Spuyten the Duyvil’s Path

A dissected plateau. That’s the official term for the Catskills in the unpoetic language of the geologists who coined the phrase. It makes sense when you stand on their summits and note the similar heights of the various peaks.

Devil's Path View

Still, the designation was clearly given by a scholar at a desk.  On the other hand, our hike, The Devil’s Path, was clearly named by those with boots on the ground.

I had the rough pleasure of hiking the traverse, which is also known as The Hardest Day Hiking Trail in America. At 25 miles and 17,000 vertical feet, it’s a sprawling journey of soaring views of the Hudson Valley and Catskills Park, replete with opportunities to scramble the climbs and cruise long downhills.

As many outdoor enthusiasts in New York have probably noted, the weather was near perfect in May. I attempted the trek with a solid group on an overnight trip with Brooklyn Outfitters.

We hit the trail running to get up and over the first leg to Devil’s Tombstone, where we’d be camping.

There are many obvious pleasures about getting up into the Catskills, the lack of crowds, the birds and the wind, and the simple joy of testing your body’s resolve to keep going. This time I noticed another thing that I’d long overlooked, the fact that spring is actually a really cool season.

The newborn leaves are an impossible shade of green, like some HDR effect on the eyes of a city dweller. There were plenty of wildflowers out too. But my favorite part was lingering on the upper quarters of the mountains in the temporary nether region between stick season and spring, taking note of every species that was about to bloom. I love looking into the valley through bare branches to observe the steady wave of leaves marching up the valleys.

My ruminations helped keep my mind off thoughts of Pi-Zza with every left and right step: our appetites were growing as large as the terrain. Which gets back to the point: this trail is long and will really take it out of you. 

The speed record for this route has dropped from 8.5 to 6.5 hours in the last few years: I can’t comprehend how you must feel like after a single day attempt and truthfully I don’t see the point of rushing it.

Hunter Mountain

Our group had a great time. Being with a commercial outfit with van support gave the guides the flexibility to go for it when we wanted to, and to let people drop out and get picked up if they were having trouble.  There’s no cheating on this trail, and even with all the support in the world getting your body over those peaks will always have meaning.

This route is more to hikers than just another a desiccated plateau. The Devil’s Path is a classic.

6 comments on “Spuyten the Duyvil’s Path

  1. Now it’s time to step it up and do what is the originally planned Devils Path. Instead of hooking a 90° turn and heading north thru Mink Hollow for the final 1.5 miles one would continue westerly up and over North Dome, Mt.Sherrill and Balsam Mtn and ending in Deep Notch on Route 42. The east side of North Dome is INSANE!!!!!!!! North Dome and Mt.Sherrill also being 2 of 16 3500’s that don’t have a maintained trail to the top. Truly the most exciting trail out there. Have done over a dozen traverses of this trail and it never gets old.

  2. Only a slacker would stop there, James!

    If you really wanted to have an adventure you’d then bushwack up Halcott to Sleeping Lion where you’d stay at the shelter on the other side. From there, one more day of Vly to Bearpen to Roundtop where hopefully you stashed a car or bike, because I don’t know where to go from there, you’re off the map set!

    Seriously though, that would be a legendary trip. Not that there is ANY reason to spice up the Devil’s Path, it is crazy enough, right?

    That would take me a week if I could even do it.

  3. Greens are so good to look at! I miss hiking so much. Wish I could hike one of these days.
    🙁

  4. @ml242 I never notice that as a additional trip. Knew about Halcott but not the thought of heading over to Bearpen via Vly. The only issue would be the crossing of private lands between Halcott and Vly. Another thing to look at is that Bearpen and Vly are so accessible from the north and south so is it worth the disrespect of private lands. If a epic trip is what your looking for in the Catskills then let me tell you about a trip I have been eyeballing for a few years now. Start on the northern terminus of the Escarpment trail to it’s southern end but continue on the Long Path onto the Devils Path and finish either in Hunter or on rt.42. A 10+ mile a day average will have this trip done in 6 days. Maybe in 2013. Maybe. So many other choices to consider. Like your way of thinking. Wish I had more friends with your type of caliber.

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