August 29 , 2005
Ashokan High Point

Our most recent outing was a 9-mile hike up, around, and down Ashokan High Point. This is one of our favorite mountains that lack spruce and fir trees on the summit. At only 3,080' it's barely in the top 100 in terms of height in the Catskills, but is near the top of our list when it comes to beauty.

We left the Kanape Brook trailhead, along County Route 42 between West Shokan and Peekamoose Gorge, at 9:30 on a perfect day for hiking. We signed in at the trail register and began following the red-blazed Ashokan High Point Trail. The trail follows an old, well-built road along the Kanape Brook. Along the road are numerous rock walls built to hold the banks in place, culverts to direct water, and a spring whose water has been "captured" by pieces of bluestone stacked up long ago, forming a pool with an outflow.

The trail climbs gradually, passing through patches of mountain laurel, a couple stands of Norway spruce, and all the while crossing over numerous intermittent streams. The Kanape Brook is not a very high gradient stream, meaning there aren't many cascades. Nonetheless, it is a very beautiful stream. The mountains forming the southern wall of the valley, Little Rocky (3,015') and Mombaccus (2,840'), peek at you along the way. In places the cold brook flows through dark hemlock stands and tumbles among large boulders where the dogs had fun cooling off.

We followed the trail from its beginning at 1,200' to the col between High Point and Mombaccus (elevation 2,000'), a distance of 2.6 miles. A drastic change in the forest was easily seen as we entered the col. The composition changed to almost exclusively hemlock, mountain laurel, and white pine saplings. There were very few of the oaks, beech, and maple that were so prevalent before.

The red trail turned north and begin its 1,000' ascent of High Point in one mile. This much narrower trail led us over four significant bedrock ledges. After one of the ledges, a beautiful view south let us look back at Mombaccus and Little Rocky, and to look down at the col from which we came. Unlike most Catskill mountains, you certainly know when you are at the summit of this one. From the wonderful view from the summit to the southeast, we could see the Mohonk tower and the Shawangunk Ridge.

The trail continues on, circling to the west. The summit is quite different than most we are accustomed to - stunted oaks, laurel, blueberries, and tall grasses dominate. Because of the meadow-like environment and stunted trees, the view of the high peaks to the west is awesome. From one spot (which is also a campsite) we got a 6-mile panorama that consisted of Peekamoose, Table, Lone, Rocky, Balsam Cap, Friday, Slide, Cornell, Wittenberg, and Samuel's Point.

Unfortunately this view was not enough for someone. We found a place where a couple good-sized trees had been cut down to open up a view of the Ashokan Reservoir to the east. Obviously this is illegal on Forest Preserve land. The really sad part is that we found a few places just off the trail on the east side of High Point that offered even better views than the one that was cut.

We continued on the trail as it headed off the summit to the west. After descending a few hundred feet, we reached a shoulder of High Point called Hoop Pole Mountain. From here, the trail bends back to the east following the ridge for a third of a mile before dropping off precipitously along the headwaters of Kanape Brook. The trail eventually loops around and meets itself near the col, 6.25 miles from the start. From here, it was another 2.6 miles back to the car along the same route.

We promised to come back and camp on the summit sometime soon on a similar clear day, to watch the sunset over the high peaks to the west.

- Aaron and Chris



Catskill Mountain Club

PO Box 558, Pine Hill, NY 12465