“Local legend has it that the Devil’s Path derived its name from the first Dutch and German settlers to the Catskill region. Supposedly, they took one look at the high, deeply notched mountains marching west from the Hudson River and figured that only the cloven-footed Devil could walk such steep, treacherous ground.” – Backpacker.com
I have heard this infamous trail for years, and actually got a bit of its flavor in Manitou Revenge a couple of times. But I had never done the whole thing. So I pitched this idea to Chang, my partner in crime when I go to trail running adventure.
It’s Too Early, We’re Too Sleepy
We drove early morning from Chang’s house to the Catskill. So the plan was, we were going to run the trail from East end to the West End. So we drove with two cars with taping a sport tapes over our eyes to keep them open, to the West End. It was too early. After we dropped the post run supply and clothing at Chang’s car, we drove down to the East end with my car. We were thinking to drop a water gallon at the midway, highway 214, Devil’s Tombstone, but we decided not to, since the hikers told us there would be water tap. I also brought water filter with me.
Knocking On Devil’s Door
We arrived at the East end of Devil’s Path ( aprox. 2030 ft )around 8:15, we filled up our water and made sure we had all we need, before we started to walk to the trail head. It’s located at the middle of the parking lot round about. We carried about 1.5 liters of water each. We filled up the registration/guests books first and we clicked out start button, on our watches and brains.
Overall The Devil’s Path trail direction was pretty easy, we just needed to follow the Red trail blazer, and made sure pay attention. The tricky part was to look out for the trail blazer and the rocks/roots on the ground at the same time. Like any other North East terrain, Devil’s Path was really technical, steep climb, and endless rolling hills.
We started with a little jog on a nice rocky trail, a little ascent but was run-able. In about a quarter of mile, we made a left turn following the red trail blazer. The trail became “flat” that allow us to occupied ourselves with conversation, while we ran and tried our best not to fall. And after a few minutes, we arrived at a lean-on. I realized that we might have missed the turn. So we checked and we were on the blue trail. Luckily I had a pdf-gps map from Cal Topo that I merged with a route from Ben Nephew’s FKT track (https://caltopo.com/m/16SR), thanks to Mike Siudy, who showed me how to make it. We traced back into where we came from. Actually there was a sign that we missed. So what we should have done earlier, we should turn right at this point.
Now, the real hike was begun. It started with a regular hike with elevated rocks and/or roots here and there. A little by a little, the climb became steeper and steeper, until we got to the wall. It was a rock that probably 3 times taller than me. It was intimidating, yet it was pretty easy to climb it. When we got to the top, we took a quick photo shoot. On the right side, just a meter off from the trail, there was a pretty neat view. We kept climbing on the Indian Head (aprox. 3560 ft) for about a mile before we hit the down hill. The downhill was definitely not a smooth down hill, it was more like hopping from one rock to another, I crossed my toes that my ankle would hold up. Although some sections was “run-able” enough that we could get into our pace rhythm.
When we got to the end of the downhill (aprox. 3130 ft), we continued on the red trail blazer and right away, we were on the power hiking mode again. The hiked to Twin Mountain was pretty steep and rugged. As we could guess, it has 2 peaks (aprox. 3560 ft and 3615 ft) with a little break in the middle. Then we started to go downhill again, and we had to look out for the trail blazer a couple of times. This section was kind of switch back in some part and pretty technical, and on the top of that, many of the trees fell from the storm. So a few times we doubted our-self if we pick the correct turn or not. One time we had to slide down under a falling rocks over crevice that about one person depth. It was so much fun. And on another part, I had to slide through in between 2 rocks, I was wondering how could those people with big backpack or bigger frame could pass through this. After about a mile, we got into the foot of the mountain where there was a 3-4 ways of junction (aprox 2600 ft).
Bitter And Sour Loaf
The Devil’s Path trail kept going to the trail in front of us. We ran only a few breathes away and it started to climb again. The hike to Sugarloaf Mountain (aprox 3800 ft) was a deceitful climbs. It had a plenty short climb, but it was endless. When I thought it was run-able part, right after I made a turn, I faced another steep climb. I felt the climb was just never end. About a mile later, we reach the top (aprox 3760 ft), before we were back on the downhill mode again. The downhill was pretty vicious. It was boulder after boulder. It seemed like a Lego playground for giants toddler. I had to be 100% focus if I did not want to break any bones or loosing a tooth or two.
