Know the New Hiking How-tos
Windham High Peak
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 20 (Saugerties). After paying the toll, turn left onto Routes 212/32 and cross over the Thruway. At the first traffic light, turn right onto Route 32 North. In 6.0 miles, continue straight ahead onto Route 32A, as Route 32 turns right. In 1.9 miles, turn left onto Route 23A, which climbs through Kaaterskill Clove to reach the villages of Haines Falls and Tannersville. After passing through the commercial area of Tannersville, turn right at a traffic light onto Hill Street (County Route 23C). Follow Route 23C for 6.1 miles, and turn right onto Maplecrest Road (County Route 40) (there is a large American flag on the left at this intersection). Continue on Maplecrest Road for 1.9 miles to the hamlet of Maplecrest (at the base of a steep descent), and turn right onto Big Hollow Road. In 1.8 miles, turn left onto Peck Road, and follow it to the parking area at the end of the road.
Windham High Peak is one of the 35 peaks in the Catskill Mountains that is over 3,500 feet in elevation. During the winter, it makes an ideal snowshoe hike under appropriate conditions. The climb involves an ascent of about 1,500 feet in elevation over 3.2 miles. 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, proceed north on the yellow-blazed Elm Ridge Trail, an old woods road that is often quite wet (short bypass trails have been built around some of the wettest sections). In 0.6 mile, you'll pass a spring (note the pipe on the left side of the trail), after which the trail starts to climb. Soon, you'll pass interesting cliffs to the right and reach a junction with the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail at the crest of the rise. Turn right onto the Escarpment Trail. In a short distance, you'll notice the Elm Ridge Lean-to on the right - a good place to take a break.
Proceed ahead on the Escarpment Trail, which begins to climb the mountain more steeply. Soon, you'll enter a dark, dense Norway spruce forest, with the tree roots spreading over the trail. After passing through an open area, you'll come to a second dense stand of spruce. It is believed that these spruce groves were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.
After climbing a little more, the trail levels off for a short stretch. It soon resumes a gradual climb, with views to the right through the trees over the Blackhead Range. About 2.5 miles into the hike, the trail bears left and begins to climb quite steeply. This section is the steepest of the entire climb. After gaining about 200 feet in elevation, the grade moderates.
As you approach the summit, a side trail to the right leads to a panoramic viewpoint over the Blackhead Range from a rock ledge. You'll want to pause here to rest from the climb and admire the view. Just beyond, on the left side of the trail, there is a panoramic viewpoint to the northwest.
Continue ahead on the Escarpment Trail, which climbs a little to the actual summit. At 3,524 feet, Windham High Peak is the second lowest of the Catskill peaks over 3,500 feet in elevation, but it offers a view that is among the very best of all of the peaks. Proceed ahead a short distance beyond the summit, descending a little, and you'll soon notice an open rock ledge on the left. Since Windham High Peak is the most northerly of all the Catskill 3500 peaks, on a clear day you can see across the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys to Albany, with the southern Adirondacks visible beyond.
After taking in the view, retrace your steps on the Escarpment Trail down to the junction with the Elm Ridge Trail, turn left onto the Elm Ridge Trail, and follow it back to the parking area where the hike began.