OverviewIn the very popular Slide Mountain wilderness area of the Catskills, on the Burroughs Range Trail is Cornell Mountain. It is a destination for many hikers because it's elevation ranks it #8 on the list of the Catskill-3500 peaks. If you're going for the views though, then you might be disappointed. Cornell is between Wittenberg and Slide, and both these mountains have superior views compared to Cornell. That being said, there is an outstanding view of Slide past the summit of Cornell that you won't find on Wittenberg.
The Burroughs Range Trail, also called the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail is one of the Catskills' best hikes. I'm going to recommend that you do the "hat trick", and go to all 3 of the mountains. You can do Slide independently, and then do the combo of Wittenberg and Cornell, or you can do the entire trail (9.75 miles). Some people are concerned because it is a lengthy trail with some tough scrambles, but it absolutely can be done in a single day. Many folks park a car at each end of the trail, while others tough it out and do a loop hike (14 miles). Still others may want to camp somewhere along the trail, and there are numerous places for that.
I would say the usual approach to Cornell would be from the Woodland Valley Campground terminus of the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail. On the way to Cornell you go over Wittenberg, which has terrific views of the Ashokan Reservoir, a water supply source for NYC. After Wittenberg, which has some scrambles of it's own to get to, you have some pitches that may be considered difficult if you are a short person, or have a heavy backpack. The seasoned hiker will like these, as they provide a nice challenge along the way.
It really is a pleasant hike through some interesting Catskill wilderness. I found there was an abundant showing of colorful mushrooms on the way to Cornell from Wittenberg that you won't see on the way to Wittenberg. The actual summit of Cornell (4.7 miles from the start in Woodland Valley) is on a very short side path off the trail, and is called Cloud's Cliff. You can see through the trees towards the reservoir, but it is nothing compared to Wittenberg. However once you go past the summit side path in a very short ways you come to a great view. You really get to see Slide just dominating your attention. Also if you look to your right you see some fine views towards Giant Ledge and Panther.
Some people turn around at this point, but I would say go on to Slide if you're up for a real challenge. In theory it is possible to approach Cornell from Slide, and there is no parking fee at the trail terminus on the other side. You would go for a little while on the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail until it's junction with the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail. However you would in essence have to climb Slide, the Catskills' highest peak, twice if you're going to do that. So if you don't want to do all 3 peaks on the Burroughs Range Trail, then the correct approach to Cornell would be from Woodland Valley.
Getting ThereTake I-87 to exit 19. Follow NY 28 west to Phoenicia. After the junction of Old NY 28 and NY 28 turn left onto Woodland Valley Road. Follow it some 5 miles to a large parking area on the right, slightly before the campground. The Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail begins acorss the road between campsites 45 and 46.
The alternative way from the west would be to follow NY 28 west past Phoenicia and turn left onto CR 47, also know as Slide Mountain rd, and follow that some 7 miles to the Giant Ledge parking area past the hairpin turn. You would then take the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail to the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail.
Red TapeThere is a $4 day use fee for the Woodland Valley trailhead parking area during the months when the campground is operating.
CampingOf course there is camping at the Woodland Valley Campground for a fee.
There are 6 camping areas between Cornell and Slide. There is no camping above 3500 ft from March 21st to Decenmber 21st.
External LinksAs mentioned by SP member Rasgoat on his contributions to the Catskills on SP, I also recommend Catskill Mountain Guide.
The Catskill-3500 Club is a good source if you're interested in the Catskills.
I found this site interesting: Catskill Hiker
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