In 1999, Backpacker Magazine listed Devil's Path in the Catskills among its 12 devilishly brutal trails. As such, we decided it was a perfect place (cue evil laughter) to take a pair of unsuspecting friends training for a honeymoon climb of Mount Rainier. Devil's Path isn't all pain and suffering without reprieve, though on one of the numerous ascents up 3,500' Catskill peaks, it can be difficult to focus on spectacular summit views and the feeling of accomplishment when it's over. This marked my third and most successful trip to the region. Unlike our previous two Devil's Path trips, the weather was perfect. Mother Nature seemed to take pity on us and despite the gnarly terrain, I know we'll go back for more.
|Our itinerary - Overlook Trail to Devil's Path, along eastern portion of Devil's Path |
from east to west, overnight between Indian Head and Twin. Devil's Path
continues west after crossing NYS 214. We did the eastern portion only.
Overlook Trail and Devil's Path to the Summit of Indian Head - Day 1Approximately 9 miles in 7 hours.
|The old Overlook Hotel. (D. Herscovitch)|
After nearly two miles of steady climbing up a wide, stone covered access road, the Overlook Trail leads to the ruins of the Overlook Hotel. Only the ghostlyconcrete shell of the storied buildings remain.**
We opted not to summit Overlook Mountain on a 0.3 mile long side trail, but did drop our packs for a 1.2 mile round trip jaunt down to Echo Lake and Back. It's a beautiful lunch spot and home to what we heard is one of the least used lean-to sites in the area. After another 2.3 miles along the Overlook Trail, we came to a junction with Devil's Path and started heading west.
At this point, the real climbing began. From the trail junction, Devil's Path gains almost 1,300' up to the summit of Indian Head (3,573'). Indian Head makes a great day hiking destination with a number of different loop options, and I found myself a bit jealous of day hikers with day packs while I shouldered my overnight pack!
We dropped 500-600' down to Jimmy Dolan Notch and found a suitable camping spot for the night. Bear canisters are encouraged in the Catskills, and we made sure to cook and store food far away from our tents to prevent unsolicited visits from wildlife.
We also found a small trickle of water to pump filter from near the campsite, a trickle that likely wouldn't have been there without the previous days' rainstorms. (Water sources are few and far between along Devil's Path; backpackers should be prepared!)
Devil's Path to Summits of Twin, Sugarloaf and Plateau Mountains - Day 2
|One particularly gnarly section of the trail!|
After sleeping like a baby, the second day of 6am wake-up calls came too soon, but I was glad to see the weather was still beautiful. We packed up camp and continued west along Devil's Path to the top of Twin Mountain (3,650'), ascending 600' in 0.5 miles to the first of two summits. The true summit is reached as the trail gradually ascends along the ridge, then drops back down 700' in 0.7 miles to Pecoy Notch. We continued to see day hikers and a handful of ultra runners making a loop with Pecoy Notch, the Mink Hollow Trail and the summit of Sugarloaf (3,810') along Devil's Path.
Ascending nearly 1,000' up Sugarloaf was the most physically difficult of the three summits (four if you count both of Twin Mountain's summits) for me that day. We'd just completed an ascent and descent of Twin, got to the top of Sugarloaf, then had to descend Sugarloaf and climb all the way back up to the summit of Plateau (3,850). All of the ups and downs begin to feel the same after a while, all equally challenging. Devil's Path definitely earned its name on the second day, particularly as we reached the top of Plateau and began the 1.5 mile traverse across before the steep (1,700' in less than one mile) descent down to Notch Lake.
|Brad on the final descent down Plateau.|
We were all "smelling the barn" without a doubt, and were happy to reach the car mid-afternoon. One of my favorite things to do on trips is to find local places to have my first real post-trip meal, and Winchell's Pizza in Shokan, NY was exactly what we needed. After feasting on gourmet pizza, BBQ chicken, burgers and delicious beer, we were ready for the ride home.
I'd call this the most successful Devil's Path backpacking trip so far because (a) we completed the itinerary we'd set out with, (b) Mother Nature gave us a break with amazing weather, and (c) Carla and Brad were among the best prepared and best conditioned relatively new backpackers Dan and I have had the pleasure of doing a trip with!
Devil's Path is an amazing trail, both because it's incredibly difficult and the rewards you'll receive if you're willing to put up with and push through the challenges. Maybe we'll manage the whole 24-mile trail someday!
Have you done Devil's Path, or a portion of it? Tell us in the comments!
|Until next time, Echo Lake!|
**Morris Newgold, owner of the Times Square Hotel in New York, purchase the second Overlook Hotel in 1917 after the first burned to the ground. The second burned in 1924, and Newgold sold the Times Square Hotel in 1924 to fund the concrete structure in place today. Work began in 1927 and continued, as Newgold was unaffected by the stock market crash in 1929. Construction continued until Newgold fell ill in 1939, and the hotel was boarded up in 1940. The hotel was never finished. (May-June 1976 issue of "The Conservationist," "My Grandfather and the Mountain", Bill Newgold, grandson of Morris Newgold.) More photos here.