The trouble with hiking the Catskills in the autumn is that thick layers of fallen leaves completely cover the path. It’s easy to lose your footing and stumble, as your boot disappears up to the ankle into the crunchy leaves, especially when the ground underneath is rocky or slippery. The hike to Plateau Mountain from Mink Hollow Road on the Route 212 end, is rocky, pebbly and everything in between. It’s also wet, wet, wet; with several knee-deep river crossings on the first 2.6 miles, and frequent muddy pools, so if you feel like hiking it now, take your waterproof boots. One river crossing necessitated the aid of two large trees that were downed halfway across the water. All the clumsy, ankle-turning stumbling that’s met with enthusiasm on the way up becomes quite tiresome – and downright dangerous – on the way back to the car when you’re exhausted.
If it sounds like a big pain in the backside, this would be the point to mention that it’s utterly gorgeous: a smorgasbord of beautiful Catskills landscapes in a 7.3 mile round trip, featuring thick, white birch trees mixed with soft evergreens, falling waters, mossy boulders, a spring and a lean-to complete with outdoor privvy.
The first 2.6 miles up Mink Hollow (blazed blue) is a long, slow ascent up a mild incline, across and along the aforementioned streams and waterfalls with the soothing sounds of the rushing water mesmerizing the hiker for most of that segment. The lean-to appears just before the mile markers that marks the start of the last 1.05 miles to the summit (blazed red), which are very steep indeed. The trail seems to be almost vertical for most of the way, consisting of very large boulders and thick tree roots. Time spent resting the thighs between bouts of climbing affords a chance to gasp at stunning views through lush evergreens and shiny birch trees and although the dogs were able to jump up through gaps in most of the boulders on the way up they both had to be helped on the way down. Hiking poles come highly recommended for this hike.
The best part of this hike is the summit, a long, chilly corridor through Santa’s Catskill Headquarters: a mossy grotto bearing the occasional sprinkling of snow and an evergreen canopy.
Plateau Mountain is a veritable thigh buster even for experienced hikers that should not be attempted without a good night’s sleep, full breakfast, plenty of water and lots of time.