Hunter and Rusk Mountain Hike; Catskill 3500

Mileage: Entire hike 11.1 miles                                    Directions 42.184586,-74.271859

Only Rusk Mountain 3 miles up and back                                     Weather

Only Hunter Fire Tower 6.5 miles up and back                            facebook

Rise:  3790 ft for entire hike, look below for breakdown      Join-Aspiring Catskill 3500 Club on Facebook

Hike Time: 5 hrs (I was fast)                                                     THE FIRE TOWER PAGE

Significance: 2 Catskill High peaks, fire tower, ski resort

Printable Map

Here is some of what you need to know: This hike will take you up Rusk and Hunter Mountain, both are Catskill high peaks. You do not have to do one to do the other. Rusk Mountain is a bushwack so there is no trail to the top. Their is a water source near the top of Hunter.



1. Scroll the mouse over the altitude line to see where it lines up on the map

2. Click on the flags for more information

3. Click on the pictures to make them large


The trail from the parking lot to hunter mountain is an access road, it is well maintained with few obstacles. This up and back hike is a great opportunity to see some big views without the trouble of a rugged trail. Rusk Mountain on the other hand has no trail, you must bushwack to the top. The directions can be confusing so read below.


I researched this hike using the Catskill mountaineer website. From that site I learned that at 0.5 miles from the parking lot the Hunter Mountain trail will make a “horseshoe turn”. Just before this horseshoe you can see on your left where two streams meet. To get to the top of Rusk Mountain you will travel between the two streams uphill; while traveling uphill bear slightly to the left. I had a GPS which helped guide me, and I would recommend it to help find the top and to find your way back to where you left the Hunter Trail.


The two streams


-It is about a mile to the top with a tough 1400 ft climb in elevation. I was up and down in about about 1.5 hrs but I am in pretty good shape; it would not be unreasonable to expect another hour on this mountain.  No trail to the top means most do not venture up leaving the summit almost pristine. If you have found the top of Rusk, you have found the wilderness…cool.





Wilderness at 3500 feet


sign in at the top












After throwing the finger at Rusk the dog and I started up to Hunter. For the next mile the access road treats you nicely with moderate elevation gains. After that mile it becomes more steep, about 1100 feet over 1.8 miles according to their signage.

I took one side trip to the Hunter ski resort. This was a marked side trail near the top that added two miles and some elevation.



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High elevation mountain top


The Hunter fire tower is at an elevation of 4,039 feet. If you have never been this high on a mountain then you are missing out, it is very cool. You are in a different world where the deciduous trees disappear leaving only pines, the winds are heavier and the air is cooler. This alone is enough reason to make the trip but the fire tower is ahead and that you do not want to miss.




The prize is the fire tower at the top; unfortunately as I reached the summit the clouds rolled in and all views disappeared. On a clear day you should get a great view of the three mountains in the Black Head Range. You are allowed to climb the tower but the cab is locked most of the year; during the late spring to early fall seasons, on the weekends, a summit steward will allow you inside and teach you a little about the Catskills and their fire towers.

This trail continues on and makes a loop but it was getting dark, colder, and I was tired so I decided to head back the way I came (no regrets).


These towers can are a part of the larger Adirondack fire tower challenge; below are the others we have hiked in that challenge. Also, check out the  East Coast Fire Tower page

                             Catskill Towers

Hunter and Rusk mountain                 Balsam Lake Fire Tower               

Overlook Mountain Fire Tower            Red Hill Fire tower

Tremper Mountain Fire Tower

                                 Adirondack Towers


Spruce Mountain Fire Tower                       Snowy Mountain Fire Tower

Rondax (Bald Mountain) Fire Tower           Stillwater Fire Tower

Hurricane                                                      Poke O Moonshine

Vanderwhacker           Black Mountain       Belfry

Azure Fire Tower                                          Saint Regis Fire Tower