Can you believe that hiking Hunter Mountain was our FIRST hike in the Catskills when we moved to the New York City area? Hunter Mountain is what has drawn us to the Catskills again and again. We love Hunter Mountain, the view from the top, and the surrounding area. It is beautiful and worth seeing in all seasons (each season with its own perks). It is located close to many other amazing places in the Catskills and has many different ways to access it. Follow along this article to find the best way for you to visit Hunter Mountain.
About Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain is located beside the town of Hunter in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Hunter Mountain has highest fire tower in New York State. Hunter Mountain is the second highest mountain in the Catskills.
How to Get to Hunter Mountain
Driving is by far the best way to reach Hunter Mountain. There are different parking areas depending on the hike you plan on doing (see the different hike options below). If you are unable to drive, another option is taking a shuttle to the Hunter Mountain Resort and taking the hiking option that uses the ski lift. While Hunter Mountain Resort doesn’t have their own shuttle, they have compiled a list of all the shuttles that can take you to the resort.
The Hunter Mountain Fire Tower
All of the hikes described in this post reach the fire tower. The fire tower is the tallest point of Hunter Mountain (but some argue that the actual highest point is 0.2 mile away where the original fire tower stood). Regardless, the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower is the tallest fire tower in New York State and the second tallest fire tower in the Northeast United States.
Hunter Mountain can be reached from several different directions depending on the trail you took. At the top of Hunter Mountain where the fire tower is, there are a few picnic tables, an outhouse, and a cabin (though I’m unsure if this is ever opened to visitors since we have only visited during panini times and it’s always been closed).
In the summer there are many people gathered around having picnic lunches and waiting their turn to climb to the top of the tower. This is a great place to hang out and relax after your hard work hiking. Most of the summer volunteers are at the bottom of the fire tower keeping a list of who ascends and in what order (if there is a long line). In the summer the top portion of the fire tower is open usually and you can go inside. There are great views 360 degree views of the Catskills. When we came up to the top of the fire tower the first time, we had to hurry down because we saw a huge front of rain moving towards us from the west!
In the winter, it’s a different experience for sure. It is very cold and windy at the top, even if it wasn’t that cold or snowy at the bottom. You can climb the fire tower in the winter but there’s no volunteers regulating it and it can be a bit more dangerous. The top part of the tower isn’t open but you can go all the way up to below the top cabin and there are nice views from the stairs. The stairs can be really slick and icy and the fast, freezing wind makes it easy to fall. Wear microspikes to have more grip and wear gloves to protect your hands as you hold onto the freezing metal hand rails. You likely won’t hang out around the fire tower as much as you would in the summer due to the cold, but it does offer a more secluded experience than you would get in the summer. We saw some people bring their jet boil to make some hot chocolate at the top and I thought that was such a great idea.
If you’re looking for the outhouse near the fire tower: from facing the front of the cabin at the fire tower, turn 90 degrees to your left and the outhouse is in the trees over there. There’s a little trail that leads to it and it will be on your right immediately after getting into the trees.
How to reach the top of Hunter Mountain
There are several different ways to get to the top of Hunter mountain, all ranging in difficulty level. I’ve included the best options here, although there are a few other less traveled route variations that I didn’t include. No matter what way you go, the fire tower is a great sight to see when your reach the top!
The short (but steep) way: Becker Hollow Trail
This is the shortest but steepest way to the top of Hunter Mountain. Taking this trail, you will gain over 2,000 feet of elevation in 2 miles. The trail is constantly uphill with very little flat sections aside from the first 200 yards of the trail.
Park at the Becker Hollow Parking Lot on Route 214 and continue on the only trail from the lot. There are no intersecting trails until you reach the top, so just continue straight on the trail. The trail starts relatively flat for about 200 yards until you cross a newly constructed wooden bridge. After the wooden bridge, the trail carves straight up the mountain. Hardwood forests eventually turn into pine forest as the trail gets steeper.
The only main intersection is near the top. There will be a sign on the tree with the directions. You are wanting to head towards the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. I recommend taking a right at this crossroads and taking the loop at the top of Hunter Mountain in a counter clockwise fashion. The route to the right is less steep and gives your legs a chance to rest a little before reaching the fire tower. Follow this trail until you reach the fire tower! Congratulations at this point you made it! Depending on the time of year you are visiting, you may want to hang out around the fire tower for a bit.
To head down back to your car, you can return back the way you came OR I recommend exiting behind the cabin, turning left, and making a full loop at the top of the mountain. When you reach the 4-way intersection, do not continue straight through (this will take you down on the other side of the mountain MANY miles from your car). You can take a little spur to your right to see another little viewpoint. To go back to your car, turn left and descend. You will eventually reach the only main intersection of the trail (that you already passed before, this should look familiar) and just continue going straight down the trail.
The longer (less steep) way: Hunter Mountain Via Spruceton Horse Trail Loop
This route is definitely a full day hike, but is a nice hike to take, especially in the summer. This hike is around 9.1 miles long. You will still have around 2,000 feet of elevation gain, but spread out over almost 5 miles (rather than the 2 miles of the Becker Hollow trail described above).
