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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rips Ledge(Catskills)

Few people are aware of the private trails that are accessible from Winter Clove Inn located in the hamlet of Round Top, in the town of Cairo.  The Inn is found right at the foot of the Catskill escarpment and provides access to state land, which can be found less than a half mile into the hike.  Trails are open to the public but you must gain permission prior to venturing out.  I stopped by the front desk and had no issues at all and was on my way.  You must cross the open lawn, with a nice view back over your shoulder at the Inn.
 While walking across the field, look for a hidden sign among thick brush pointing towards the Inn's trails.  Continue past here, looking for a wagon road entering the woods.
 A small, pretty stream flowing down into Winter Clove.
 This can be a tricky area of the hike.  You must look for a stream crossing on a large, wooden foot bridge.  All of the trails are found on this side of the stream so you must cross.
A few moments later, a second bridge crossing.  This time over a mostly dried up creek bed.
Passing by an old stone wall.
The trail climbs steadily, but never steeply up a legendary old trail system, gaining almost 1000 feet in 2.6 miles.
Nearing Rips Ledge, I saw these enormous rock cliffs.  You will not be climbing these on this hike though.
 After one last push up through a rock ledge, the trail emerges into a large area of blueberry bushes and heads due south on level ground to Rips Ledge.  This is truly one of the most magical spots in the Catskills and the views are awe inspiring.  Elevation at Rips Ledge is 1866 feet.
 The east slopes of North Mountain directly across Rip Van Winkle Hollow.
 Looking back directly into Rip Van Winkle Hollow, where Rips Rock sits.(Legend says Rip Van Winkle slumbered for 20 years upon this rock ledge down in the hollow)
 The top of the hollow, draped in warm afternoon sunshine.
 Rips Ledge looking east.
 There is plenty of area to explore with open rock ledges stretching around the north and east.  There are endless views from here, stretching as far as the eye can see.
 A zoom view towards the Hudson River, with the Taconics in the far distance.
 One last look southeast into the Hudson Valley, with a pair of raptors circling above.
 Retraced my steps back towards Winter Clove Inn for a total of 5.2 miles RT.
On the ride home, I pulled off the side of County Route 31 to soak in this incredible view of the escarpment.

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