I am a firm believer that the Catskills are a vastly underrated mountain range. You don’t usually hear about them in most day to day discussions between hikers and social media. However, you can find some seriously challenging hiking and very remote back country camping within this range. You can be crawling up full on rock scrambles with aggressive elevation gain to also donning full mountaineering gear in the winter. However, this mountain range is like the forgotten middle child stuck between the White Mountains in New Hampshire and The Adirondacks just a couple of hours north. But being just 2.5 hours from New York City it is impressive the kind of experience you can find yet still being close to the major metropolitan areas.
This past September I had a random day off from work and was able to convince Sydney to come with me to hike Twin Mountain which is part of the infamous Devils Path. The Devils Path was listed as one of the hardest hikes in the country by Backpacker magazine which is 24.3 miles long with 7,800 feet of elevation gain. You cross 6 mountains on this trail, Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf, Plateau, Hunter, and West Kill which is made even harder given that this trail has a serious lack of water sources. However, on this day we only hiked Twin mountain which was plenty for us, as Sydney was still getting used to these more difficult hikes that were primarily rock scrambles. I knew this would be a good motivator mountain for her as it is known for having some of the best views in the Catskills.
The drive from our house in CT to the mountain is about two hours and the time was passed quickly as we listened to one of the stranger but highly addicting podcast called “S Town”. The story is extremely complicated and I cannot even begin to describe so I will just put a link at the bottom of this post. Anyway, back to hiking, we started from the Dale Lane trail head which is a super remote dirt road where you think you must be lost until you come out to a tiny clearing where you park on a cutout by the trail head sign. From there you have a relatively easy hike for 1.6 miles on the Pecoy Notch Trail that connects you onto the Devils Path. This is a pretty cool trail that winds around the base of the mountain and comes to a slate covered outcropping that looks out onto Twin mountain. This is the time where you are humbled by looking up at what you are about to climb. As you enter back into the woods it is only a short jaunt until you come to a big pond where you scale its edge and if it is summer time definitely want to keep an eye out for snakes as it is very grassy here. Sydney and I saw a snake right at the end of this section. After the pond you have a short section of trail left until the junction of Pecoy Notch and the Devils Path. This junction is when your hike really begins as the grade gets steep and you crawl on all fours.
The trail sign only reads .7 miles to the summit as you begin this section of the hike but it is a very slow and exhausting .7 miles. Luckily you have gorgeous views of rock outcropping’s and at certain turns you get a good view out of the trees and towards the backside of Sugarloaf. Sydney and I had great views of the fall colors starting to turn. The signs of the elevation gain start appearing with smaller tighter trees making the trail more of a tunnel in spots and the strong scent of evergreen. One of the cooler parts of this section is the cave that is a short distance from the summit. It can be confusing trying to follow the trail at this part but you literally just hike over the top of cave. There is also another taste of the views as you make your scramble over the cave. Eventually the grade gets more manageable and you can sense that you are almost to the top. The summit is extremely rewarding as it is a massive boulder above the surrounding trees and big enough for many people to lay around and enjoy the fruits of their labor which is the amazing views of the mountain ranges in the distance.
Sydney and I fueled up at the top and then made our hike back to the car. The hike down was much quicker and easier. Some people struggle with steep downhill sections but I have always excelled at descending. My motivation at this point was getting back to the ice cold beer and cheese that awaited in the car. After finally making it back to the car I was stoked to do my two favorite post hiking rituals. Number 1 is cracking open that cold beer and number 2 is quickly taking my trail runners or boots off and putting my flip-flops on. There is nothing better than those things combined. Pure Bliss.