Slide Mountain (Highest Peak in Catskills) Loop

Overview

This loop hike climbs to the summit of Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, with several outstanding viewpoints.

Details
Time:
4.5 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
6.8 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed off leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Ulster
State:
NY
Publication
First Published:
08/29/2002

Updated/Verified:
10/20/2014
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Devils Path from just below Slide Mountain summit. Photo by Benzy Sanders.

Parking


View Slide Mountain parking in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
42.010928,-74.422371 (Estimated)
Driving Directions

Take the New York State Thruway north to Exit 19 (Kingston). Proceed west on N.Y. Route 28 for about 30 miles to the hamlet of Big Indian. Turn left and proceed south on County Route 47 for about six miles to a hairpin turn in the road, then continue for another two miles, past the Winnisook Club, to a parking area for Slide Mountain, marked by a wooden sign, on the left side of the road.

Description

From the parking area, proceed east on the yellow-blazed Phoenicia-East Branch Trail, which crosses the West Branch of the Neversink River on rocks, and then climbs on a rocky footpath, reaching an old woods road in 0.4 mile. Follow the yellow-blazed trail as it turns right and runs along the level woods road. In another third of a mile, after passing a spring on the left, you’ll reach a junction with the red-blazed Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail, marked by wooden DEC signs. This red-blazed trail will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead along the old road, following the yellow markers. The road briefly narrows to a footpath and then descends to cross a stream on a wooden bridge. 

About a mile and a half from the start, you’ll reach another junction – this one, with the blue-blazed Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. This trail was named after two well-known hikers, “Father” Bill Curtis and Allen Ormsbee, both of whom perished in a snowstorm on Mount Washington, N.H. in June 1900 (a marble monument at the junction commemorates this tragic event). Turn left here and follow the blue blazes of the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail.

The trail climbs to the top of a large rock and then continues to ascend. After a short, steep section, it reaches a viewpoint to the north and west from a rock outcrop on the left side of the trail. Just beyond, you’ll reach the elevation of 3,500 feet – above which camping and fires are not permitted (except in the winter).

Table Mountain from the second viewpoint on the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.In another 0.2 mile, in a flat area, an unmarked side trail on the right leads about 200 feet to an outstanding viewpoint over Table, Lone, Rocky and Balsam Cap Mountains (the best views are from a rock ledge on the left). This is a good spot to rest and take in the view.

When you’re ready to continue, backtrack to the main trail and turn right, continuing to follow the blue blazes. The next section of the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail is particularly beautiful and interesting, with level sections alternating with rather steep climbs. Deciduous trees soon give way to a deep, dark spruce-fir forest. In another mile, after a short descent, the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail ends at a junction with the red-blazed Cornell-Wittenberg-Slide Trail. 

Turn right and follow the red trail, which once served as the road to a fire tower on the summit, as it proceeds on a relatively level path along the summit ridge under a canopy of evergreens. Soon, the trail begins a steady climb. In about 0.7 mile, you’ll reach a panoramic viewpoint from a rock ledge on the left. This is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Catskills, with the entire Devil’s Path visible to the north. The flat-topped Blackhead Mountain may be seen in the distance.

 Panorama of Devils Path from Slide Mountain. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Continue ahead and you’ll soon reach the actual summit (elevation 4,180 feet), marked by the remains of the foundation of the former fire tower. There are no views from here, but just beyond, you’ll come to a large rock ledge which overlooks Cornell and Wittenberg Mountains and the Ashokan Reservoir to the east. You’ve now climbed about 1,800 vertical feet from the trailhead, and you’ll want to spend some time enjoying the view and checking out the historic carvings on the ledge. Another interesting feature which you’ll want to see is a plaque just below the summit ledge in memory of John Burroughs, a naturalist who lived nearby, who often climbed these mountains.Carvings in the rock ledge just beyond the summit of Slide Mountain. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

After you’ve spent some time resting, retrace your steps and follow the red trail back to the junction with the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. This time, though, continue ahead at the junction, following the red blazes. Soon, the trail narrows and bends sharply to the left, then to the right. After these two sharp turns, the trail continues down the mountain on a wide but very rocky path. This route offers no views and is much less interesting than the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail that you used to climb the mountain, but it is also shorter and faster.

In about two miles from the summit, the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Phoenicia-West Branch Trail. Turn right and follow the yellow trail along the old woods road for 0.3 mile, then turn left, leaving the woods road, and continue following the yellow blazes back to the parking area where you began the hike.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

October 18, 2014 - Slide summit

I did this hike on the subject date, but went both up and down via the red Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail.  Was surprised how rocky it was at the lower elevations (below 3500 ft), making the descent almost as slow-going as the ascent had been.  But the summit ridge - above the deciduous tree line - is marvelous with all the pines and moss rimming the trail.  Parts of it were even runnable! (yes, I am a runner)

I'm planning a future hike from the Woodland Valley side to summit Cornell and Wittenberg.  :) 

Approaches to Slide Mountain

Yes, you are correct that the Cornell-Wittenberg-Slide Trail, from its start at the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail to about the 3,500-foot elevation, is very rocky and a relatively unattractive route.  It is the old road formerly used to access the fire tower and was not built as a trail.  That is why the hike described above uses the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail to climb Slide Mountain.  This is a far more interesting and attractive route.  Unless you just want to get to the summit and back by the quickest route (and it seems that most people want to do that), I strongly recommend that you use the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail for the ascent of the mountain.  And for those to whom it matters, portions of the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail are actually "runnable"!