The New Lands
When we got into the Mink Hollow (aprox. 2600 ft), we found another 4 way junction. I believe there was a stream on the right side, but we were still good with our water level. So we continued our journey toward Plateau Mountain. The trail went straight with a little ascent, we jogged it a little bit until we ran into a steeper hike. Then we crossed a dried up waterfall (or it seemed like it), where we made a right turn, and hiked more steep ascents. Maybe a quarter-mile away, we were hiking on the pretty wet trail, like a small creek, and we made a sharp right turn. At this corner, there was a water source coming out from a small pipe. We washed up our face and head to get a little refreshment. The hike actually was not as crazy as the previous 3 peaks. Shortly we got into a flat area where we could really run. There were a left turn that would lead to Tremper Mountain, where Manitou Revenge course would end, but we kept running straight, following the red trail blazer. After about a mile, the trail started to going down. Probably the first time that we were running down with no jumping around rocks and boulders, tho it was not smooth trail either. Probably after a mile or two, there was a hidden lookout on the right side. There we met some hikers enjoying the sunbathe. I told Chang that we should bring wine, beer, and cheese next time, we might able to make some money. And a few hundred meters away, we found a better view of Catskill mountain range. Too bad the ridge was too crowded so it was a hassle to take a picture there. Tho those hikers pointed to us that the trail went on the left side of the ridge. It was a huge drop off the ridge, twice. We just hopped it down pretty quick since it was a flat big stone, but those were enough to scared those hikers. The downhill kept going for a while until we hear the highway noise.
I Hate Roots
We arrived at the midway of the trail, Highway 214 (aprox 2035 ft), the lowest elevation of the whole trail. The Devil’s Path continued through the picnic area across the road, and by the water, the Notch Lake. There was a water tap, so we refilled our water, washed our head and face again. When we ran back to the trail toward Hunter Mountain, right away it became steep but it was not as rocky as the first 3 peaks. I did not remember much, I think the steep area was not that long. Chang saw a snake on the trail side, but we and that snake decided not to hang out. I did not think we went to the highest peak of Hunter Mountain, but my Garmin’s history said 3574 feet. After that highest point, we passed a little overgrown single trail and we arrived at a lean-on, where Chang swapped his empty bottle and we did our lunch snacks. Then we started to running down into the foot of Hunter Mountain and West Kill Mountain. I remembered that there were some section where the trail was a jumble of roots. And I tripped like a drunken master plenty times, but I survived unscratched.
We arrived at another junction where we made a sharp left turn and crossed the wooden bridge over a big creek, West Kill, tho the bridge seemed pretty new. The creek could be another good water source, but since we still had about a litter or something like that, so we ended up just taking a little refreshing wash. Here, we also met Jim Baxer, a runner from TWA group. We chat for a bit before we continued to the trail on the right side of the bridge. I vaguely remembered, but I think the sign showed 7 more miles to the west end. So we kind of excited to be done, we had enough rocks today. We hiked eagerly, despite the hike was long and pretty steep. I think the hike felt similar to what we had in Plateau Mountain. There were a few steep climb, easy climb, and repeat, until it became steeper and steeper. We met a few hikers that cheered us up when they knew what we were doing. But at the same time they gave us a false hope. I think they meant no harm, by saying that we were close. But we became too excited and got even faster pace. We got into the highest point and we took more pictures for our last peak. There, I refilled my front bottle from my back up bottle in my pack. Then for a few minutes, we could not find the trail at that peak. The trail continued on the sharp right (kind of) and bend to the left. It was a bit more flat and went downhill. In my mind, somehow, I always thought that the whole trail was 22 ish miles long. So I told Chang that we probably were only 3 miles away. But Chang told me that it could not be right, since we were still not far below 3000 feet elevation. I thought, well maybe we gonna see some steep downhill. As usual Chang pulled a “Chang” move. Every time we have an adventure run in the mountain, the last few miles he always ran faster than his first few miles. His excuse was always that he just could not wait to be done. Anyway, clearly I was wrong on the mileage. We kept hiking and the trail kept rolling. Even better, the trail become steeper and more technical the further we ran. I had a hard time with keeping up with Chang’s pace, so I decided to power hike. I lost him a couple of times on the hike and tried my best to catch him on the flat or downhill, until suddenly we got into a pretty steep downhill, minus the giants boulders. So I was not fully wrong after all. At this point, we were close to mile 23 ish. When we got the bottom of the downhill, and we found a trail sign that directed us to turn right with 1.5 mile more. Oh well. From here the trail was not technical at all, but the terrain was still a little rolling and curving. At this point I was out of water, for a second I thought I wanted to stop and refilled my water from my backpack, but what the heck, just suck it up and go, I thought. When I started to run again, Chang was gone again. But after a bending trail, I saw the downhill and there was Chang at the registration box to check us out.
24 miles something and 7.5 hours after dancing with the Devil, we were so happy to be done. We celebrated and shared cold soda and beer that I had saved in the cool box. I guessed happy Murica weekend for these two aliens.