Know the New Hiking How-tos
Blackhead Mountain Loop
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). 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. Follow Big Hollow Road for 4.3 miles to the parking area on the right, just before the end of the road.
Blackhead Mountain is one of the 35 peaks in the Catskill Mountains that is over 3,500 feet in elevation. The summit elevation is 3,940 feet, which makes it the fourth highest peak in the Catskills. The climb involves an ascent of about 1,700 feet in elevation over 2.4 miles. The last section of the climb is among the steepest in the Catskills.
From the parking area, continue ahead on the road, following the red blazes of the Black Dome Range Trail. Just ahead, the trail bears right onto a rocky woods road and begins to parallel the cascading Batavia Kill. In a short distance, it crosses the stream on a wooden footbridge and continues uphill, with the stream on the right. About half a mile from the start, the trail recrosses the Batavia Kill on another footbridge and soon reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Batavia Kill Trail.
Turn left at the junction, cross the stream on rocks, and follow the yellow-blazed trail, which proceeds uphill on a moderate grade, continuing to parallel the stream. In about 0.7 mile, you’ll arrive at the Batavia Kill Lean-to – a wooden shelter where one can stay overnight. Beyond the lean-to, the Batavia Kill Trail climbs a little more steeply on a switchback, and it soon ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail.
Turn right onto the Escarpment Trail, which proceeds through a beautiful spruce-fir forest. At first, the trail is relatively level, but it soon ascends steeply and begins to run along a ridge, with some views through the trees on the left. After another steep climb, the trail emerges onto a rock ledge with a broad view to the east and northeast. This viewpoint, known as Yellow Jacket Lookout, is starting to grow in, but the views are still spectacular.
After climbing some more, you’ll pass the sign marking the elevation of 3,500 feet. The trail goes around a contour, turns left, and climbs very steeply. You’ll need to use both your hands and your feet to negotiate this extremely steep trail section. As you start to climb, look back for another great view to the northeast.
At the top of the steep climb, the trail bears right and ascends more gradually. Soon, you’ll reach the viewless summit of Blackhead Mountain, marked by an open rock ledge. Here, the Escarpment Trail turns left, but (after taking a break) you should turn right, now following the yellow-blazed Blackhead Mountain Trail.
The Blackhead Mountain Trail proceeds through a dense spruce-fir forest on a relatively level footpath. In about 10 minutes, you’ll emerge onto a rock ledge with a spectacular west-facing view. The mountain directly ahead is Black Dome (elevation 3,980 feet), and the peaks of the Devil’s Path are visible to the left (south).
The trail now begins a steep descent. After leveling off, the Blackhead Mountain Trail ends at a junction with the red-blazed Black Dome Range Trail in Lockwood Gap – the col between Blackhead and Black Dome. Turn right and follow the Black Dome Range Trail, which descends on switchbacks. In half a mile, the switchbacks end, and the trail continues along an old woods road, descending gradually. Along the way, you’ll pass a piped spring on the right.
About 1.4 miles from Lockwood Gap, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Batavia Kill Trail. Bear left at this junction and continue to descend along the red-blazed Black Dome Range Trail, now retracing your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.