Ulster County
Slide Mountain

4,180 feet, No. 3

Map: USGS 7�-minute Shandaken and Peekamoose quadrangles

Distance: 5.4 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 1,580 feet

Hiking time: 3 � hours

Season:     4 Seasons Icon.eps (327118 bytes)

Sweat guide:     2 Drops.eps (132426 bytes)  (out of 4)

Slide may have been to John Burroughs what Everest was to Sir Edmund Hillary or what Denali was to Bradford Washburn. The man and mountain are inextricably linked. Burroughs wrote reverently about this, the tallest of the Catskills. He looked admiringly from afar at the peak that reminded him of a "gigantic horse (that) has got his head down grazing" long before he dared to try to sit on its back. In his essay, "The Heart of the Southern Catskills," the turn-of-the-20th-century naturalist and poet wrote that Slide had "been a summons and a challenge to me for many years."

At long last, he climbed. His ascent and writings are said to have "introduced Slide Mountain to the world." Slide is now regarded, and rightfully so, as one of the most enjoyable outings in the Catskills.

Burroughs is recognized for his fine work on a plaque on the front of a rock shelf near the summit. On a good day here, the view to the east is clear to Mount Everett (not Everest) in Massachusetts. On other days, "Here the works of man dwindle." That's what Burroughs wrote after his Slide adventures. He also acknowledged that the "solitude of mountain-tops is peculiarly impressive, and it is certainly easier to believe the Deity appeared in a burning bush there than in the valley below. When the clouds of heaven, too, come down and envelop the top of the mountain — how such a circumstance must have impressed the old God-fearing Hebrews."

Standing alone on Burroughs' rock ledge, watching the clouds come up the valley and overtake the mountains, which disappear and appear again and again, you realize this experience is a microcosm of life. At times, everything is so clear. Then it shrouds in mist and you get lost. The only way to remain found is to know the way.Ulster.jpg (30771 bytes)

There is a moderately difficult route up Slide as well as a harder climb. The toughest walk is on the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail, which is 9.7 miles long and is considered the most challenging day-hike in the Catskills. The trail from Wittenberg to Slide is strenuous, a path that before its decoration with yellow markers made the bushwhacking Burroughs refer to Slide as a "shaggy monster" that was the object of his "quest." The route in the other direction — on the Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg Trail — is easier, if only because you can climb Slide and then return to the parking area on Ulster County Road 47 for a 5.4-mile round trip. To get to the Slide Mountain parking area take New York 28 to the hamlet of Big Indian and turn south on County Road 47. It is a 9.4-mile drive on a winding road that's especially pretty in the autumn. The parking area is on the east side of the road.

Trail markings
Register at the trailhead at the rear of the parking lot, then set out following yellow DEC markers. The trail starts with a gradual rise, then, after 0.2 miles, hits a steeper section over slab rock. At 0.4 miles the trail reaches an old Jeep road, which you follow for 0.3 miles to the junction with the red-marked trail. You turn on the red trail, which rises gradually before becoming steeper. There is a 3,500-foot elevation sign (open fires are not permitted past this point and camping is not allowed any higher up from March 21 - Dec. 21). The trail then begins to snake around, offering beautiful views on clear days. The base of an old ranger's station, located in the middle of the woods after the trail levels off, marks the top of Slide.

The view from here

There is no view from the top, but if you continue past the summit toward Wittenberg you will arrive at a rock shelf that overlooks mountains to the east and northeast. This is where the nearby Winnisook Club erected a memorial to Burroughs. "He made many visits to this peak and slept several nights beneath this rock," says the plaque. Burroughs wrote that here, on top of the Catskills, "we sat down and enjoyed our triumph. We saw the world as the hawk or the balloonist sees it when he is 3,000 feet in the air." It is here that Burroughs observed "The works of man dwindle, and the original features of the huge globe come out. Every single object or point is dwarfed; the valley of the Hudson is only a wrinkle in the earth's surface. You discover with a feeling of surprise that the great thing is the earth itself, which stretches away on every hand so far beyond your ken." You can see 33 of the next 34 highest Catskill Mountains from here (only Thomas Cole hides behind Hunter).

What's in a name
Slide takes its name from a landslide that occurred many, many years ago down the north side of the mountain. The Slide Mountain Wilderness encompasses more than 47,500 acres, making it the largest and most popular wilderness area in the Catskills. Extensive foot trails provide access to the remote exterior.

Accommodating visitors
There is a state campground, Woodland Valley, on the north end of the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail off Route 28 near Phoenicia. Backcountry camping is permitted year-round below 3,500 feet, and allowed above that elevation from Dec. 22 - March 20.

Gear guide
Water is very limited here. Signs at the trail register urge hikers to "Pack in what you need."

Trip planner
The DEC has produced a Slide Mountain Wilderness Catskill Forest Preserve map and guide. It is available free from DEC Region 3 headquarters, Forest Preserve Management, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, N.Y. 12561. The Region 3 office number is (914) 256-3083. The Adirondack Mountain Club also has published a Guide to Catskill Trails, which can be ordered by calling (800) 395-8080. Hiking the Catskills by Lee McAllister and Myron Steven Ochman and copies of Catskill maps can be purchased from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, 232 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The Catskill 3500 is a club devoted to those who wish to climb the 35 high peaks of the Catskills. To become a member, one must climb Slide in winter. For information on the Catskill 3500 Club, http://www.catskill-3500-club.org/                https://www.facebook.com/#!/Catskill3500Club

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