Best Hike in the Catskills: Wittenberg, Cornell, Slide

As rugged as I suspected — but more beautiful than I imagined.

Hike Length: 9.3 miles (14.97 km)

Total Ascent: 3,540ft (1,079m)

Intensity: Hardest Catskills Hike

Route Type: Shuttle

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent Wittenberg

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View from Wittenberg

View from Wittenberg’s summit, one of many spectacular views on this hike

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 9 miles of hiking heaven from Woodland Valley to Oliverea Rd. 30 minute shuttle at the end.

Hiking Trail Description

This hike does not disappoint. It’s long and difficult, with some hairy sections, but the rewards are enormous and regular, pouring generously into your day, one after another. I’ve decided it’s the best hike in the Catskills.

This hike has a lot of elevation gain.

Our group of five assembled at the DEC lot in Woodland Valley. The parking area is on the opposite side of the road from where the hike begins, so exit the lot, cross the road, and head left toward the trailhead sign that says, “Wittenberg Mt 3.9”.

Hiking Up Wittenberg

The first mile or so of this trail is quite steep but the mix of forest and rocky outcroppings keeps it interesting. It had been a while since I’d hiked to Wittenberg, and I’d forgotten how lovely the first trail section of 2.6 miles is.

Tree and boulders, Catskills, Wittenberg
Wittenberg is a very beautiful mountain to hike
Wittenberg hiking trail
Hiking trail, heading up Wittenberg
Rock outcropping, Catskills
Hiking trail, heading up Wittenberg

The mix of pine and hemlock all along the trail is so wonderful.

Hiking trail, Wittenberg, Catskills
This image contains three hikers for scale

And there are several patches of dramatic boulders to work around or pass through.

Hiking trail, Wittenberg, Catskills
Hiking trail, heading up Wittenberg

Much of Wittenberg is just astonishingly beautiful.

Hiking trail, Wittenberg, Catskills
Hiking trail, heading up Wittenberg

After a final steep pitch through dense pine trees, the ledge opens onto one of the grandest views in the Catskill Park. From the Devil’s Path in the north, to Samuels Point and the Ashokan Reservoir, Ashokan High Point, Balsam Cap and Friday Mountain, and even a little of Cornell, the vista takes in at least 180° — a rare view in the Catskills.

View from Wittenberg
View from Wittenberg’s summit, one of many spectacular views on this hike
View from Wittenberg
Looking south from Wittenberg
Scenery from Wittenberg, Catskills
Balsam Cap & Friday Mountain, seen from Wittenberg

We talked with Drew who we met at the ledge. He had camped out at Terrace Mountain — temps were the teens overnight (apx -10°C) — and he described strong winds that shook icicles and branches loose from the trees around him; he retreated from his tent to the lean-to for safety.

You could spend an hour here, easily, one reason this is the best hike in the Catskills. But the cold kept us moving.

Ashokan from Wittenberg
Looking out over Samuels Point to the Ashokan Reservoir, from Wittenberg

The cold was starting to get to some of our hands, so we picked up and headed for Cornell.

Hike Wittenberg to Cornell

The passage from Wittenberg to Cornell is a ton of fun. At times, the trail is very narrow. The col between the two mountains is almost an arête. (Arêtes form when two glacial cirques erode towards one another. Usually, this results in a saddle-shaped pass, a col, which are common in the Catskills. But sometimes weathering sharpens the ridge even further into an arête…)

Eventually you come to Cornell Crack…

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The parent mountain for this hike is Wittenberg.

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

Sizable lot. To begin your hike, leave the lot, head back up the road a little, and cross over to where you see the trail signs on the opposite side of the road.

Google Maps Location: 42.036117, -74.358157

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Dodgy in the valleys and cols. Decent on the summits of Wittenberg and Slide. My network is Verizon. YMMV.

Your comments are welcome here…

Hi, I’m Sean

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Winter Gear Checklist

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