The Finger Lakes Trail wends through the Catskills, beginning at the western edge of the Slide Mountain Wilderness and continuing on to Downsville and way beyond, stretching for about 500 miles.
A few miles’ worth of the Catskills’ portion of the FL trail goes past Big Pond, and Little Pond (pictured above). The trail to Little Pond begins across the road from Big Pond’s small beach – and it’s even smaller parking lot – and forms a loop around Little Pond that’s made up of two trails: The Little Pond Trail and Touch-me-not Trail.
The whole loop is quite strenuous because you’re going over a mountain and down the other side, and then returning back over it a slightly different way, so you’re essentially climbing a reasonably steep mountain twice. If you do the loop, give yourself a bit of time to sit on the shore of Little Pond, or take a refreshing swim. These days the trail is very water-logged and very slippery with mud – care and attention is needed to stop yourself sliding down the mountain in a pile of mud – but the forest is lush and beautiful, featuring statuesque trees rising into the omni-present mist.
The roots of these majestic trees form a staircase to help the weary hiker, but this feels very much like rain forest and there were places where the mud is so deep that you might lose a shoe, and some of the trail has become a flowing stream.
There is also what looks – and smells – like a spectacular beaver dam on this loop, situated a half-mile up the Little Pond trail in a stand of hemlocks:
Little Pond Campground is a pristine little haven nestled in a hollow in the mountains with camp sites situated at the pond’s lapping edges – complete with large, bear-proof food lockers – where you’ll find stands of towering, majestic hemlocks, showers, bathrooms, boats and kayaks to rent.
It’s possible to go either way around the loop but either way, it’s quite steep in places and rocky, which makes it slow and laborious going in the very muddy parts. There is a meadow on the Little Pond trail with a “vista” that’s a sweeping panoramic view of the southern Catskills (pictured below), but the meadow is not clearly blazed and so a map and compass are essential for this hike because it’s easy to lose your way at this point. However, the view is quite arresting even in gloomy weather.
To find good maps for hikes in the Catskills, go the New York New Jersey Trail Conference website. The Catskills Center has published a list of tips on how to hike in the Catskills during mud season.
This is a very informative article and some great images. I’ll share it with my group
I’m planning a group meetup for the Finger Lakes Trail, Southern Catskill area and would like to invite anyone interested, hopefully some with experience in the area, to join us.