Field Trip Report: Backpacking the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness

This past weekend, Mappy Hour teamed up with Girl Gotta Hike for a two day backpacking adventure in the Windham-Blackhead Range in the Catskills.

The trip starts from the Big Hollow Road Trailhead, tucked into the Northeastern section of the Catskills. We visited on a beautiful fall day, which meant a packed parking lot and a slew of excited hikers.

Swag and people in the parking lot

Our day began with swag distribution since this trip was in partnership with our favorite Sierra Nevada including sunglasses and buffs to mop up the impending sweat from our foreheads.

Our first goal of the day was to backpack up to Batavia Kill Lean-to – a mostly uphill, but short 1.7 miles from the parking lot.

There we were surprised to find the primitive campsites and lean-to completely empty. We set up our tents, dropped our big packs and grabbed day packs (or for many of us – the brains of our backpacks).

Our first goal was Blackhead, which at 3,942′ feet would be some participants first ever Catskill 3500 peak. Others in our group were working on becoming Catskill 3500 members and had already clocked over 20 peaks. New and seasoned hikers alike grunted our way up the extremely rocky steep that brought us up to Blackhead. Luckily, the views didn’t disappoint.

From Blackhead, you have to head down to head back up to Black Dome, which, though not as challenging as the quick rise to Blackhead, felt harder on our now tired legs. Luckily from Black Dome to Thomas Cole you stay up on the ridge making the third peak, the easiest to summit.

From there, we turned around and made our way back to camp, where we kicked off our boots and enjoyed a variety of different freeze dried dinners and the brand new Skiesta beer, which tasted delicious after a tough day with many miles. If you’re looking to try this hike yourself we recommend purchasing the NYNJTC Map Set 141 for the Catskills or the National Geographic Map. You can also find more specific directions like these from the Catskill Mountaineer. 

On Sunday, we packed up and hiked out to our cars to drop off our backpacks. A short drive to the Elm Ridge section of the area allowed us to do a 6 mile loop up to Windham High Peak and back before heading home. Another tough ascent with rewarding views!

And if these views look familiar, you’re right, this was the same spot we visited for our 2019 Mappy Hour Leadership summit.

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