Snow Hike December 7th

I just did this hike with a friend of mine today after 2-3 inches of snow fell overnight.  The hike description was right on point as usual and it was relatively easy to find our way up to the summit.  The snow on the ground definitely made the climb a strenuous one but the conditions were awesome with a fresh powder of only 2 inches on the ground and everything around with some snow or ice covering it.  I would definitely recommend doing this hike if possible in the winter however it is obviously a little more dangerous with the icy conditions.  Most of the views were amazing especially because of the recent snow also creating numerous icicles on various rocks formations.  The fresh snow revealed some bear traffic at 4 different locations which got the neck muscles their share of exercise with all the over the shoulder peeks.  The red blazed Cornell-Wittenberg-Slide Trail is not very well marked up around the summit and the yellow blazed Phoenicia-West Branch Trail had a long stretch without any blazes as well.  I am guessing it was because the trail is probably "obvious" but not when the ground is covered in snow and it looks like the trail might go one way or another at times.  All in all I would definitely do this hike again someday perhaps in the summer.

Lookout for the bugs!!!

This was a phenomenal hike.  The climb up was fun and reasonably challenging.  The problem was as you got close to the summit you found yourself covered in gnats.  It was like the gnat apocalypse up there.  It was bad.  We read after that they nest in the catskills and it is better to go later in the summer/fall to avoid them.  It was my only knock on the hike.  We planned to eat lunch at the summit but the bugs made that impossible.  We turned and hustled back down the mountain.  The descent is very rocky and difficult.  It is extremely direct though so the descent is much shorter.  The views are not as panoramic as you'd hope as the trees have grown a bit too tall.  

Slide Mountain Winter Hike Feb. 2012

i did this hike a few days ago with a friend, i really enjoyed it and highly recommend the trail; the write-up above is a bit out of date (it was written a decade ago); the length of the loop is 6.8 miles, it took us about 4 hours - including a 20~ min. break at the top, and the difficulty is moderate.

it has been a pretty mild winter – the first half-mile of the trail was a bit icy, otherwise we had no problems – the trail is well maintained and clearly marked.

check out my full write up and walk-through with photos here: http://www.michaelmeyers.com/content/slide-mountain-loop-hike-catskill-mountains-winter

Length of hike

Michael is indeed correct that the length of the hike should be 6.8 miles.  The hike description has been corrected.  As for the rating, the hike involves a climb of about 1,600 vertical feet.  I would consider any hike with such a significant elevation gain to be "strenuous" for purposes of hike ratings, although I recognize that many hikers might find the hike "moderate," or even "easy."  I should add that, as far as Catskill peaks go, the climb of Slide Mountain is significantly easier than many other Catskill peaks.

thanks

thanks kmalkin, the nynjtc.org website is awesome and such a great resource. i did another hike on saturday (overlook mountain) that i also found on your site and will write that up soon

Daniel's original write up above is great – I never would have done the hike with out it! From what I recall of our hike (it was snowy so some landmarks/details weren't visible) beyond the mileage data, and the timing/difficulty (which are subjective) his writeup is still accurate and very detailed… also note that i did the loop in the opposite direction of his write-up, so maybe that and or the snow made it easier for us...

Daniel even reached out to me and read my write up - you guys are awesome! thanks again for putting together such a great site/resource

Michael

Slide Mountain Winter Hike Feb. 2012

The full write up has a very enjoyable hike description.

Comments from recent hike

I recently did this hike and I would like to update some things about it:

1-This can be a very wet and muddy hike, esp. after a rain storm. I hiked it the day after a good soaking and there were rushing streams and muddy trails for half of this trail --- so be prepared for it!

2-The 3500 ft. sign is gone so you will have to find the south facing lookout without that sign, it is still pretty obvious even though the sign is gone where it it. The South facing lookout is becoming overgrown with trees making it hard to see many of the mountatins from it. However you can still see the High Point, NJ monument with binos if you look in the direction of 197 degrees if the visibility is good.

3-The view from the "Burroughs Rock" is also becoming very overgrown with trees making it almost impossible to see much other than the reservoir and the mountains towards the East. Couldn't see many Catskill mtns from here (it is claimed you can see 75 named Catskill peaks from here ... not anymore you can't except maybe when the leaves are gone)

4-The west and north facing viewpoints on the way up the Curtis trail are still clear though and worth the slogging through the water and mud!

Great Hike with Spectacular Views!

Loved this hike. Did it during a spell of hot and humid weather and it was considerably cooler, less humid and breezy up high in the mountains. Definitely think the longer blue trail is the way to go - much more interesting than the red trail. Here are pictures I took along with some at Giant Ledge which is nearby: http://gonehikin.blogspot.com/2010/07/slide-mountain-and-giant-ledge-cat...