TRIP REPORT: Wittenberg and Cornell Mountain – Catskills, NY 7-29-17
Hiking stats at a glance:
Total Mileage = ~9.4 miles
Elevation Gain = ~3,029 feet
Hike Highlights = Wittenberg Mountain (3,780 ft) and Cornell Mountain (3,860 ft)
Trailhead = Woodland Valley
Total Time = 3.5 hours
This past weekend I had another free Saturday so I decided to drive up and hike a couple more 3,500 ft peaks in the Catskills. At the suggestion of the internet I choose to go with Wittenberg and Cornell Mountain. Normally these peaks can be combined with Slide to make a longer day but since I had already done Slide a couple of times and was starting late in the day I skipped it this time around. I arrived at the Woodland Valley parking lot at around 12:30pm and snagged one of the last spots in the lot. After gathering my things I walked across the road towards the left end of the adjacent campground where the trail began.
Once I was in the campground area the trail was easy enough to spot behind a large boulder and consisted of a worn trail leading towards Woodland Creek.
The trail starts at a sturdy wooden bridge that leads over Woodland Creek. From here the trail starts immediately working its way steeply uphill towards the summit of Wittenberg.
The trail from top to bottom is quite rocky but otherwise easy to follow. The most challenging part is that it is very steep from start to finish, ascending roughly 3,000 feet in about 4 miles. After a short distance heading up hill I came to the trail register which I think has seen some better days.
After signing in I continued up the trail over rocky terrain as the trail worked its way straight up the side of the mountain.
The trail maintained this steady grade for a while before briefly leveling out near some large rock formations. After working my way around these formations the trail continued heading upwards along the ridge.
At this point the trail followed the edge of what I’m assuming is a fairly steep cliff. I didn’t actually stop to look over the edge but it seemed like it was a pretty steep drop. The trail also passed through some more open forest areas where I had to be a little more observant to make sure I stayed on the trail. This was the only part of the hike where I felt I needed to pay more attention to where I was going. After navigating this short section there was more rocky terrain to scramble up.
After passing this rocky section the trail went back to climbing steadily upwards through dense green woods. It also became a little less rocky so it was easier to pick up the pace a little bit.
Before too long I reached the first trail junction where I proceeded to make a right and continue on my way towards Wittenberg Mountain.
After the junction the trail stayed flat for a little ways before continuing the climb upwards.
From here the trail got even rockier as I approached the summit. There is also one section that involves a bit of scrambling.
The scrambling itself is easy but there are quite a few spots to navigate which really give this hike its character and keep things interesting. I was able to make good time on the climb up and before too long the trail flattened out as I got close to the summit of Wittenberg.
I had not really looked up the specifics of the hike before coming so I was pleasantly surprised when I came out of the woods to a large airy ledge. The summit ledge had some really beautiful views and perhaps the best I have seen in the Catskills to date. There were a bunch of people hanging out enjoying the beautiful weather but the summit is more than large enough to accomodate everyone.
After taking in the view for a few minutes I continued on my way towards the summit of Cornell which was only another mile or so down the ridge.
As I started down the trail I was surprised to see someone camped out right next to the summit in a small clearing. This is against DEC regulations for various reasons. Please don’t do this.
The trail to Cornell starts by dipping down into a small col between the two mountains before shortly working its way back upwards over more rocky terrain.
This section of trail was pretty straightforward but did offer some varied terrain along the way.
As I approached the final stretch of trail to the summit I reached the famous Cornell Crack. This rock feature is pretty unique for the area and also very fun. The picture below makes it look trivial but it is a bit bigger and more challenging than it looks. Luckily the rock is nice and grippy so it makes getting up the crack much easier. I chose to climb up the inside corner on the right side of the photo.
Once I got up the crack I made my way the last 400 feet or so to the summit. This part of the trail was just simple flat trail until you reach the summit. The summit is actually found on a small herd path that splits to your left near a large log. It can be really easy to miss but if you find yourself suddenly going down hill you know you probably went too far.
The summit itself is fully wooded and offers only the tiniest of obstructed views. I only lingered on the summit for a few minutes before making my way back down to the parking lot the way I came.
Although there wasn’t much of a view from the summit of Cornell, the views from Wittenberg more than made up for it. The hike back out was pretty uneventful and I made it back to my truck 3.5 hours after starting. I can honestly say that Wittenberg is a mountain I would climb again and again just for that view. This particular hike would also make for a great training ground thanks to the rough and steep terrain, too bad I am just a little too far away to hike it more regularly. All in all I had a great day out in the Catskills and I cant wait to get back soon to tackle the rest of the peaks on my list.