Having recently finished climbing my final peaks on both the New Hampshire 48 and New England 67 lists last month as well as the Adirondack 46 a couple years ago, I needed to climb only two more mountains to compete the Northeast 115 (all of the 4,000' mountains in the Northeast US). The two 4,000' mountains of the Catskills, Slide and Hunter were the last two obstacles to completing the Northeast 115.
At first glance, Slide Mountain may not look like the most impressive mountain. However, at 4,180', it reigns as the highest mountain in the Catskills. It stands a full 140' over Hunter Mountain, the second highest in the Catskills. No mountain is taller between Virginia and the Adirondacks. It even rises higher than 17 of the Adirondack 46er peaks. With 3,280' of prominence, Slide also ranks as the 11th most prominent peak in the eastern US. In New York, Mount Marcy is the only peak with more prominence.
Even though I have hiked extensively in the Northeastern US, I never hiked in the Catskills. With a planned departure from New York next year and the only two peaks left to finish the Northeast 115, I planned my trip to the Catskills in early September, my first objective- Slide Mountain.
|Map of this hike
When I set aside a couple days to hike in the Catskills, the weather looked pretty promising. As the trip came closer, heat and humidity looked like more of a possibility. On September 6th, I left the Adirondacks midday and headed south to the Catskills. The temperature climbed as I headed further south. By the time I left the highway in Saugerties, the temperature in my van read 94F. Living in the Adirondacks, it's been several years since I have been in temperatures that warm. Swampy humidity made the day feel more impressive. As I left the valley and headed into the mountains, the temperature started to drop. By the time I reached the trailhead, the temperature dropped a good 10 degrees. The trailhead sits at nearly 2,500' in elevation, which is quite high for the Northeast.
Even though the temperature was not as extreme at the trailhead, the air was quite thick when I began my hike at 4PM. Prior to the trip I was a little worried about hiking in the heat and humidity since I wasn't acclimated to it living in the Adirondacks. Slide isn't known as a particularly hard hike and only covers six miles roundtrip. I figured even with the humidity, the hike wouldn't be too bad with my late start and modest distance.
I began at the Slide Mountain Trailhead and hiked shortly on the Phoenicia East Branch Trail before traveling on the Burroughs Range Trail. As expected, I sweated profusely in the dense humidity right out of the gate. Even though the trail was pretty rocky, the trail never seemed steep. The Burroughs Range Trail felt like an old tote road with its gentle grade.
|Rocky terrain near the trailhead
|Continuing on the rocks
I was surprised when I reached a sign marking 3,500' elevation. It came upon me quickly. Even though I was dripping wet from the humidity, the first 1,000' of elevation came pretty easily. Strangely, the trail took on a different feel around the 3,500' mark. The trail smoothed out at this point and the rocks seemingly disappeared. I felt a little bit of a breeze as I climbed higher. I hiked in more shade at this point, which also helped cool the air.
|Really nice hiking in the coniferous forest
|Last .7 miles to the summit
The final mile to the summit climbed quite gradually. I finally passed a few partial views as I neared the summit. One rock outcropping provides a nice unobstructed view to the north just before the summit. Nothing marks the summit of Slide. I assumed I reached the high point when I passed what looked like an old tower's cement footings. From the trailhead, it's only a 2.8 hike to the summit on the Burroughs Range Trail.
I traveled a short distance beyond the summit to an outcropping in a small clearing. A small window in the trees provided another partial view. I turned around before the trail began its descent to the east. At the outcropping a plaque honors John Burroughs, a writer that climbed Slide and often wrote about the region.
|Partial view from outcropping just beyond the summit
|Outcropping just beyond summit
I left the summit and returned to the vista on the west side of Slide. I took some time to enjoy the view and hydrate. I enjoyed the breeze that blew in over the mountain and provided some relief. Since I was saturated with sweat, the breeze cooled me down nicely.
|Views just east of the summit
|The best vista on the hike
I decided to descend via the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail for a change of scenery. This trail departs from the Burroughs Range Trail .7 miles west of the summit. Even though any vistas seemed to be socked in with leaves, the route provided an interesting change. The trail skirted numerous outcroppings and rock features as it descended toward the trailhead. The Curtis-Ormsbee Trail descends steeply at times, but the interesting rock features are worth the slightly longer hike.
|Junction at Curtis-Ormsbee and Burroughs Range Trails
|Rocky terrain on Curtis-Ormsbee Trail
|Interesting rock features
I closed the loop hiking on the Phoenicia East Branch Trail back to the trailhead. This trail travels the course of an old carriage road. Even though its flat, sections of the trail are fairly rocky. At times the trail was quite wet with stretches of water flowing across the trail. I was back at the trailhead about 6PM.
|Smooth stretch of Phoenicia East Branch Trail
Despite the fairly impressive stats, reaching the summit of Slide Mountain isn't particularly taxing. While the humidity was kind of rough, the hike itself never seemed steep along the Burroughs Range Trail. Combining the Burroughs Range and Curtis-Ormsbee Trails, my hike totaled just over 6 miles with about 1,700' of elevation. Having hiked 114 of the 115 peaks on the Northeast 115 list, I would say that this was probably one of the easier hikes on the list. While Slide doesn't have the most far flung views, the gradual nature of the trail makes it a pleasant hike. It's also nice to climb the highest mountain in a range.
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