Adventures at Windham High Peak
At the beginning of November 2020, I did a solo hike at Windham High Peak. Windham is typically known for being a ski mountain, but for those of us outdoor enthusiasts who don't specifically ski, it is also one of the high peaks in the Catskill Mountains in New York State, USA!
At an elevation of 3524', Windam High Peak is the second-lowest high peak of the Catskill 3500s but is one of the best peaks for views in this mountain range. The trail itself is relatively easy to follow and not a lot of effort for the big payoff at the end. It has some unique features such as wooden bridges at the beginning of the trail and some pine forests mixed with deciduous forests. The peak itself is wooded and doesn't have a view, which is typical of many Catskill hikes, but there are three distinct viewpoints along the top ridge of the mountain that are worth a look.
When I originally set out to do a hike on this day, I knew I would be solo. I had looked at doing Twin Mountain, one of the mountain peaks along the Devil's Path, but after much research and deliberation, I decided that there was one potentially dangerous part that I did not want to do alone for the first time. I had gotten recommendations for both Twin and Windham mountain from people that I follow on Instagram, with Windham being listed as the easier hike. I decided to go with Windam High Peak and saved Twin for another day. (A future blog post to come!)
During this hike was the first time that I decided to record my thoughts on video. I originally shared these video thoughts on my Instagram story (follow me @kb.hikes), but I recently compiled all the videos from the stories into a full-length video below, which can now be found on YouTube. If you're interested in watching the video, please take a look below! Otherwise, if you'd like a written/photo account, please keep scrolling :-)
I arrived at the trailhead later in the morning than I normally would. It was a weekday when I went on this adventure, and although I managed to get the day off from work at the last minute, I still had to put my kid on the bus that morning.
I opted for the trailhead that was on Route 23. The parking lot was very large which was exciting to see. There were only a few other cars there when I arrived and a couple of people were getting bikes out of their vehicles. I later learned that a lot of the trails leading up to Windam are great for biking.
Much to my relief, there were also two porta-potties at the trailhead. I had drunk two large cups of coffee on my drive out to the trailhead, and this time of year is hard to find a place to pee in the woods!
At the beginning of the trail leading up to Windham High Peak, there are several of these wooded bridges. I could see why they were needed. The lowlands right here were full of water and muck - not something that I wanted to try to trudge through even with my hiking boots. There's no telling how deep that water is!
Most of the trail leading up was a deciduous forest. With no leaves on the trees, it was pretty wide open and mountains in the distance could be seen through the trees. At one point the trail leads up to a very creepy looking pine forest, which makes everything look dark and spooky. Luckily, pine forests are my favorite kinds of forest, so I enjoyed this part very much.
The trail up until this point had been very gradual with incline. It continued to be fairly gradual for a little way after this pine forest. Eventually, it picked up and the rate of the incline was quicker. For someone new to hiking, they may find this to be a little bit difficult and become winded. For an experienced hiker, they would likely find this trail to be very easy.
As you near the top of Windham High Peak, there are two outlook points before reaching the official peak.
This first viewpoint was a fairly narrow viewpoint but in my opinion, had the most interesting things to look at. From here you can see the Blackhead range, which has three more Catskill High Peaks that are fairly popular and easy to do. This one was probably my favorite viewpoint.
The next viewpoint is just a short hop, skip and jump away, but this one faces in the opposite direction. The view is wider, but less visually interesting due to most of the land beyond being flat. You can kind of see civilization from this view.
Just beyond these two overlook points, the summit ridge starts to get very wooded again and there are no views through the thick brush and trees. The summit marker is simply embedded in the middle of the trail and is very easy to find. I did not take an individual photo of the summit marker, just a video.
Shortly after the summit, there is a final overlook point before the trail starts heading downhill again. This overlook point has probably the widest view range of the three and it is where I stopped to eat my lunch. It, too, was overlooking the side with the flatter land so it wasn't super interesting to look at besides the vastness of the open space. It did offer limited views to the tip of a mountain in the distance on the right side.
Overall, it was a lovely hike - one that was fairly easy for a pretty good payoff. It was a great hike to do solo and I think it would also make a great beginner winter hike with snowshoes, so I may be back soon.
Have you hiked this mountain? Do you have questions about it? Leave me a message in the comments!