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Hiking

hike001.jpgThe Hunter area makes a great "home base" for hiking the Catskills. Whether you're hiking with family or friends, the beautiful northern Catskills have the trails -- and the scenery -- for you.

The beauty of the Catskills is legendary. This rugged countryside is criss-crossed with miles and miles of trails, ranging from the well maintained network in and around North-South Lake to the rugged trails accessing the high peaks. These are the trails.... the difficult, steep climbs to the weathered summits... that make hiking the Catskills so popular. Views like this are numerous, and for the most part, easily accessible.

Other Catskills hiking resources:

There is a wealth of area hiking information including maps, trail descriptions, photos and more on the internet.

This guide to hiking in the Catskills is reproduced from a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation packet entitled "Catskill Trails".

The terrain throughout the Catskill Mountains is generally rugged and steep. Elevations range from approximately 600 feet to 4200 feet. Due to the topography of this region, major water supplies tend to be found only in the lower elevations. Small feeder streams, some of which may only run seasonally, may be present on or between mountains. These streams and occasional springs are the only available water supply.

Every effort is made to maintain the trails in a condition that permits easy passage in both summer and winter. Junction points are marked with signboards and the routes themselves with special circular trail markers in red, blue, or yellow colors. Trails often cross private land in gaining access to public land. These sections are posted with signs stating that the trail is on private land. The landowner has granted permission to use the trail, but he requests that the public do not camp, picnic, hunt or fish on his property. As long as the landowners' wishes are respected the trails will remain open for public use.

Protect Our Resources

  • Pack out what you pack in. Litter is a great wilderness destroyer, yet an easy problem for each of us to correct.
  • Cooking is more efficient with a backpacking stove. If you must build an open fire, use only dead and down wood. Locate an old fire site or find an open place and clear an area at least six feet across of any material that will burn and lay up stones. Never leave the fire unattended. After, pour water on the fire and stir the coals until they are cold to your touch. Scatter the cold ashes and the stones and leave the site as clean as possible. Never drop lit matches or smokes where they will cause fire - PREVENT FOREST FIRES.
  • Streams and springs are our only water supply. Keep them clean. Don't put anything in them you wouldn't drink. Don't wash dishes in streams.
  • Locate your camp at least 150 feet away from the trail or water.
  • Nature will take care of human waste. Dig a shallow hole in the forest floor at least 150 feet away from water and campsites. Cover with leaf litter and dirt.
  • Smaller groups do less damage to the environment. If your party is greater than 10 persons, please travel and camp in smaller groups. If you are staying more than three nights in one spot, or with a group of 10 or more, obtain a camping permit from the local Forest Ranger or Regional Office at no charge.
  • Camp and build open fires only below 3500 feet. The higher we climb, the more fragile the environment.
  • If you take a pet into the wilderness, keep it under control at all times. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Clean droppings away from trail and camping areas. Keep your pet out of sources of drinking water.
  • Respect the environment: do not deface trees, plants, rocks or disturb wildlife.

Registration Booths

Registration booths have been erected at important trail access points and junctions. Everyone using these trail systems is urged to sign the registers and give the additional information requested. This will enable the Department of Environmental Conservation to ascertain the number of hikers using specific areas and will assist the field forces in locating an individual in the event of an emergency.

Basics of Back Country Use

  • Plan ahead and prepare for drastic weather changes during the trip, especially during spring and fall.
  • Check weather forecasts.
  • Study your map route in advance.
  • Do not travel alone.
  • Go with people who can help you in an emergency and stay together.
  • Advise responsible persons of your intended route and return plans.
  • Sign in and out at all trailhead registers.
  • Know how to use each piece of your equipment, especially your map and compass, and first aid kit.
  • By being alert to your surroundings you will add to your enjoyment and safety during the trip.
  • Read trail signs, note the color of trail markers you are following.
  • At your starting point orient yourself with your map and compass to your route direction. When you pause on the way, check where you are on your map for the large features you can see: ridges, peaks, streams.

Save your energy by starting your hike slowly. Don't race. You will avoid overheating and lessen the chances of falls or injury. Take short rest stops and enjoy the scenery. Turn back early if anyone becomes exhausted or is suddenly drenched, or a lightning storm approaches when you are on a high point. If you are not adequately equipped for conditions ahead such as snow, ice, or high winds, go back.

Survival equipment should always be part of your gear: map and compass, jackknife, waterproofed matches, candle, extra quick energy food, first aid kit, whistle, flashlight with extra batteries and bulb, medium weight tarp, 30 feet of nylon cord, and a canteen of purified water and water purification tablets. Never assume that any water is completely clean and safe for drinking.

