TRIP REPORT: Vly Mountain – Catskills, NY 1-1-17
Hiking stats at a glance:
Trailhead: Parking near the snowplow turn around on the south side of Rt 3
Miles round trip: ~4
Total Elevation Gain: ~1,100 ft
One High Peak: Vly Mountain 3,530 ft
Total Time: ~2.5 hrs
I managed to get 2017 started off right with a trip up Vly mountain in the Catskills totally up and down on Skis! Luckily the area got a little bit of snow so I was able to break out the skis and make it happen. I started by parking on the south side of Rt 3 near the snowplow turn around. It is easy to know where to park because the road ends at the snowplow turnaround where they stop maintaining the road. You just want to be sure not to park in the snow plow turn around or blocking the driveway of the neighboring property. Also as a side note, in the warmer months Rt 3 continues up and over the mountain on an non-maintained road, that to my understanding is perfectly legal to drive over. However, after skinning up the road I’m not sure how great an idea it would be without a capable truck.
After packing up my gear and grabbing my skis I walked up to the start of the road. Luckily there was a couple of inches of fresh snow covering a hard packed base and I was able to get on my skis right from the very beginning.
The road starts at about 2,500 feet in elevation and carves a relatively straight upward path up the side of the mountain to the top of the ridge. The grade is also pretty gentle which makes for a pretty casual trip skinning up the road. Along the way are short flat spots following a few steep sections which also give you a chance to catch your breath and keep hammering up the hill.
After about a mile on the road I reached the crest of the ridge and the road flattened out as you approach a private hunting cabin at a large intersection. The cabin was unoccupied at the time but plenty of signs marked it as private property so you want to be sure to respect the rights of whoever it is that owns it.
Once you reach the large intersection with the cabin you can take a left down the snowmobile trail to head over to Bearpen Mountain (another Catskill 3,500 ft peak) or hang a right towards Vly. I decided to start with Vly since it was likely to be the hardest since it is listed as an “unmarked” herd path. Although in practice this isn’t really true because there are blue blazes on the trees marking the trail all the way to the summit. From this point the trail was not broken out at all and I got to ski on nice deep and fresh snow on my way towards the summit of Vly. The herd path for Vly starts off to your right, across from the cabin, and just left of a DEC sign on a nearby tree.
The herd path from here is fairly easy to follow since there are blazes but there is also a pretty clear path of least resistance through the tree. There were also signs of people having come this way recently which made it even easier to follow. The path was a little tight on skis in spots but I was able to make pretty quick progress without too much trouble. I was determined to do as close to 100% of the hike on skis as possible.
After hiking for a little while I reached the first of a couple steeper rock sections where I was forced to take off my skis and scramble up the icy ledges. I forgot to take a picture of one of the larger rock sections but it isn’t anything too crazy. I was able to do it quick and easy enough without micro spikes on my boots.
Between rocky sections I was able to make quick progress on skis on the mostly flat herd path. The herd path traverses the ridge which overall is quite mellow and mostly flat except for a few short sections. Also as you near the summit you get a mostly obstructed view looking back towards the summit of Bearpen Mountain. Unfortunately the summit itself is wooded and does not offer any particularly great views.
In what seemed like no time at all I reached an area with low hanging, dense vegetation, followed by a small clearing that marked the summit of Vly.
The summit itself is fairly unimpressive and wooded, but there is a canister on a tree marking the summit where you can sign in and record your ascent.
I was lucky enough to get the very first entry of the new year!