Diamond Notch and West Kill Catskills Run

With fabulous Indian summer weather beckoning, I drove to Diamond Notch on Sunday to meet some running friends and get photos for an upcoming magazine article about running in the  Catskills.  One of the most beautiful trails in the Catskills is marred only by a minefield:  The last quarter mile drive to the trail head is a narrow, rocky cart path that last saw improvement in the 19th century.  I strongly recommend a vehicle with high ground clearance, but the scenery you’ll see is worth it.

The guys I was looking for had already taken off, noting both Hunter Mountain and West Kill Mountain as their destinations in the trail register.  After I signing in, I set out to find them.

Hurricane Irene used adjacent Hollow Tree Brook to make a mess of the lower part of the trail.  Rather than running, the first half mile or so you’ll be rock-hopping across keg-sized boulders strewn about like children’s toys.  A bridge had washed away, but the brook is OK to cross.  Once across, you continue ascending beside a clove that steadily grows narrower until it finally ends.  This is one of the most magical places in the Catskills.  The sunlight was brilliant on the autumn leaves today.

At the camping area in the notch, I noticed the new outhouse covered with chicken wire.  When I last passed here twelve years ago, the base of the previous outhouse had been chewed to bits by porcupines.

At Diamond Notch Falls, another bridge is washed away.  Today, West Kill brook could be crossed with care.  With high water -springtime with snow melt – this crossing will be problematic.  The DEC is working as hard as they can, but they can’t replace all the bridges at once.

I took a guess on my friends’ route and chose West Kill.  Unfortunately, I guessed wrong.  After 3300 feet of vertical gain and nine miles, I didn’t have the time to look for them on Hunter.  But I had the pleasure of a great day in the woods.

If you head to the Catskills, please help the area recover from Hurricane Irene by spending money at local businesses.  Buy a meal, buy gasoline, even plan to stay overnight and run a couple of different routes.