Date of the Hike: 08January2017
Weather: 21 degrees Fahrenheit at the trailhead, ~0 degrees at the summit due to windchill
Elevation: 3,140’ (gain was 1,378’ from the parking lot)
What I wore: base layer top and bottom, insulated waterproof pants, Patagonia fleece, Columbia 3-in-1 jacket, wool socks, waterproof LLBean hiking boots, waterproof insulated gloves, hat, Kahtoola micro spikes
Extra Gear I brought: water, snacks, extra socks, baclava, camera, extra base layer top
Total mileage: 5.0 miles (2.5 miles to summit and 2.5 miles back)
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with stops included)
After doing a little research on what hiking in the winter would entail, my boyfriend and I purchased some micro spikes for our hiking boots and set out for the Catskill Mountains about an hour south of Albany, New York. We had decided to hike Overlook Mountain because it seemed like a decent introductory hike for the winter season (and for two relatively inexperienced hikers like ourselves). The road to the trailhead was windy and steep which would have posed a risk if the weather was not as nice and if I did not have a car with four wheel drive capabilities. There was ample parking and once we were situated with our spikes on and all of our layers zipped up, we began our hike. The trail is an old road that is decently steep the entire way to the top, but was not rocky or uneven in the slightest. It was very icy in many spots making the micro spikes almost a necessity or my clumsy self would have most definitely fallen. There are some spectacular views of the surrounding Catskill mountains through the trees on the way up, but I imagine they would be much harder to see in the spring and summer months. The temperature on the trail decreased as elevation increased, but the weather remained relatively stable during the hike. We stopped a few times on the way up to drink some water and take a breather because the first mile is always the toughest for me!
The sign for the Overlook Mountain Trailhead was very visible and easy to find. Parking was no problem.
Theses are the Kahtoola Microspikes we both wore during the entirety of this hike.
The trail was a gradual incline from the parking lot.
At about 2 miles into the hike, a large structure came into view which happens to be an abandoned hotel called “Overlook Mountain House”. The structure was built during the 1800s and burned down and was rebuilt several times before being abandoned in the mid-1900s. The hotel is completely open to the air, but did block the icy winds a good amount to allow us to stop and rest, take pictures, drink some water, and snack. There are multiple staircases and points to observe the surroundings from, but be very careful in icy conditions because they may become slippery. Trees poke through the hotel windows and some even extend through the open roof which really solidifies that this building has been abandoned for some time. Overall, this stop on the trail was very interesting and added a lot to this hike.
The abandoned hotel was completely open to the air, but did provide a little shelter from the wind.
It was a very interesting stop along this trail, especially for anyone that enjoys abandoned places.
Half a mile from the abandoned hotel, lies the summit of Overlook Mountain. The temperature was close to zero degrees Fahrenheit when we reached the summit due to the windchill. The summit is relatively flat and wooded. There is a small cabin that I would assume houses trail guides in the summertime, but it was locked up for the winter. There is a sign that directs you to either the Overlook Mountain scenic lookout point or to the fire tower. We decided to do the lookout point first and the fire tower after that. There is a short trail through the woods on the summit to the lookout point which is absolutely breathtaking. There is a beautiful view of the Hudson Valley as well as some surrounding Catskill Mountains in the distance. There is a large section of rocks for you to stand on to take pictures and I’m sure it would be lovely to eat lunch there if it was not zero degrees! Soon after we took loads of pictures and took in the view, we headed back toward the fire tower. The tower stands in the middle of an opening on the summit and looks out to some gorgeous views of the Catskills. The stairs up to the tower were open for the winter, but the lookout at the top was closed due to the inclement weather and some recent renovations. The stairs were pretty icy so I would not recommend climbing them during this time of year unless you have spikes on your boots. The winds were also whipping the further up we climbed making it extremely cold on the fire tower. It did provide some great views though so definitely check it out! I also tried to drink some water at this point from my hydration pack, but I found the drinking tube to be completely frozen so definitely bring an alternate source of water for very cold temperatures (clearly I have much to learn)!
The sign after the hotel was very clear and direct to the summit and fire tower.
There was a small cabin on the summit, but it was closed when we did this hike.
There were beautiful views of the Hudson Valley from the Overlook Mountain Scenic Lookout.
The fire tower was icy but offered gorgeous sights if you can withstand the freezing winds during this time of year.
The descent down the mountain was much easier than the hike up because it is the same trail, but just downhill this time. We quickly descended and headed back to the car to take off our spikes and sweaty extra layers before driving home. This hike took us about 2 hours and 35 minutes total including a few water breaks on the way up as well as stops at the hotel, scenic overlook, and fire tower. It was a great Sunday hike and I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a manageable hike to start out in the winter season. The trail is steep, but straightforward. Just make sure to bring or wear microspikes in the event of icy conditions on the trail. Falling and injuring yourself on this trail would not be worth it to sit out for the rest of the winter hiking season in New York! I had a great time at Overlook Mountain and would love to go back again sometime. The Catskills are beautiful from what I have seen so far and I am excited to explore them further.
What are your favorite hikes in the Catskills that I should check out?