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In Superlative Hikes, we search out the biggest, wettest, and beariest trails in America.
The sun beat down through the red and gold leaves of the canopy as I stood for a moment, heart pounding in my ears, trying to catch my breath.
“How much longer could we possibly have to go uphill,” I thought to myself, taking a swig of water. Staring up the seemingly endless slope before me, I took one last deep breath and started forward.
A few minutes into the upslope slog, we came to our next rock scramble. Pulling my pack up a little higher on my hips, I began to climb, taking special care to look for sturdy holds and avoid icy patches.
But when I finally heaved myself and my pack over the uppermost rock, I found not more relentless sun and open slope, but a shady evergreen grove. I caught my breath, watching black-capped chickadees land on nearby branches, cock their heads to the side, then trill out calls to their fellows.
“They are probably warning their friends about two slow-moving creatures in the forest,” I joked to my boyfriend. The birds were certainly making the climb look easier than we were. After a moment’s rest, we continued, this time accompanied by the chickadee’s chirps. The hill might be long, but the scenery was lovely, and even better views waited ahead.
Distance: 12.1 miles
Duration: 2 days
The Dutcher Notch Trail runs through private property, so follow the yellow markers and stay on the path. Around mile 2 you’ll reach an intersection. Veer to the right and follow the blue markers, toward Blackhead Mountain, on the Escarpment Trail. (It’s important to note that there are rock scrambles along this route.) Around mile 4.6 you’ll reach Blackhead Mountain’s summit. You can turn right here and take the trail to the Batavia Kill lean-to (1.2 miles away). But if you want a longer route continue straight, toward Black Dome Mountain, following the yellow markers.
At approximately mile 5.2, track right on the Black Dome Trail then veer right onto Batavia Kill Trail at mile 6.6, where you’ll cross over a foot bridge. At approximately mile 7.6, you’ll reach the Batavia Kill lean-to. There’s a river that runs nearby, which you can use to restock your water. From the lean-to head right on the Batavia Kill Trail for a short distance before picking up the Escarpment Trail, on the right, again. In this section you gain about 1,000 feet in elevation in under a mile, so be prepared for a very steep trek with rock scrambles. It’s also important to note that this particular trail was covered in thick layers of ice in the early spring, which could be dangerous; be careful about climbing it in early season.
At just over 8 miles, you’ll be back on Blackhead Mountain’s summit. Veer left to stay on the Escarpment Trail. After just over 2 miles, you’ll reach an intersection. Veer left, picking up the Dutcher Notch Trail toward Hawver Road. Follow the yellow markers for just over 2 miles back to the trailhead.
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