This Popular But Dangerous New York Hike Has Definitely Earned Its Bone-Chilling Name

America's national parks aren't the only places with hikes only for experienced hikers. In the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, the 24-mile-long Devil's Path trail is notorious for being a tough, challenging hike. Some even call it the hardest hike on the East Coast. It reportedly got its name from early settlers who deemed the area to be so wild and dangerous that it could only be inhabited by the devil.


It certainly covers some harsh terrain. The trail has 9,000 feet of total ascent, and it takes you up and over five mountains. Even if you're in good physical shape, you also need to have mental and emotional fortitude for a trail like this. Along with the gnarly elevation change along the Devil's Path trail, there are exposed sections, and you won't just be using your feet. You can expect to use your hands to pull on roots and help keep you steady as you traverse massive cliffs and scramble along rocks.

You'll need confidence in your hiking (and scrambling) skills

You need to be particularly sure-footed on the Devil's Path, and in winter, you'll need to wear spikes to traverse the ice. "Take your time," Stanley Rusin, member of Catskill Mountain Search and Rescue, told Times-Union. "Not one part of Devil's Path doesn't have slippery rocks." You'll have to stay focused pretty much the entire time since a misstep could easily lead to an accident, and you might be hours away from help.


And while it's called a trail, sometimes it might not feel like any type of trail you've been on before. Michelle Merlis, an expert trail runner who set the women's unsupported speed record on the Devil's Path, explained that at times, it felt, "like someone marched a straight line through the woods pinning trail markers to trees with complete disregard for what lay underfoot," per Times-Union.

The lack of water is another potential hazard. Depending on the season, there may have been enough recent rainfall that you can get water from mountain streams on the trail, but in summer, you shouldn't assume this will be an option. Dehydration can be dangerous when you're on such a remote trail, and it can lead to more serious conditions like heat stroke.


Despite its hazards, hikers take on the Devil's Path

Even with all of its possible pitfalls, for hardcore hikers and backpackers, this is one of those trails that's on their bucket lists precisely because of how demanding it is. Plus, it checks off five of the 33 peaks in the Catskills that are 3,500 feet or taller; if you bag all of those, you've got some serious trail cred.


It's often hiked from east to west and gets progressively harder as you go. You can do the whole thing as a day hike if you really know what you're doing and are willing to push yourself to an absolute limit, but the full hike is more frequently made into a backpacking trip with a night or two of camping on the way. It means that you have to carry more gear, including hiking clothing of a very specific color, but it means you get a chance to rest. Even so, the hike is likely to leave you mentally and physically exhausted as well as a feeling of accomplishment and some hard-earned memories of stunning mountain views.