Park in the Hunter Mountain Parking Lot near the end of Spruceton Road. This parking lot is not very big for the amount of people trying to park here, so I really recommend getting there very early if you plan on hiking this route in the summer. This hike is a loop hike that is definitely best going counterclockwise. (If you take this hike clockwise it would make it much more steep and unnecessarily difficult.) Counterclockwise you will have a longer but more gradual ascent to the top of Hunter Mountain where the fire tower is and then a quicker steeper descent.
If going counterclockwise, go out of the parking lot and turn left on the road. Spruceton Road is a dead end and at the end is the start of the trail. The hike does start slowly ascending from the start, so be sure to take as many breaks as you need. On this route, you’re hiking in pine forest much longer.
You will eventually reach a part of the trail where it almost becomes flat with only gradual ascent on a plateau. At the top you will reach a 4-way intersection. To your left is a spur to a viewpoint and going straight will take you to the fire tower. After visiting the fire tower, continue the loop by exiting on the trail behind the cabin and turning right. Follow the trail down and follow all the signs towards Spruceton Road to reach your car.
Follow the trail on AllTrails to make sure you don’t miss any turns.
A point to point route: Spruceton Road Horse Trail and Becker Hollow Trail Combined
There is a route that combines the 2 hikes described here into a point to point trail. This trail would only be good to do if you were hiking in a group that would have 2 cars with you. In this hike you would hike up on of the routes listed above and hike down on the other route. To do this, 1 car would need to parked at the parking lot on Spruceton Road and the other at the Becker Hollow parking lot on Route 214. You could hike up starting from Spruceton Road and descend via the Becker Hollow Trail.
A short hike with less elevation gain: Hunter Mountain Resort Chair Lift
If you are wanting to shorten your hike a little and are willing to pay a few bucks to do so, another option for you is taking the Hunter Mountain Resort Chair lift to the top and the Colonel’s Chair Trail to the fire tower. Round trip from the top of the chair lift to the fire tower and back is around 4 miles. This option is really only available in the summer months. A positive aspect of choosing this option is that it will cut out a lot of your elevation gain on the hike and make your hike much flatter than if you were starting on any of the other hikes. If you are interested in this route, check out the Hunter Mountain Resort website for more information on purchasing tickets to the top. As of 2021, the tickets were around $15 per adult.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hunter Mountain
Can you hike Hunter Mountain?
Yes, you can hike Hunter Mountain! There are several different routes to hike up Hunter Mountain with varying levels of difficulty.
How long does it take to climb Hunter Mountain?
The time that it takes to hike up Hunter Mountain really depends on what route you take. The shortest route to the top would take at least 1.5 hours one way. The shortest route would entail taking the chair lift from the Hunter Mountain Resort and walking 2 miles one way (4 miles round trip) to the top. See above for more details about the route involving the chair lift.
Is Hunter Mountain steep?
Hunter Mountain has trails that are both steep and gradual. The steepest trail is the Becker Hollow Trail that gains over 2,000 feet in 2 miles. At it’s steepest point, the trail has a 45% grade.
Can you drive to the top of Hunter Mountain?
No, you cannot drive to the top of Hunter Mountain. In the past, there were forest roads that were used to drive to the top, but today these roads are used as trails. You must hike to the top of Hunter Mountain. The only other option to reach the top of Hunter Mountain is via horse on the Spruceton Road Horse Trail.
How many trails does Hunter Mountain have?
While there are many different variations of trails to the top of Hunter Mountain, there are 3 main points of access to the top of Hunter Mountain. To the East of Hunter Mountain is Becker Hollow Trail. To the North of Hunter Mountain is the Spruceton Horse Trail. To the South of Hunter Mountain is the Southern part of the Spruceton Horse Trail which also connects to Southwest Hunter Mountain and West Kill Mountain.
What city is Hunter Mountain in?
The closest city to Hunter Mountain is the town of Hunter, New York. It is also nearby the towns of Tannersville and Lexington, New York.
Things to do near Hunter Mountain
If you hike the Becker Hollow Trail, you’ll be close to Tannersville and Hunter.
In Tannersville you can find a cute main strip of town that has many lovely shops and restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants on the main street of town is the Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Café. Everything that we have tried there is delicious.
In Hunter you will find the Hunter Mountain Resort and many restaurants. Currently my favorite place in the town of Hunter is the Fellow Café that has delicious coffee and baked goods.
For more info about Tannersville and Hunter, check out my blog post about the towns of Tannersville and Hunter.
If you hike the long trail, you’ll be close to Phoenicia.
Phoenicia is a small town that has a lot of character. The most famous restaurant in the town of Phoenicia is the historic Phoenicia Diner, which has been a local favorite since its origin in 1962.
Have you hiked Hunter Mountain before? Let me know any questions or thoughts you have below!
Thank you for reading!