Camping on Panther Mtn. with kids

Discussion about cooking, camping, motels/hotels, and general living in the Catskill Mountains.

Camping on Panther Mtn. with kids

New postby hikerdad » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:57 pm

Dear Folks,
I'm thinking about taking my wife and two young kids for a night out on Panther Mountain, this hike
I don't know the area, and have a few questions.
1. Do I need a backcountry permit?
2. Is the spring listed on the site active and potable?
3. Any better suggestions for an easy hike with great views and relative backcountry within 2 hours of NYC for a dad towing some young ones (7 and 5) and a skittish wife?
Thanks for any comments.
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:36 pm

Re: Camping on Panther Mtn. with kids

New postby kennykb » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:25 pm

You need a backcountry permit in the Catskills only if you're going to camp more than three nights at the same site, or have a group of more than eight. Any place is legal to camp as long as either it's posted, or else it's at least 150 feet from a trail, road, stream or other water source.

The spring below Giant Ledge is pretty reliable. I haven't been up there this summer to check, but last summer when the springs were all running dry, it was still flowing a trickle. The water was pretty gross but was OK after filtration. I'd imagine that after the wet summer we've had, it'll be running just fine.

Backcountry in the Catskills might be a bit much for little kids - how much real hiking have they done? Giant Ledge is a great hike for older kids, but I'd worry about the 5-year-old. How much mountain hiking has the kid done? It's not very many miles, but a lot of little ones can't handle the rocks.

With little kids and a skittish wife, maybe do something like Echo Lake instead? There's a lean-to there, and a privy, and multiple primitive campsites. It's a nice hike in, either up through the Platte Clove preserve or up over Overlook Mountain from Meads. Either way, you're on old carriage roads most of the way. The trip up from Platte Clove has Plattekill Falls, and the old quarry at Codfish Point, with stone sculptures and some nice views. The one over Overlook has the ruins of the Overlook House (and the owner's mansion), and a terrific view from the Overlook Mountain fire tower. That's where I took my daughter for her first backpacking trip. (I got my wife to shuttle, so that I could spot a car in Platte Clove and just hike through from Meads.) The lake feels pretty isolated, being above the Escarpment. The only manmade light you'll see is the TV tower on Overlook, and maybe a few planes far overhead.

And if your kids haven't been out much before, even staying at a lean-to feels like an adventure. Hike in the mile to Elm Ridge lean-to, base camp there, and hike up to the overlooks on Windham High Peak, maybe? There are some breathaking views from there, and the kids will balance on bog bridges, see a garter snake or six, and be able to watch an eagle in flight. It's only about 1400 feet of elevation gain, and the ascent is gradual all the way. I was up there a couple of weeks ago, and the spring was running strongly. The bees should have settled down by now.

I know it isn't exactly the "backcountry" experience, but if your wife decides that she insists on "frontcountry", you'll get gorgeous views staying at the North-South Lake campground and hiking in either direction on the Escarpment Trail, assuming that you can trust the kids around cliff edges. Heading north, the trail doesn't get really narrow until one little spot at Newman's Ledge, and doesn't get scrambly until you're above Badman Cave. Heading south, it's pretty sedate.

Or (cheating again!) have the kids ride the chairlift up Hunter to Colonel's Chair, and hike to the fire tower from there. That cuts a couple of miles and about a thousand feet off the ascent, and it's on the jeep trail that once served the fire tower and is now a bridle path. John Robb lean-to, which also has a tent site or two and a reliable spring, is on the way.
I'm not lost. I know exactly where I am. I'm right here.
User avatar
Posts: 241
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:19 pm
Location: Niskayuna, NY

Re: Camping on Panther Mtn. with kids

New postby mtnclimber » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:32 pm

Giant Ledge is fairly big. A 300' drop. I would be concerned with young kids around it. But, you know your kids better then I do. The campground is right by the ledge.

Both Overlook Mtn & Echo Lake has rattlesnakes, so be aware.

I like the Hunter Mtn Loop. Two lean-tos on the loop. The John Robb is the best in the Catskills. Beautiful views! Easy walk. Lots of potable water. Jeep trail up half the route. Note: The John Robb lean-to isn't on the map. But, it is right near the water source. This would be my choice. Lots of fun for the kids. Great views. Fairly safe hike. And, a fire tower for the kids to climb.

The Windham High Peak / Burnt Knob loop is also good. But, you will need two cars.
Posts: 500
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:46 pm

Re: Camping on Panther Mtn. with kids

New postby mike » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:59 pm

Kevin did a real nice writeup.

I like the idea of the Hunter Mtn Loop. Great Lean-to (John Robb), and nice hike. Great views from the top.

I would be concerned with young kids near Giant Ledge.
User avatar
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:20 pm
Location: Ravena, NY

Return to Cooking, Camping, Lodging, and Living

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest