Hunter Mountain via Spruceton Trail

Overview

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.

Details
Time:
6 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
8 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed off leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Greene
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Publication
First Published:
10/03/2002

Updated/Verified:
06/25/2012
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View Hunter Mountain in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
42.18478, -74.27178
Driving Directions

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.

Description

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'Hikers on the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower Steps. Photo by Daniel Chazin.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 toViewpoint near Spurceton and Hunter Mountain Trails Juntion. Photo by Daniel Chazin. 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.

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Multi-night trip?

I know that a short distance away, most of the trails surrounding North/South Lake are un-campable because of their location and that NSL Campgrounds are the only place to legally camp in the area. How about along this trail?

Camping along the trails on this hike

As the description above makes clear, this hike passes two shelters at which camping is permitted.  Moreover, in general, camping is permitted anywhere in the Catskills under 3,500 feet in elevation, as long as you camp more than 150 feet from the trail and from water sources.  While much of the hike is above 3,500 feet, the beginning and end are below 3,500 feet.  It should be noted that the steepness of the trail and the surrounding terrain makes camping unfeasible for a significant portion of the hike.  The two shelters, though, are wonderful places to camp -- especially the John Robb Lean-to, which was recently rebuilt at a magnificent site, a short distance from the trail.  Nearby tentsites are also available.