By Audrey Andrews | April 30th, 2020
West Shokan, New York
Out & Back (recommended):
1,949 feet elevation gain
2,257 feet elevation gain
On Watson Hollow Road in West Shokan, NY, a gorgeous demonstration of the splendor of the Catskills awaits. About thirty minutes from the New York State Thruway in Kingston, a parking lot sits off the roadside opposite the trailhead.
The trail begins with a quaint bridge crossing, followed by a trail register (I always sign my name, or the name of someone hiking with me). Here, the path is worn down and roots protrude.
Through the first miles, the trail parallels Kanape Brook and gradually climbs. It is wide and rocky; snowmobiles are permitted on this section in the winter season. At one point, this was Freeman Avery Road.
The trail veers right to cross the brook on a railless bridge and enters, scientifically speaking, an enchanted forest. Towering, dark green trees grace the doughy ground. Here, I’ve seen a porcupine toddle about and been warned a bear wanders just around the bend. Every weekend in good weather, lucky campers stake out the campfire pit in the right of the grove. The supple scenery is a deep breath before the climb commences.
The enchanted forest ends with a left turn into an often-muddy muck. Prancing among dry spots may be required. As the forest thins, the trail gradient increases. A thick, young grove of trees marks the end of this ascent, followed by a sharp left turn to stay on-trail. Straight ahead lies private property.
Here, take a rest or turn around: the climb to Ashokan High Point begins. Ignore the smaller trails leading right, as they simply cheat to inferior views. A few rough ascents may induce rock-grappling, but they end quickly. The outlook from Ashokan High Point is well worth the sweat, and there are a few superb camping spots relatively close to the summit.
After completing the loop twice, my suggestion is to simply turn around and head back. The loop section of the trail is currently overgrown, and there is not much to see. Of course, if you’d simply like to spend a bit more time enjoying the journey, go for it. There is a small plane wreck to the left of the trail along the way (the pilot survived!), which is fun to see once.
During a solo adventure, I came across an older man on my way down. The Ashokan High Point trail is his (and my) favorite hike in the Catskills. Smiling, he said he wouldn’t make the summit today, but that didn’t matter: the fun is being outside. While I signed out on the trail register, I noticed his name. In the notes section, he wrote, “Hiking my favorite trail for my 81st birthday :)”