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Hunter Mountain via Spruceton Trail
This loop hike climbs to the second-highest peak in the Catskills, with outstanding views from the fire tower at the summit and from several other viewpoints along the trail.
Allowed off leash
Views, Historic feature
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates42.18478, -74.27178
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 19 (Kingston) and proceed west on N.Y. Route 28 for about 28 miles to its junction with N.Y. Route 42 in Shandaken. Proceed north on Route 42 for 7.4 miles to the hamlet of West Kill, then turn right and follow Spruceton Road (County Route 6) for 6.7 miles, past a "dead-end" sign, to a large parking area for Hunter Mountain on the left side of the road.
From the parking area, follow the blue-blazed Spruceton Trail northward. This trail follows a wide dirt road which provides access to the fire tower at the top of the mountain. Soon, you will pass a trail register (please sign). After about half a mile, the trail crosses Hunter Brook on a wide wooden bridge and then makes a sharp right turn. The trail now ascends gradually, following the road up a shoulder of Hunter Mountain.
After 1.7 miles of this gentle uphill walking, the trail reaches a junction at a height of land, marked by a sign. The wide dirt road continues ahead, descending to the town of Hunter, but you should turn right and follow the blue blazes, which ascend more steeply on a much rougher road. This is the steepest part of the hike.
In another half a mile, a sign to the right of the trail points the way to a spring (the water should be purified, if you choose to drink it). A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a sign that points to a lean-to. A side trail leads in about 500 feet to the John Robb lean-to and a panoramic viewpoint just beyond. You are now at about 3,500 feet in elevation, and you've climbed about 1,400 vertical feet from the parking area. This is a good place to take a break.
Continue uphill on the blue-blazed trail. Soon, you'll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Colonel's Chair Trail, which leaves to the left and leads to the top of the chairlifts at the Hunter Mountain Ski Area. You should continue ahead, following the blue blazes.
The trail now levels off for a while, and then ascends moderately, finally reaching a large clearing at the summit of the mountain, with the fire tower and a fire observer's cabin. You've hiked 3.4 miles and climbed nearly 2,000 vertical feet to reach this point.
The fire tower is open to the public, and it affords excellent views in all directions. The mountains of the Blackhead Range may be seen to the northeast, and Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf and Plateau Mountains are visible to the southeast. You can see the ski trails on Hunter Mountain to the north.
After taking in the view, continue ahead on the blue-blazed trail, which continues for another quarter of a mile, through a dense spruce-fir forest, to a trail junction - the former location of the fire tower. Here, a side trail goes off to the right, leading for about 300 feet to a rock ledge which affords a broad view to the west. After checking out this view, return to the junction, turn right, and follow the yellow-blazed Hunter Mountain Trail, which proceeds in a southeasterly direction. (If you choose to skip this viewpoint, the Hunter Mountain Trail continues straight ahead from the end of the Spruceton Trail.)
The Hunter Mountain Trail descends gently for 1.4 miles, making two sharp turns on the way. It ends at a junction with the red-blazed Devil's Path, also marked by a sign. Continue straight ahead at this junction, and in about 250 feet, you'll reach the Devil's Acre Lean-to, just to the right of the trail - another good place to take a break. This was the site of a logging camp in the early 1900s, and remnants of machinery from the logging operations are still visible in the area.
Continue ahead on the red-blazed trail, immediately crossing a brook. A short distance ahead, the trail curves to the right and follows a relatively level path along a contour for about half a mile. Near the end of this stretch of trail, a short side trail to the left leads to a rock ledge, with excellent views over Diamond Notch below and Southwest Hunter Mountain to the left. Be careful, as there is a very sharp drop from this ledge!
Return to the main trail and turn left. Soon, the trail bends to the left and starts a steady descent. After a mile and a half of this downhill walking - which can be rough in a few places - you will cross a stream and arrive at a trail junction in an open, grassy area. Here, the Devil's Path turns left and crosses the West Kill, but you should continue straight ahead, following the blue blazes of the Diamond Notch Trail. You will pass the attractive Diamond Notch Falls to the left and then parallel the West Kill.
In 0.7 mile, you'll pass a trail register and reach a cable barrier at the end of Spruceton Road. Continue ahead along the driveable road for another quarter of a mile to the Hunter Mountain parking area, where you began the hike, on the right.