Catamount is a smaller prominence in the northern High Peaks Region, but is considered by many to be one of the classic shorter hikes in the Adirondack Park. It is often overlooked because of it's smaller stature, which is a huge mistake. This mostly bare mountain offers one of the few sustained "alpine type" hikes in New York. The last 0.8 miles is mostly steep over bare rock with many scrambles and three point hiking challenges. Because of it's relative isolation, the scenery from the summit is first rate and includes one of the best views of Ester and Whiteface Mountains.
This "little" mountain offers a interesting change of pace for those who like to hike the Adirondacks and other NE hills. Enough cannot be said about this hike, it is that much fun. It is perfect for those pressed for time, looking to kill a few hours, or to sandwich between other hikes in the area.
Despite the short nature of this hike, It should be considered a Class 3 Hike (Yosemite System)
From the town of Wilmington, NY (12 miles NE of Lake Placid), take the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway (Route 431). 100 yards from the toll gate there is a fork at which you stay to the right and continue to a junction 6.9 miles from Wilmington. Turn Right and continue to the Plank Road intersection at 7.0 miles.
Take a right and continue for 2.1 miles to the bottom of a long gradual downhill slope, slow down and look for some RED (or possibly yellow) surveyors tape on the left hand side of the road. THIS MARKS THE TRAILHEAD. Whenever the weather is reasonably good, there are usually cars owned by other hikers parked here.
It sounds more complicated then it really is. This area is pretty flat and you are clearly able to see the mountain on your approach. See below photo for how it will look from the approach road.
This is a 3-4 hour day hike, but people often choose to camp out here due to the nice quiet, less traveled aspect of the area. The same regulations apply as in the rest of the High Peaks region. These are;
* Except where marked by a "Camp Here" disk, camping is prohibited within 150 feet of roads, trails, lakes, ponds, streams or other bodies of water.
* Groups of ten or more persons or stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger responsible for the area.
* Also within 150 ft of water, do not use soap, or wash yourself, clothing, or dishes.
* Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets, or filtered through a filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.
* Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces, if provided. Use only dead and down wood for fires. Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch. Do not build fires in areas marked by a "No Fires" disk. Camp stoves are safer, more efficient and cleaner.
* Carry out what you carry in. Practice "leave no trace" camping and hiking.
* Keep your pet under control. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Collect and bury droppings away from water, trails and camp sites. Keep your pet away from drinking water sources.
* Observe and enjoy wildlife and plants but leave them undisturbed.
* Removing plants, rocks, fossils or artifacts from state land without a permit is illegal.
* The storage of personal property on state land is prohibited.
Can be climbed at any time of the year. Because of the exposed "alpine nature" of this mountain, extra care should be used in times of poor weather. Because much of the upper mountain involves rock scrambling and climbing steep pitches over bare rock, winter hiking should be considered only by those with appropriate winter climbing skills and equipment, including, in extreme conditions, ice axes and crampons.
By far the most popular time to climb is summer, when this mountain can be enjoyed by all members of the family. Just make sure no one is averse to steep pitches over bare rock. Many kids, of all ages, will love this mountain for this very reason.
Camping is permitted anywhere along the trail beyond the first 0.5 miles, provided the above stated regulations are followed. Camping in the first 0.5 miles is not permitted, as it is private property. The half-mile point is marked by a yellow metal pole.
Most people choose this as a shortish day hike and do not camp along the route. No lean-tos or other formal sites exist here.
The weather conditions found in the Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid area will usually also exist here. Of course, the Adirondacks, as a whole, do regularly see EXTREME conditions during the winter season.
If you plan a trip during this time, prepare for and expect typical extreme winter mountain weather, including high winds, extreme wind chills and plenty of snow and ice.
Catamount is the eastern name for the American mountain lion, so it would seem that this peak, like several others, is named for that creature. Although they once regular lived here, and despite many undocumented sightings each year, mountain lions are officially considered to no longer reside in the area.
If you wanted to be creative, you could certainly make an argument that the mountain, when viewed from a distance, resembles scat from the elusive American panther that this mountain is named for.