We’re not saying we don’t enjoy and appreciate hikes that are over the hills and through the woods. We’re just saying the Devil’s Path is not that kind of hike. The Devil’s Path wouldn’t have earned the name “Devil’s Path” if it simply involved hills and woods. This route is demanding.
The 24.3 miles of rocks and boulders and ledges that make up the Devil’s Path leads you from the trailhead at the end of Prediger Road in New York’s Catskill Mountains through the Indian Head and Hunter-West Kill Mountain Wilderness Areas as you walk, hop, and climb your way over the summits of Indian Head Mtn. (3573), Twin Mtn. (3650), Sugarloaf Mtn. (3810), and Plateau Mtn. (3850), before turning off the Long Path and steeply descending to Devil’s Tombstone and Notch Lake only to be rewarded with another climb up to and through the saddle between Hunter Mtn. (4050) and Hunter Mountain’s SW Peak (3750). You finish the route with one last climb up and over the summit of West Kill Mountain (3890) where you will enjoy extended views from Buck Ridge Overlook before dropping down to the West Kill River and the Trailhead at Spruceton Road (trailhead on the right at mile four of Spruceton Road, not the trailhead on the left at mile seven).
The terrain on the trail is mostly rocks, followed closely by large roots. There are small amounts of mud thrown in here and there just to keep you on your toes. The landscape provides a diverse collection of trees, each offering clues to your elevation as you climb up and down steep chutes on each side of the peaks. Some of the climbs even involve maneuvers difficult enough to have ratings. There are a few 5.3 sections on the way up Indian Head.
The wildlife is equally diverse. We enjoyed seeing snakes, frogs, butterflies and white-tail deer. We also kept our eyes peeled for Black Bear and Porcupine, and we were sure to properly store our food and gear so as to avoid any unwanted encounters. There are as many as 2000 Black Bear in the Catskills and Porcupines have been known to chew on backpacker’s salty boots. Believe it or not Porcupines have even gnawed on car tires in trailhead parking lots, so we didn’t want to take any chances.
The Catskills can get up to 70 inches of rainfall annually, so we were sure to include shell layers in our clothing system, but with dry conditions we found them to be most useful at blocking the heavy winds that greeted us on the overlooks near Indian Head, on Twin Mountain, atop the grand view summit of Plateau Mountain, and from the Buck Ridge Overlook near the summit of West Kill Mountain.
The dry conditions of early June also make staying hydrated a challenge. We took advantage of the great pipe spring before the climb up Plateau Mountain and we carried three liters each to get the trip started.
This hike was declared one of America’s Best Hikes by Backpacker Magazine Readers from the Northeast in the January 2011 Reader’s Choice Issue. We can see why! It is a fun-filled and adventurous route. You can’t lose your focus or the terrain will bite you. This route feels wild and the physical challenge is extremely rewarding. The route will take some able bodied hiker’s three to four days due to the difficulty of the terrain, and yet some adrenaline filled adventure seekers have tackled this beast in a day. We can see the lure of both styles. The physical challenge of a 24.3 mile scramble filled rock hop is enticing, and on the other hand the fantastic views and diverse landscape promote a slow down and look at more than your feet appeal.
It’s been debated that this is the hardest hike in the east. We’re not sure if that’s the case or not, but we certainly believe it deserves to be in that conversation. As for being one of “America’s Best Hikes”, we would simply say that we could hike this route once a week and it would never get old, so we guess that is our way of saying it belongs in that conversation as well.
We enjoyed documenting our adventure with multiple short video clips. Click on the following links to enjoy information directly from the Devil’s Path:
An Introduction to the Devil’s Path. Randy talks about Getting Started. The Devil’s Path is a challenging Foot Trail. Randy explains our Total Backpacking Weight. Sheri shows off her hero Footwear, the Vasque Scree. Randy explains how our LEKI Trekking Poles improved our quality of life on the Devil’s Path. We think of the terrain on the devil’s Path as a Catskills Jungle Gym. Randy shows off our technical clothing from Woolrich and the importance of Layering and Insulation. Randy shows off the convenience of our Sawyer Products Hydration System. Sheri and Randy show off a tasty line of products from CLIF while explaining the need for balanced Nutrition. Sheri highlights the lightweight and dependable NEMO Obi 2p Shelter. Randy talks about the need for our Sleep System and Insulation featuring Primaloft Insulation. Sheri reminds us of the importance of Sun and Skin Protection. Randy shows off our DeLorme PN-60w GPS while highlighting the importance of accurate Navigation. Sheri explains the power of SPOT and the need for backcountry Communication. Randy does some bird watching while highlighting Celestron Optics, Randy covers the rest of our Essential Systems, Sheri shows off our Deuter Backpacks and Pack protection from Sea to Summit and durable fabrics from Cordura(R) Brand. (All Pictures and Video taken with the PENTAX Optio WG-1)
See You Outside,
Sheri and Randy Propster