This trail is a must in Catskill Park. It is a very popular trail from the views that Giant Ledge offers. Highly recommend getting there on the early side. My husband and I completed this hike on Thanksgiving Day, so the trail was pretty quiet when we arrived at 10 AM. Route 47 can be packed with cars doing this hike, depending on the season. When you arrive, have a backup hike in mind if that is the case.
Location: Sundown Wild Forest, New York
Distance: 6.3 miles Out & Back
Elevation gain: 1,981 feet
Difficulty: 🍍 🍍
Dogs: Yes, leashed
Road access: Route 47, parking up to 8 cars in a lot or on the side of the road
What to Pack for This Trail:
🍍Water - bladder is recommended
🍍First aid kit
🍍Microspike (November - April)
Panther Mountain is part of the 3500 club, the 35 high peaks in the Catskill State Park in New York. This trail is an out-and-back trail that is well marked. One thing to keep in mind when starting this trail, there is no medallion or sign at the summit. I was honestly a little disappointed because I love getting a photo of the summit marker.
Be prepared to see plenty of people on this trail and possibly make a hiking friend or two. Now that you’ve been introduced to the trail, here is how you’ll get there.
How To Get There & Where to Park:
Coming from NYC or Northern NJ:
🍍Take NJ-17 N and I-87 N to NY-28W in Ulster
🍍Take exit 19 from I-87 N (1.5 hours)
🍍 Continue on NY-28 W and Drive to Oliverea Road in Big Indian, NY (48 minutes)
Distance from NYC: 135 (~2 hours and 45 minutes)
Distance from Albany, NY: 82.7 miles(1 hour and 30 minutes)
When to visit: All year round, preferred summer and fall
Why go: It offers the best views of the Catskills valley
The parking lot does have a sign that directs you to the trailhead. The parking lot is on a hairpin turn, so it’s easy to miss. Be careful crossing the street because Route 47 is a scenic drive that people easily speed down and do not pay attention to hikers crossing. After safely crossing the road, you’ll make your way over a short bridge for the creek, and the sign-in is shortly after this.
Going for the hike in late November, ice can be a real thing on the trail.
You will walk about 100 feet from the trailhead to see the Catskill sign-in. It is essential to sign in and sign out. Give the group leader's name, the number of your group, a number to contact you, and the trail you wish to complete. State park patrols will check the logs to make sure every party that began the trail left it. rom the sign-in, you'll cross another bridge over Esopus Creek. From there, it will be an elevation gain full of switchbacks and boulders to climb over.
After signing in, notice the trail blaze color to follow. This trail is the yellow blazes (trail markers). Get prepared for a rocky trail that will put your glutes and calves to the test. The trailhead begins by trekking through the woods with rocky terrain.
Tip for trail mindfulness: the blaze you just passed, you should be able to see the one behind you and the next one in front of you.
In the Catskills, there can be more space between markers from down trees or just maintenance upkeep. I strongly recommend bringing a printed map and reading up on the trail before going.
Switch to following the Blue Blazes to get to the scenic overlook known as Giant Ledge. The trail does not let up on the climb, but the multiple lookout views are worth it. There are about 7-8 cliff ledges to see the Catskill Mountain range is beautiful. There are not many views until you reach Giant’s Ledge, but the view is worth it.
You’ll notice different campsites as well. There are plenty of signs leading up to the ledges telling you not to camp there. To avoid any tickets or penalties, only camp where it is marked safe to camp.
The views can easily trap you to stay and not return to the trail and the summit of Panther Mountain. However, the best thing about this in-and-out trail, you have to return to Giant Ledge on your way out.
To Giant Ledge, it is only 1.6 miles. This trail is only 3.2 miles round trip and 788 feet elevation gain.
Head back on the trail to finish off the remaining 1.85 miles and 1,193 feet elevation gain to complete Panther Mountain.
Panther mountain trail is a rocky terrain with a few false summit views. We completely walked past the summit because it is a small flat ledge. A small distance from the summit is a great overlook. You’ll need to climb up on the rock and have another view that is a better view than the summit.
Don’t go crazy looking for a summit medallion. As I shared earlier, there isn’t one. Just know that the flat rock ledge you’ve made it.
Tips For This Trail:
🍍Know your limitations
🍍Expect to have no cell phone service
🍍Wear supportive ankle shoes
🍍Get there early
Wrapping up the Trail:
Since this is a long trail, remember to stretch at the end of the hike. When I went in November the conditions are so unknown as well. Bring a change of clothes. Your socks could be covered in mud (mine were) and your pants as well. Bring a comfy change of clothes wether you have a long drive or not.
Catskills has so many great spots to eat post a hike. Here are some nearby:
Facts & Attractions of Catskills State Park:
🍍 State Park in New York
🍍 600,000-acre state park
🍍 Oldest known forest on Earth
🍍 A vacation spot for many in the northeast
Other Hikes You May Enjoy: