The Giant Ledge Catskills hike is, in my opinion, one of the best in all of New York.
Located in the Slide Mountain Wildnerness area — which is known for its incredible views and high peaks — you won’t be disappointed. Not one bit!
And while you’ll certainly work up a sweat and may even need to ice your calves the next day, you’ll be thankful to have taken in the beauty that is offered by this unique New York hiking option.
Whether you’ve already heard about Upstate NY’s Giant Ledge hike or you’re simply looking for a new Catskills trail to try, I highly recommend opting for this short and intense but stunning trek.
Pro tip: Before going hiking, make sure to download the AllTrails app to have trail guides, maps, photos, and reviews right at your finger tips. You can also sign up for a free trial of AllTrails+ to download offline maps, get alerts for wrong turns, find trails by distance from you, and more!
What Type Of Hiker Are You? [Free Quiz]
Before we discuss one of the best hikes in the Catskills, I want to share a free personality quiz I think you’ll love:
It’s called “What type of hiker are you?” and it will help you discover your hiking personality.
Your results also share trail suggestions based on your results!
Giant Ledge Catskills Hike Fast Facts
If you’re looking for hiking near Phoenicia NY you’ve got a lot of great options, though I can almost guarantee this trail won’t disappoint.
To help you understand what you’re in for with the Giant Ledge Trail, here are some quick facts:
Giant Ledge Catskills elevation: 3,170 feet — or 3,720 feet if you decide to continue your trek to summit Panther Mountain, which is the parent mountain of this hike
Elevation gain: About 1,030
Forest: This hike takes you through Slide Mountain Wilderness
Trail difficulty: Moderate (but steep!)
Trail type: Out-and-back
Trail length: 3.2 miles round-trip if you just visit the first ledge; 4 miles round-trip if you do all of the ledges; 7.1 miles round-trip if you go to the Panther Mountain summit
Time: This trail will take you about two hours round-trip (if you just go to Giant Ledge) or four hours round-trip (if you continue to the Panther Mountain summit)
Giant Ledge Trailhead Parking
The Giant Ledge Catskills address is Oliverea Road (County Road 47) in Big Indian, New York.
This Google Map can take you there, as can typing “Giant Ledge trailhead” into Google Maps.
In terms of parking, there is a small parking area at the trailhead as well as the option to park along the road.
Look for a yellow trail marker across the road where you’ll walk over a small wooden footbridge to begin the hike.
Note that parking fills up fast on weekends as this hike is popular, so arrive early or consider hiking Giant Ledge on a weekday.
Additionally, there aren’t any bathrooms, water fountains, or snack stands at the trailhead, so come prepared.
Giant Ledge Hike Catskills Trail Map
Speaking of maps, when hiking in New York it’s always smart to have a trail map.
Additionally, here is a PDF recreation map of Slide Mountain Wilderness.
Giant Ledge Hike
Okay, so let’s dive into the actual hike and what it’s like!
As stated above, when hiking Giant Ledge you’re journeying through Slide Mountain Wilderness, which features 47,500 acres of outdoor beauty.
It’s actually the largest wilderness area in the Catskill Forest Preserve and, not surprisingly, is full of hiking trail options.
Many of these trails offer sweeping views, like Giant Ledge.
The Giant Ledge Catskills hike starts off on the Phoenicia East Branch Trail for 0.8 miles.
When we go, it’s a damp and foggy day. Drops of water tap down on our raincoats, but that doesn’t deter my husband Andy and me from making the trek.
We follow the yellow blazes up a steady incline that is quite rocky and steep — so definitely make sure you’re wearing good-quality hiking shoes with solid grip and ankle support. This is an important part of what to wear to go hiking.
While challenging, the forest is quiet and lush, with droplets of rain offering a soothing pitter-patter soundtrack against the leaves.
I also appreciate the rain because it helps to wash away the buckets of sweat that are pouring out of my face from hiking uphill.
At certain points the trail levels out and I’m thankful for the rest — as are my thighs — though it never lasts very long.
As we ascend higher and higher, giant rock formations protrude from the earth, sometimes lining the trail, but many times under our feet creating natural steps.
Eventually, we reach the Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain Trail, which has us switching from yellow to blue blazes for another 0.8 miles.
This means we’re less than a mile from a gorgeous view!
The universe must have been on our side that day, because shortly before we reach Giant Ledge the rain completely stops and the sky transforms into a magnificent blue.
Honestly, when we arrive to the main viewpoint my jaw actually drops from seeing the sun cast a glow on the colorful foliage covering the Catskill Mountains; peaks stretching up to the clouds before sloping down to connect on the ground.
Now, I have to say, the name of this hike is a little misleading — and that’s a good thing.
You see, Giant Ledge is actually comprised of five different ledges!
While each offers essentially the same view, it’s nice because this is a popular hike and sometimes the first ledge is full of people. Having options means you can enjoy a packed lunch and a panoramic Catskills view all to yourself.
Extended Hike: Giant Ledge And Panther Mountain
If you’re still feeling energetic after taking in the Giant Ledge view and want to add another leg to your journey, you can opt to hike an additional 45-60 minutes to the summit of Panther Mountain.
For this, you’ll continue along the blue trail — though, warning, it’s challenging!
While the trail ascends up for much of the hike, at one point it descends — which means you then need to ascend again even higher.
Luckily, there are numerous views along the way, not to mention the solitude of the alpine forest is magical, especially since most hikers stop at Giant Ledge and don’t continue up to the Panther Mountain summit.
From the summit, you’ll again take in expansive views of the Catskills Mountains, though this time from 3,720 feet for a higher and slightly different perspective.
In my opinion, the Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain hike offers some of the most rewarding views in all of the Catskills!
If you like to gamify your hikes, Panther Mountain is on the Catskill 3500 Club‘s list. Feel free to challenge yourself to hike as many as possible to collect those high peak vistas.
Giant Ledge Catskills Camping
Many people who hike the Catskills’ Giant Ledge Trail also opt to camp, and there are a number of options for this.
First of all, there are a few Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) primitive camping sites along the trail near to the Giant Ledge lookouts. You don’t need a permit unless you are camping for more than three nights or you have a group of 10 or larger.
Also note that your campsite should be a minimum of 150 feet away from the closest road, trail, or body of water.
You can contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at (845) 256-3076 or [email protected] for more information.
You can also hike Giant Ledge to and from the highly-rated Woodland Valley Campground, which is a popular option, albeit challenging. It’s about 3.4 miles one way. Here is a trail map.
You can contact the Woodland Valley Campground at (845) 688-7647. Note that there is a fee to camp here — $20 for New York residents and $25 for people from out of state.
Post-Hike Fun: Things To Do In Phoenicia
Phoenicia is a small but fun Catskills hamlet with restaurants and shops. It’s a must when visiting the Catskills. To help you have some post-hike fun, here are a few things to do in and around Phoenicia after your Giant Ledge hike:
Hike the Tanbark Trail.
I mentioned this challenging but scenic hike in my guide to the best Upstate NY hikes. You can access the trailhead right from a local playground in Phoenicia.
The 2.1-mile loop trail features two main viewpoints:
- Phoenicia Overlook, from which you can see Romer Mountain, Mount Pleasant, and Panther Mountain.
- Grandview Ledge, where you can gaze out over Phoenicia toward Panther Mountain from an open ledge.
Have a big meal at Brio’s Pizzeria.
Brio’s Pizzeria is a little bit of everything — an Italian restaurant, a diner, and even a Mexican restaurant as it’s attached to the Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina and you can also order off their menu.
There aren’t a ton of restaurants in Phoenicia, so whenever I visit I eat most of my meals in this casual spot serving hearty dishes and tasty drinks.
The wood-fired Neapolitan pizza with a local Catskills beer.
Dine in hipster fashion at The Phoenicia Diner.
The Phoenicia Diner is legendary! In fact, even people from New York City love stopping here on their way up to the Catskills.
The current owner of the diner is a guy from Brooklyn, and the menu certainly has a hipster twist and creative comfort food made with seasonal local ingredients.
Don’t miss their tasty boozy milkshakes!
Savor a fancy meal on a budget at The Phoenician Steakhouse.
Phoenicia is a mountain destination, so when I say “fancy” I mean “nice but you can still wear jeans”.
The food here is delicious and if you’re traveling with your partner it’s a nice spot for a date night.
My go-to dish here is the Seafood Fra Diavolo — which is my all-around favorite meal.
They’ve also got some yummy craft cocktails.
See a show at the Phoenicia Playhouse Community Theatre.
The building itself dates back to 1887 and offers the chance to enjoy some local culture through creative community theater productions.
Shop at Mystery Spot Antiques.
This cluttered shop is full of treasures from vintage clothing to cool vinyl finds to oddities you didn’t even know you needed.
Buy local wares from The Nest Egg.
The Nest Egg is a local country store selling active adventure essentials (I’ve definitely popped in here for hiking socks a few times), Catskills souvenirs, and New York-made goods like soaps and fudge.
Where To Stay In The Catskills
Looking for Catskills accommodation?
Prefer self-contained stays?
You can also use the map below to search for local stays. I set the map to Phoenicia, as that is where most hikers doing Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain base; however, you can easily change the destination:
Renting A Car In The Catskills
The best way to explore all that the Catskills has to offer is by car, as many hotels, trails, and attractions aren’t within walking distance and public transportation isn’t a common way to get around locally.
Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.
Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!
Upstate New York Tours
After enjoying some Catskills NY hiking, opt for a fun local tour. A few recommendations include:
- Full-Day Private Alpine Ridge Hiking Tour from Beacon
- Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Wine and Local Cheese Tour from Beacon
- Full-Day Walkway Over the Hudson and Winery Tour in the Hudson Valley from Highland
- 3-Day Zip Lining & Waterfall Hike in the Catskill Mountains from Hunter
- Niagara New York Food Tour from Lewiston
Catskills Travel Insurance
When visiting the Catskills — or anywhere else in the world — make sure to get travel insurance.
In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).
Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.
Other Great New York Hikes:
The Giant Ledge Panther Mountain hike isn’t the only great hiking trail option in New York State. Some others to check out include:
- Anthony’s Nose Hiking Trail. This moderate hike offers sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and Bear Mountain State Park from the top.
- Mount Marcy. This challenging hike takes you to the top of the highest peak in New York, Mount Marcy, at 5,344 feet! Warning: You’ll need to essentially climb toward the end, or at least hike vertically, but it’s worth it!
- Mount van Hoevenberg. This moderate but steep trek ends with panoramic views of the Adirondack High Peaks Region.
- Bull Hill Full Loop. The views of the NYC skyline from the top are incredible on this hike.
- Breakneck Ridge. A challenging hike with some vertical climbs that offers amazing views along the way.
- Bear Mountain State Park. This popular park is full of hiking options as well as areas for fishing, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. One of my top solo hiking tips would be to head here, as you’ll find plenty of safe and populated trails.
- Slide Mountain Trail. This is a great option if you’re looking for other Catskills hiking trails, as Slide Mountain is the highest peak in the region.
- Overlook Mountain Hike. This is another top choice for hiking trails in the Catskills, especially with features like old hotel ruins, a fire tower, and sweeping views along the way. Love snowshoeing? This trail is a fun option when visiting the Catskills in winter.
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