Summer clothing should be loose fitting and give protection from insects and nettles. Polyester and acrylic clothing, such as work clothing, is durable, quick drying, washable and inexpensive. Avoid 100% cotton clothing, especially blue jeans and sweatshirts. Weather can be changeable so carry raingear and a warm jacket. Boots should be over the ankle, have non-slip soles, and well defined heels. Sneakers are not recommended for hiking or backpacking. If you wear long pants, tuck the pant cuffs into your socks to reduce the chance of ticks attaching themselves to your ankles. Check your legs and ankles periodically for ticks. Deer ticks are very small and are known to carry Lyme Disease.

The return trip, or descent contains the most danger for hikers. Problems occur when hikers are tired, hungry, cold and wet. Downhill hazards include turned ankles and dislocated knees. Go slowly.

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Death can result in a few hours even in temperatures up to 50°F. If a person begins stumbling, loses control of arms or legs, needs longer rests, or acts dazed, he or she has symptoms of hypothermia. (Note: similar symptoms may be exhibited by a person having epilepsy, heart trouble, or diabetes.) It is critical to get the person warm and dry quickly. Get out of the weather. Warm with any means available, including putting on dry, warm clothing, getting in a sleeping bag, drinking warm, non-alcoholic fluids, and doing isometric exercises. The victim should see a doctor as soon as possible.

In the Event of an Injury

If an immobilizing injury happens to a member of your party:

First aid should be administered and the injured person made as comfortable as possible. He or she should be protected from the weather and dampness.

Someone in the party should go for help. Do not leave the injured person alone unless absolutely necessary. Contact the nearest Forest Ranger, DEC employee, or police officer with the following information about the injured person:

1. Name, age, sex, height, weight, and address.

2. The nature of the injury and how it happened.

3. The injured person's location, described as accurately as possible. You may be able to pinpoint it on a map, or aid rescuers in doing so.

Good information will help the rangers or other rescuers to quickly locate, aid, and safely rescue the person. They need to determine what type of medical aid the person will need, what type of transportation will be needed to move the injured person safely, and how urgent the situation is. Accurate location of the injured person is the most important single fact needed by the rescuers.

If You Become Lost

If you are off the trail or do not see anything you positively recognize, you may be lost.

  • Stop in a place out of the wind.
  • Rest, make yourself comfortable and remain calm. By resting, you conserve energy. By thinking, you can usually find the way out.
  • Read your map and trace your route to where you are.
  • If late in the day, prepare to stay overnight. Even a ledge or a fallen tree can offer shelter.
  • Gather ten armloads of dead and dry wood. Build a small fire and keep a supply of wood ready to signal aircraft.
  • Use moist leaves to make a smokey fire in the daytime. Add extra wood to make a bright fire at night to signal help from the air.
  • The recognized signal for help is a series of three blasts on a whistle, three puffs of smoke, or three shots.
  • Stay calm.

Unwelcome Visitors

bears2.jpgBears have not been a major problem for recreationists in the Catskills. You are far more likely to be raided by hungry or curious porcupines or raccoons. If you do encounter a bear, try to frighten it away by shouting, banging pots & pans, or blowing whistles. If the animal doesn't flee, it may be dangerous. Back away until you are clear.

To help avoid such problems and to protect your food supply:

  • Keep a clean camp and do not encourage any animal to feed in camp.
  • Store food overnight by hanging it in a bag by rope between trees away from your camp, at least 15 feet above the ground and 6 feet away from any tree trunk.
  • Don't store food on the ground or in your tent.
  • If possible, prepare meals away from your tent.

Remember... The following are forbidden acts and punishable as violations:

  • Defacing, mutilating, or destroying NYSDEC signs, barriers, and objects.
  • Staying in open camps (leantos) more than three successive nights or more than ten nights in one calendar year, if others wish to use the leanto.
  • Using loud, boisterous, indecent, threatening, abusive, or insulting language.
  • Interfering with any officer of the Department of Environmental Conservation in the legal performance of his duty.
  • Throwing stones, annoying or assaulting other people.
  • Interfering with, obstructing, or making dangerous any public facility.
  • Behaving in such a manner as to be likely to endanger the health, limb, or property of others.
  • Committing a breach of the peace.
  • Conducting yourself in a manner suggesting immoral acts, or to be offensive or injurious to the morals of any person.