Catskill, NY: Overlook Trail to Devil's Path Section
Is this 15-mile shuttle hike in the Catskills the hardest dayhike in America? You decide.
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Tackle a stretch of the hardest dayhike in the East, roller-coastering over four peaks on this 15-mile shuttle hike. Backpacker reader James Chrzanowski prefers to skip the trail’s mellower 10.3-mile west end for a shorter but still-tough day. He also warns that “water is more plentiful in spring due to winter melt.”
Take the Overlook Trail from Mead Mountain Road past the remnants of a hotel to join the Devil’s Path. Head west for a steep climb up Indian Head (3,573 feet), Twin (180-degree views), Sugarloaf (3,810 feet), and Plateau (3,850 feet) peaks, then down to Notch Lake where your other car awaits.
Contact: Catskill State Park; nysparks.state.ny.us
-Info provided by James Chrzanowski
- Distance: 24.1
Location: 42.071083, -74.122486
The trail starts at Meads road, opposite the buddhist monastery. From the Overlook Mountain Trailhead, begin hiking up a wide, crushed gravel doubletrack.
Location: 42.072311, -74.117065
Pass a natural spring on the left side of the trail.
Location: 42.073869, -74.114674
Go straight at the junction with spur trail on left. A sign designates camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water or trail.
Location: 42.080031, -74.107976
Bear left at the Y-junction – you’ll see an access road off the right. Continue as the trail winds left and keeps climbing.
Location: 42.084275, -74.100178
Reach the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House. Retrace steps back to path when finished exploring. The trail continues around the ruins to the left.
Location: 42.084914, -74.098851
Trail to Overlook Mountain heads right. Bear left at the Y-junction to continue toward Devil’s Path.
Location: 42.095212, -74.082381
Arrive at a three-way crossing. Down to the left is a trail which leads to Lake Echo and Echo Lake Lean-to.
Location: 42.118292, -74.087612
Reach a bridge that will take you to the Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to.
Location: 42.118679, -74.08751
Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to is here, located on a picturesque stream. This also serves as a nice place for a rest before beginning the climb to Devil’s Path Trail.
Location: 42.120974, -74.086134
Follow the red markers left to begin the sharp ascent up Devil’s Path trail. From here, it’s 2.4 miles to Indian Mountain’s summit.
Location: 42.115217, -74.101918
Sherman Lookout: this lookout is named for General George Tecumseh Sherman. Snag killer views of Indian Head, Plattekill, Roundtop, Kaaterskill, and the Escarpment, which is the obvious ridge to the north.
Location: 42.113836, -74.103849
Look south: this is another great spot for views.
Location: 42.115899, -74.106251
Scramble up a steep, 4th-class chute to yet another great lookout, this one prow-shaped with views to the east and south. The Gunks and Skytop are just visible to the south on a clear day.
Location: 42.116321, -74.108386
Use caution if this chute is damp or dusted in snow.
Location: 42.116399, -74.110333
Climb up another short, steep chute with 5.3 moves. This is near the 3,500-foot level, so you’re getting close to the ridge that includes Indian Head.
Location: 42.116559, -74.112339
At this point, you’re almost to the summit of Indian Head Mountain. Stop here for a moment, as there is no view spot at the summit.
Elevation: 3,573 feet (1,089 m)
Location: 42.117931, -74.120896
After crossing the viewless summit of Indian Head and descending slightly to a col, stay straight at 3-way with the Jimmy Dolan Trail at the notch of the same name.
Location: 42.118283, -74.125742
First summit of Twin Mountain, which has splendid 180-degree views to the west and southwest.
Location: 42.125489, -74.129394
Arrive at the second (true) summit of Twin Mountain.
Location: 42.126568, -74.130407
Scramble down one of the Devil’s Path’s legendary rock chutes on the day’s first steep descent. Unfortunately, the drop from Twin may be the easiest you’ll face on this route.
Location: 42.128799, -74.132337
Another tricky downclimb in the middle of a difficult downhill section that’s very rocky with lots of loose footing and wet, often treacherous surfaces. In winter, these slabs get iced up and become skating rinks; don’t even bother without crampons.
Location: 42.129074, -74.135358
Pecoy Notch: 2,800 feet. Stay straight at the 3-way and begin (you guessed it) a steep, 1,000-foot ascent of Sugarloaf. You might want to rest here for a few minutes; it’s a nice, breezy gap. Take care to avoid the stinging nettle that lines the trail for the first 150 yards when you get started again.
Location: 42.129021, -74.13917
Reach an excellent rest stop with partial views halfway up Sugarloaf. Continue following the trail west toward the summit of Sugarloaf.
Location: 42.131175, -74.150163
Another viewless summit: Cresting Sugarloaf at 3,800 feet unfortunately doesn’t have a panoramic payoff.
Location: 42.131175, -74.151409
Stay straight at the 3-way. A spur trail here leads left to a decent lookout.
Location: 42.134558, -74.158322
Seasonal spring is located to the left of trail at the big switchback. This is the toughest part of the Path so far, because you’re in the midst of three arduous climbs and descents with infrequent views (and no good ones since West Twin). And now you’re tackling a long, grueling descent just as your feet and knees are starting to feel the pounding. But cheer up, because after a big climb at the bottom up the opposite side of this valley, you’ll have a long, high, flat stretch of long-striding atop Plateau Mountain, then a short, stiff descent to a great lunch spot.
Location: 42.134254, -74.158652
Another rocky descent with some natural wonders: a natural arch among them.
Location: 42.134833, -74.161367
Stay straight at the 3-way. Spur leads right to Roaring Kill parking area.
Location: 42.135785, -74.162238
Go straight at 4-way with Mink Hollow Road, which is really a foot trail. To the left in .1 mile is a lean-to. To the right, in about .25 mile, is a spring. Rest here, then start the 1,240-foot climb to Plateau Mountain.
Location: 42.137555, -74.164115
Tank up at the reliable spring on left. Climb goes vertical from here, or so it seems.
Location: 42.13816, -74.174283
Abruptly, the grueling steep climb ends and the trail levels out. Just ahead is the summit of Plateau Mountain (3,800 feet), though no views in sight quite yet.
Location: 42.160228, -74.187252
Partial view to the right just before your descent begins in earnest.
Location: 42.160295, -74.189212
Fabulous lunch ledge with broad views and afternoon exposure. Even if you don’t eat here, take a break, because the trail turns into a long ladder just below here.
Location: 42.15939, -74.203955
Reach NY 214 and Devil’s Tombstone parking lot at Notch Lake, where you shuttle car awaits (you can pay the $4 daily parking fee at the campground office about .1 mile south on NY 214). This completes the tougher half of Devil’s Parth.
Mink Hollow Lean-to
Location: 42.135257, -74.162753