Have you ever noticed that there are things in life that are given names that simply don’t make sense… many being the subject of TV commercials and cheesy infomercials. The name alone neither tells you what the thing is or what it does… for example, the Flowbee, the Swiffer, the Snuggie, and even Ear Buds leave one with the impression that some sort of medical attention may be required.
On the other hand, there are some items that seem to be named perfectly…and there’s no confusion as to what they when hearing their name… Shredded Wheat, lawn mower, bread maker. Any questions? I didn’t think so.
The Devil’s Path in the Catskill Mountains may be one of the most aptly named trails on this planet. The name describes the trail perfectly. It truly is the work of the Devil and brings with it all the evil that one would expect. But despite the name and all the misery that goes along with it, the Devil’s path is a stretch of trail that covers 5 mountains (6 with a short detour to Hunter Mountain) that is truly rewarding.
In total the Devil’s path covers 24 miles and contains over 15,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. The climbs, both up and down, are steep and rugged. The idea of a switch back is practically non-existent. It’s a trail that is probably best suited to the weak of mind and strong of body…. characteristics that most often describe me. A smarter man would look at a topographic map of this mountain range and simply not even attempt it. Fortunately, for those who do tackle it, there are breathtaking views at various points along the trail that make it worth the effort.
It is possible to hike the Devil’s path in sections. There are a couple trailheads that are not too far apart, that make it possible to drop a car at one end and hike from the other. The trail covers the following peaks: Indian Head (3,573 ft), Twin (3,640 ft), Sugarloaf (3,800 ft), Plateau (3,840 ft) and West Kil
l (3,880 ft) mountains…and with a 3.6 mile detour Hunter (4,040 ft). The Jimmy Dolan Notch, Pecoy Notch, and Mink Hollow Notch Trails all provide an escape into the valley below.
We climbed Indian Head, Twin, and Sugarloaf starting at the East end of the trail, taking advantage of the various notch trails to make shorter day hikes. We climbed both Plateau and Hunter Mountain from Devil’s Tombstone parking in the notch on Rt. 214…and both are brutal ascents. The top of Plateau rewards the hiker with a nice, long, generally level path across the summit through dense evergreens as you make your way to the descent on the other side. The highlight of hiking Hunter Mountain is taking the 1.8 mile trail to the fire tower on the peak. You can’t climb into the top of the structure, but you can make it most of the way up before reaching the barricade…and it’s pretty high…and on a windy day is guaranteed to get your heart
rate a notch higher than it was from making the grunt up the mountain.
The Devil’s path is a very difficult and physically demanding trail that challenges even the most experienced of hikers. In addition to the spectacular views, the most compelling reason to conquer this terrain is being able to put 5 3500′ peaks (6 if you include the short detour to Hunter Mountain) behind you. …and if this section of the Catskills is a precursor to an eternity in hell with the Devil himself, hiking it is likely motivation enough to change the ways of even the wickedest of souls.
Check our our full series on hiking in the Catskills…