A bite and a hike to Giant Ledge in the Catskills

When it comes to green spaces, it’s hard to compete with the rugged splendor of Catskill Park. Dozens of trails criss-cross the peaks of the 700,000-acre park, with the most popular routes often offering the best views.

The trail to Giant Ledge in the 47,500 acres of Slide Mountain Wilderness, the largest area inside the Catskill Forest Preserve, is popular for a reason: the views at the top are spectacular. The trailhead at Oliverea, west of Phenicia, is accessible enough to be blocked off on weekends, but the visual gain is such that you won’t mind a bit of company.

First: Refueling in Phenicia

Diner has several picnic tables outside for meals.”/>

The Phenicia Diner has several picnic tables outside for meals.

Phenicia dinner

For many years, the Phenicia dinner (5681 NY-28, Phoenicia) on Route 28 was a classic but humble place, catering to everyone from local hunters to high schoolers who decided to skip class. Today, it serves fine dishes with ingredients and produce sourced from Hudson Valley and Catskills farms, such as locally smoked trout on a bagel, buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup local and farmers pan with eggs, vegetables from the market and grown in Phoenicia. potatoes.

Related: 7 Modern Classic Hudson Valley Restaurants to Try

For lunch, the classic turkey club, reuben sandwich, and grass-fed burger keep the traditional restaurant’s DNA alive. They also have outdoor dining in the parking lot, with picnic tables and a food truck serving cortados, cold brews, and lattes, as well as pastries and hot entrees. Pho. Even singer Lorde loves their onion rings.

Hiking: it’s all about the ascent

The Giant Ledge hike is steep in places, but a good option for families with active kids.

The Giant Ledge hike is steep in places, but a good option for families with active kids.

sun flint

This out-and-back trail to Giant Ledge is 3.2 miles, but there are actually five total ledges along the trail, including the first, largest, and aptly named Giant Ledge. If you hit them all, the trail is about four miles total.

The trail is marked mostly blue on maps and is rated as moderate, but this is the Catskills so there are some steep sections. All in all a good group and family hike, for kids 9 and up.

The parking lot at the trailhead on Oliverea Road fills up quickly in the morning, but tends to move around midday, and there’s plenty of parking along the shoulder on both sides of the road.

The first section of the trail is part of the Phenicia-East Branch trail and after crossing a wooden bridge over a major stream the path becomes rocky and climbs steadily for 725 feet, so set a pace with which you are at comfortable. At the 0.7 mile mark, follow the blue Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain Trail to the left. The trail then climbs another 400 feet, with a particularly steep section of large rocks where you may have to scramble a bit and use your hands.

The trail starts to flatten out near the top of the ridge and you’ll know you’ve reached the highest elevation when the smell of balsam fir fills the air. (For a very short side track, follow the simple “Spring” sign that leads off the trail to a seasonal net coming from under a rock.) Just past a yellow campsite marker is Giant Ledge.

The secret is definitely out on this popular spot, so you may have to wait your turn to sit on the large rock shelf, but it’s worth the wait for the gorgeous views over Woodland Valley to a strip of Catskills peaks such as Wittenberg Mountain and Mount Pleasant.

In early spring the mountains are purple, in summer dark green, and in autumn crimson and gold. From your perch, watch the falcons soar in the air currents or simply appreciate that this corner of the world is forever preserved as wild.

Turn around here to head back, continue less than a mile to see similar views on the other four ledges, or go up Panther Mountain, one of the 3,500 foot peaks in the Catskills, which will add even more two miles. and elevation for a total hiking distance of approximately 6.3 miles.

After-trail fun

Once you’ve made your way back down the trail to your car, reward yourself and stop at the Urban Cowboy Lodge (37 Alpine Road, Big Indian), located 4 miles down Oliverea Road towards Route 28. This Adirondack camp-style lodge sits on large lawns and 28 acres, so there’s plenty of room to spread out. A large outdoor patio is a great place to enjoy a local microbrew or craft cocktail, or grab a blanket and your drink on the lawn.

Book an early dinner at the on-site Parlor restaurant, where the chef uses local ingredients and cooks over a wood fire to create dishes such as smoked beets with lime yogurt and Sugar Hill Farm pork with root vegetable terrine .

If it’s hot, take a stroll to the creek at the edge of the property and dip your toes in the icy mountain water – the perfect digestive after a day on the trails.

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