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...
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.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 10/03/2002 updated/verified on 06/25/2012
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.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.