by Daniel Chazin, The Record, link to original post
HIKING: Catskill Forest Preserve
FEATURES: This loop hike climbs nearly 2,000 feet to the summit of Indian Head Mountain, with spectacular views.
LENGTH: About 7.8 miles.
TIME: About 6 1/2 hours.
MAP: New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Catskill Trails Map No. 141.
DOGS: Permitted on leash (off-leash on Forest Preserve lands).
HOW TO GET THERE: Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 20 (Saugerties). After the toll booths, turn left onto N.Y. 212/N.Y. 32, and continue straight ahead at the next intersection to stay on Route 212. In 2.3 miles, turn right onto County Route 35 (Blue Mountain Road). In another 1.5 miles, turn left to continue on County Route 35. Proceed ahead as the road becomes County Route 33 and then Platte Clove Road, which climbs through Platte Clove. Just beyond the crest of the rise, turn right at a sign for “trailhead parking” and proceed to the parking area (about 150 feet up a gravel road). NOTE: The section of Platte Clove Road that climbs steeply through Platte Clove is closed in the winter. During this period, the trailhead should be accessed via N.Y. 23A through Kaaterskill Clove.
From the parking area, go back to Platte Clove Road, turn right, and walk along the road for about 750 feet until you see a “Long Path” sign on the left. Enter the woods, heading south on a footpath, and cross Plattekill Creek. The Long Path climbs through the Platte Clove Preserve of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, where it is marked both with green diamond blazes and blue blazes with the Long Path logo.
In three-quarters of a mile, you’ll enter the State Forest Preserve. The trail is now blazed with blue DEC blazes. Then, in another 0.2 miles, you’ll reach a junction with the red-blazed Devil’s Path. Continue ahead on the old road, now following red blazes, but when you reach another junction in 350 feet, turn right and follow the Devil’s Path as it begins its climb of Indian Head Mountain. You’ll gain about 1,000 feet in elevation in 1.25 miles, with level sections alternating with rather steep climbs.
After passing a large overhanging ledge on the left, the trail climbs steeply, then descends a little to Sherman’s Lookout – a northeast-facing rock ledge to the left of the trail. The ledge affords a spectacular view over Platte Clove, with the Hudson River in the distance on the right.
The trail now curves right and heads through a spruce forest, with a level stretch followed by a rather steep climb. After traversing a deep evergreen forest, the trail passes a panoramic south-facing viewpoint on the left, then begins a gradual descent.
At the base of the descent, the trail turns sharply right and climbs very steeply up a cleft in the rock. At the top, an open rock ledge on the right provides an excellent view to the southeast. The knob directly ahead of you is part of Indian Head Mountain, while Overlook Mountain (with a fire tower and a communications tower) is on the right. Use extreme caution here, and do not approach the edge.
The trail continues on a relatively level route until, just before reaching a 50-foot rock face, it turns sharply right and climbs steeply through a crevice. The trail soon passes the 3500-foot sign and continues to climb, soon reaching yet another viewpoint from a rock ledge to the left.
The actual summit of the mountain is a short distance beyond the viewpoint. You’ll know when you’ve reached it, as just beyond, the trail begins a very steep descent. In just half a mile, the trail drops about 500 vertical feet.
At the base of the descent, you’ll come to Jimmy Dolan Notch. Here, you turn right onto the blue-blazed Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail, which you’ll follow for the next 1.6 miles. The first part of this trail involves a steep descent, but after descending another 300 vertical feet, the grade moderates.
After following an old road for a third of a mile, you’ll cross a stream and reach a trail junction. The Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail ends here, and you should turn right onto the red-blazed Devil’s Path. The trail climbs gradually, then levels off. It crosses two significant streams – one on an interesting rock bridge, and the other on flat rock slabs. Then, after about 1.5 miles, it descends slightly to reach a junction. Turn left and retrace your steps on the Long Path through the Platte Clove Preserve to return to Platte Clove Road, where the hike began.
“Hiking” is provided by Daniel Chazin of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The trail conference is a volunteer organization that builds and maintains over 1,700 miles of hiking trails and publishes a library of hiking maps and books, including a six-map set for Catskill Trails ($16.95) and the “New York Walk Book” ($22.95). The Trail Conference’s office is at 156 Ramapo Valley Rd. (Route 202), Mahwah; (201) 512-9348. For more information log on to nynjtc.org.