Catskill Hike: Hunter Mountain

Updated on June 18, 2019

While logging my Adirondack 46 mountain ascents into the online site at Peakbagger, I noticed that many were included into the list for the Northeast 111. That's 115 peaks in the Northeast that are near or above 4,000 feet in height.

There are two in the Northeast 111 that reside in the Catskills, Hunter and Slide Mountains. I figured as I neared the completion of the ADK46, that I would be moving on to the next challenge and might as well take a day and head south to grab both peaks in one day. Here is the trip report for Hunter Mountain.

Hunter Mountain

I planned to do Hunter Mountain first as it is the second highest peak in the Catskills at 4,040 feet. It is a 4.7 mile hike when you start from the Becker Hollow Parking Area, so it is the shorter of the two hikes I had planned for the day, but also the steeper from what I had read.

I was coming from the Syracuse area, so I came down from Herkimer, past Oneonta by way of route 28, until I took a few back roads to route 23. Route 23 led to route 23A and that brought me to the town of Hunter. On the far side of Hunter is route 214 on the right and that leads to the Becker Hollow Parking Area.

Once I made the turn, I pulled over to the side of the road for a scenic shot of the mountain that loomed directly ahead.

Hunter Mountain from Route 214
Hunter Mountain from Route 214

The parking lot was up the road within five minutes and I arrived around 10:15 a.m. and was signed in ten minutes later. The lot is a pretty good size and there weren't too many cars there when I arrived.

The mountain has four different approaches to the summit, with Becker Hollow being the shortest. If the lot had been full, I would have continued down the road to Devil's Tombstone (see below).

An Overview of the Trails
An Overview of the Trails | Source

For this hike, I decided to travel light, using a two liter bladder in my smaller hiking pack. The temperature was nice, in the mid-to-high 60's and a very light breeze.

About five minutes into the hike, there is a bridge crossing as the terrain remains fairly flat up until this point.

Bridge Crossing
Bridge Crossing

The elevation starts to increase slightly as you head across five separate small brook crossings. After that fifth one, things start to get real and the elevation increases.

Stream Crossings
Stream Crossings

I had to take multiple breaks for the next thirty minutes as there was no relief in terms of flat ground. It was steep and rocky, but the trail was easy to follow. At the lower elevations, it wasn't very buggy out either, thankfully.

At the fifty-minute mark, the trail had a small section with less elevation where there is a tree stump on the left and the fallen part of the tree on the right where you can sit and rest.

Pretty soon after, the canopy thins out a little more, but the trail goes into its steepest area with lots of loose shale. This section also featured the bugs as they started to make an appearance.

Trail Turnoff
Trail Turnoff

Twenty minutes later, or what was an hour and ten minutes into the hike, I arrived at the junction for the trails that lead to the summit or to the fire tower. From what everyone had said, take the trail to the fire tower first as it was less steep, which was off to the right. The trail to the left leads to the summit, but it just as steep as the last twenty minutes had been.

Lower Trail
Lower Trail

The trail starts out relatively flat as your head across the mountain and you eventually come to a water pipe where there is flowing water coming out. The trail continues on into the forest where it gets a little bit steeper until it comes to the clearing for the fire tower. From the junction to the fire tower was around twelve minutes.

Water Pipe
Water Pipe

There's a Ranger Cabin and a few tables for resting up and I arrived at the summit at 11:47 a.m. and there was a nice couple up from Manhattan there. They were originally from Seattle, so I talked to them about the Adirondacks for a little bit.

They had come up the back side of the mountain and entered from behind the Ranger Cabin.

Fire Tower
Fire Tower
Ranger Cabin
Ranger Cabin

While passing people on the trail, they informed me that the fire tower was locked at the top. So I knew that going all the way up wasn't going to be possible.

I'm pretty sure I have vertigo, as I get dizzy climbing open steps like those on fire towers, and that stopped me from rising above the fourth set of stairs. The people over at Hike The Hudson Valley got some very nice scenery shots from the top of the fire tower though if you were wondering how things look from the top.

Sign Behind Ranger Cabin
Sign Behind Ranger Cabin

Even though the summit is towards the fire tower, the trail to get there is behind the Ranger Cabin. It didn't feel right to head that way, but the trail quickly turns in the right direction.

Signage at the top of Hunter
Signage at the top of Hunter

It didn't take long to get to the sign where four trails converge. The way back to Becker Hollow is on the left. Straight ahead would lead down to Devil's Tombstone on a yellow trail. Another yellow trail goes off to the right where I heard there was a good lookout point.

I turned to the right and in a few minutes was at the lookout point. It's definitely worth it to head back here and check things out, especially if you have a heights issue like I do.

Stone Slab at Top of Hunter
Stone Slab at Top of Hunter

I got back to the top of the summit trail and began my descent at 12:25 p.m. The route down was the tricky part and this top section is one of the steepest. The next forty-five minutes was all pounding as it was coming down all that rocky trail until the stream crossings. The last ten minutes was more moderate and I was back to the sign-in book by 1:20 p.m. for a total time of two hours and fifty-five minutes. I checked my pack and used just under the two liters of water for this hike.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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