardwalk in woods
One of several boardwalks

The first 1.0 mile is very easy and mostly pretty level.

The next 0.4 mile heads up to the col between Elm Ridge and Windham High Peak via a series of switchbacks.

hemlocks on hiking trail
Escarpment trail

The forest has a lot of old tall hemlocks, my favorite.

hemlock trunks
Escarpment trail hemlocks

Junction

From here, the route is the same as if you were hiking Windham High Peak from Peck Road. The trail is easy, with a few short sections of moderate elevation. There are no rock scrambles, or anything tricky to contend with, though the trail is uneven in spots. Overall, it’s just an absolutely lovely mountain hike.

trail sign posts
Junction sign posts

This was one of the first hikes I did and, in those early days, I did find it tiring. Now it feels very easy but, on this day, I saw several hikers having a variety of speed and effort experiences — a reminder to never worry about how you’re doing: hike your own hike.

Turn east/left, and head up the 2.25 miles to the summit.

Norway Spruce Forest

At 2600’ you’ll come to a low stone fence with an opening. This is the start of the Norway Spruce plantation, which is man-made but entirely magical…

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Similar Hikes

This is such a great hike, with its combination of easebeauty and scenery. It’s a kid-friendly mountain hike. It is absolutely one of the best Catskills hikes.

For an alternate route to the junction, try hiking Windham High Peak from Peck Road — it’s slightly shorter but also really lovely!

A comparable hike that’s also easy and suitable for kids is the Balsam Lake Fire Tower hike.

These hikes are the first hikes I recommend to anyone who wants to try a Catskills mountain hike for the first time.

If you’d like something equally beautiful, but without the elevation gain, visit Kelly Hollow Loop at any time of year.

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The parent mountain for this hike is Windham High Peak.

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

Large, popular lot.

Google Maps Location: 42.313082, -74.190348

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Sketchy in the lot and patchy throughout. Higher is better. I was able to get some texts out. My network is Verizon. YMMV.

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.

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