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Great Hikes: Mt Wittenberg in the Catskills

Mt Wittenberg, Catskills
Mt Wittenberg, Catskills

I love hiking in the Catskill Mountains of New York State which are located in a surprisingly rural region about 100 miles north of New York City and just under 4 hours (by car) from Boston. The hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing are all excellent and there are many lakes, ponds, waterfalls, and creeks to jump into when the weather gets hot.

The Catskills are a lot like the White Mountains in New Hampshire in that there are many mountains concentrated in a fairly small area. However, the elevations of the 35 major peaks in the Catskills range from 3,500 ft – 4,000 ft, a bit lower than the 4,000 footers in the Whites. They are still challenging and in fact about half of them are trail-less and require bushwacking to climb, unlike most of the peaks in the White which have well beaten paths to their summits.

One of my favorite Catskill day hikes there is the ascent of Mt Wittenberg (3,780 ft.) Access is from the Woodland Valley State Campground and round trip distance is 6.8 miles (Click for Online Map). If you arrive early, make sure you wait until the ranger arrives to pay for parking: otherwise you risk a hefty fine.

Hudson River Valley from Mt Wittenberg Summit Ledges
Hudson River Valley from Mt Wittenberg Summit Ledges

Access is via the steep and challenging Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail following the red DEC markers. Upon attaining the summit, hikers are rewarded with one of the best scenic overlooks in the Catskills. The sweeping view includes the Devil’s Path to the north, Peakamoose and Table Mountains to the south, and the Ashokan Reservoir and Hudson Valley to the east.

Hardy hikers or backpackers can extend the trip to take in Cornell Mountain (3,860 ft) and Slide Mountain (4,180 ft), the highest peak in the Catskills at mile 4.8 along the path.

Spotting a car in the Catskills can be a bit of a challenge since the roads are poorly marked and their route numbers change at county boundaries. The best way to find your way around is using the Delorme New York Atlas and Gazetteer. In addition, the Catskill Mountain Guide is an invaluable resource for finding other great hikes in the region. The best maps of the area are published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.



  1. I am loving reading all your trip reports, the pictures are wonderful. Thank you for sharing…

  2. Jim. Thank you. I really like writing them and giving people a glimpse of the places I've been. I've been following your blog too for about a year. All of your geocaching stuff is quite interesting, plus you live in western mass, I think. One of my favorite places to hike and kayak. I'll be out in Florence this Sunday.

  3. I've been following your blog for a few months now, and it's time to come out of the lurking mode. Your posts on the Catskills are really making me want to get back there. I spent a lot of time around North-South Lake and Slide Mt in college, and I've been meaning to get back there for a while. Gorgeous area, and great trails! I've had to bail out twice in the past two years on backpacking the Long Path, which goes right over Wittenberg if I remember correctly. Keep the reports coming!

  4. The Catskills are a hidden gem. I'm working on a post about The Escarpment Trail which is one of my favorite multi-day trips in the area, so look for that next week. I've looked into hiking the Long Path myself, but it used to have a lot of road segments in it. From what I gather, those are being filled now with trail as more landowners are granting access rights. Glad that you've come out from lurking and hope to hear more from you.

  5. Great stuff! Never one to turn down a new list to complete, I'm going to start off my 35 with this hike next week. (I'm a highpointer, AT thru-hiker, NEHH'er, etc… but have never been to the Catskills!)

    Two questions:

    1. When does the ranger arrive to collect his money? I was hoping to hit the trail early to make it back home by evening.

    2. Exact mileages are hard to come by in the Catskills for some reason. My plan is to do not only Wittenberg but continue on to Cornell and Slide, and then return to my car at Woodland Valley. By your reckoning, that's a RT of 9.6. The Catskill Mtn Guide pegs it at 14. Another source tells me it's around 12.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    • The ranger arrives when he arrives – best to just call ahead I tried to start early too.
      Get the NY-NJ Trail Conference Catskills maps for the true mileage – I don’t have mine on me at the moment.

    • Try, “Hiking The Catskills” a book written to encompass the needs of both novice and expert hikers. Included are exacting mileages, maps, photos, poems, drawing with both trail and bushwacks written with a keen eye and focused pen. . Getting lost is not an option with this book. Can be found in Public Libraries and/or

    • Try “Hiking The Catskills” published by the nynj trail conference……

  6. There are a lot of different trail combinations, so it's hard to say. Your best approach is to buy the NY-NJ Trail Conference Catskills maps when you get into the region. They are tyvek and perfect for figuring out the route you want to take. The 3500 club is a challenge. Enjoy!

  7. That’s weird, we have a Mt. Wittenberg on the west coast, too. It is the high point of Point Reyes National Seashore.

  8. Yes, the Burroughs Range is awesome!

  9. Added it to my list. I’m so lucky to live in New York State.

  10. I did some hiking in the Catskills a dozen years ago but not that one. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m in the area.

  11. I did the loop last year starting at Woodland Valley over Witt, Cornell, and Slide then down and around with a spur to Panther and Giants Ledge back to the car.
    My GPS logged ~ 21 miles and it took ~ 8 hrs.
    After the fun climbs over the big three, the rest of the route was pretty boring.

    As far as the ranger, parking, and paying goes – no one was there when I arrived early. I hit the trail and didn’t worry about paying. Afterwards I stopped by the rangers cabin down the road and they appreciated I stopped by to pay.
    No place should make a hiker delay his/her start to pay – think about the safety issues delaying the start of a long hike.
    If you are concerned, leave a note either in the car on the dash or wiper with your plans and that you will pay when you return.
    Otherwise call or maybe leave the money at the rangers cabin with car number?

    • Must be a different ranger now – the one I spoke too was rather adamant about his parking fee up front. I too asked about coming early but was warned off. :-)

      • Looking to do that route this weekend, glad to see it’s possible in a long day. Noting the comments on the back side of the loop (Phonecia East) being boring, I see on the NYNJ TC map that there’s parking on route 47, Frost Valley Road. Any thoughts on starting there and putting the peaks at the end of my climb?


  12. Hi! What would you estimate the round trip timing to be (leisurely pace). Thanks! Linda

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