West Kill Mountain
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway north to Exit 19 (Kingston), and proceed west on N.Y. Route 28 for about 27 miles to N.Y. Route 42 in Shandaken. Turn right and head north on Route 42 for 7.3 miles, then turn right onto Spruceton Road in the village of West Kill. Follow Spruceton Road for 6.7 miles to a large parking area on the left side of the road. Continue ahead for another 0.2 mile and park in a smaller parking area on the right side of the road.
West Kill Mountain is one of the 35 peaks in the Catskill Mountains that is over 3,500 feet in elevation. The climb involves an ascent of about 1,700 feet in elevation over 3.4 miles (most of the elevation gain is concentrated into a single mile). Trail conditions in the Catskills constantly change - especially in the winter - so make sure to check the weather report and the condition of the trails before you embark on the hike. Recent trip reports of hikes in the Catskills are posted at www.viewsfromthetop.com.
From the parking area, continue ahead on the road. In another 0.2 mile, a cable barrier marks the end of the drivable road. Proceed ahead on a woods road, following the blue markers of the Diamond Notch Trail. The trail parallels the West Kill stream, with many scenic cascades and pools.
In 0.7 mile, at the Diamond Notch Falls, you’ll reach a junction with the red-blazed Devil’s Path. Turn right, crossing a wooden bridge over the stream, then immediately turn right again. The Devil’s Path parallels the stream for a short distance (the best views of the falls are from this side of the stream), then bears left and begins a steady ascent of West Kill Mountain. The grade is quite steep in places and more gentle in others, but you’ll be gaining more than 1,000 feet in elevation in just over a mile.
At about 3,400 feet in elevation, the trail levels off. Soon, you’ll pass a brown DEC sign on a tree to the right of the trail marking the 3,500-foot elevation (camping and fires are not permitted above this elevation). The trail now proceeds through a beautiful evergreen forest.
A short distance beyond, you’ll notice a large overhanging rock, with a sheltered area (resembling a “cave”) underneath. This is a good place to take a break. The trail climbs steeply around the left side of the rock and continues along undulating terrain, with some minor ups and downs. For much of the way, you’ll traverse an evergreen forest.
In about a mile from the “cave”– after a steep descent and then a rather steep climb - you’ll reach the Buck Ridge Lookout, on the left side of the trail. This east-facing viewpoint overlooks a broad panorama, with many of the 3,500-foot peaks visible. The imposing peak in the foreground is Southwest Hunter, with Hunter Mountain (the next peak to the east on the Devil’s Path) behind it, and the Blackhead Range visible in the distance to its left.
After spending some time to take in the view, continue uphill on the trail for another 500 feet to the summit of West Kill Mountain (marked both by a sign and by a large cairn). There are no views from the summit, which is the sixth-highest peak in the Catskills.
Return to your car by retracing your steps down the Devil’s Path and then (after crossing the footbridge over the West Kill) the Diamond Notch Trail.