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...
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).
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.
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.
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.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 08/29/2002 updated/verified on 01/17/2016
This loop hike climbs to the summit of Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, with several outstanding viewpoints.
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.