‘Hardest Hiking Trail in the East’


It took 22 hours and 52 minutes, but this week the Gear Junkie crew completed a fast and light trek of the Devils Path, the often-cited “hardest hiking trail in the East.” The trail, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, gets this name because of its ceaselessly vertical nature — in 27 miles the path climbs and descends six major peaks, racking up a total of 14,000 cumulative vertical feet of gain/loss over its knee-crushing course.

Gear Junkie editor Stephen Regenold ducks through a constriction on the trail; photo by T.C. Worley

A crew of three — myself, GearJunkie contributing editor T.C. Worley, and Brian Leitten, a friend and video producer in New York — began our trek late on Monday night after a day of literal planes, trains and automobiles. We flew to JFK, hopped a subway to Manhattan, then switched to an Amtrak in Penn Station for a 1.5-hour ride north of the city. By 10p.m., we were at the western trailhead of the Devils Path, a biked locked up as our “shuttle” at the other end, and getting ready to hike off into the night.

We ticked off 7 miles the first night before bivying a couple hours in the woods. Next morning, we got up early and made the assault on the remaining six mountains and 22 miles of the trail. We finished the route after dark on Tuesday night, thighs a bit jello-like and knees sore. Then, it was time to hop on the bike to pedal back to get the car. . . .

Section of the trail along a creek; photo by T.C. Worley

Overall, an epic trip! We’ll have a full report soon on gear from the trail as well as a video. We were in New York to film the third episode in our “Fast & Light” video series. After climbing Kings Peak in Utah (episode 1) and getting lost traversing Minnesota’s Boundary Waters (episode 2), the Devils Path offered a unique physical challenge and a gorgeous setting in the Catskill Mountains accentuated this week by autumn leaves and woodsy peaks spiking, one after the next, into the sky.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.com. He covered the Devils Path on assignment for the New York Times. His story, “2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil,” ran in the Times in September, 2009.

T.C. Worley shooting (left) and Regenold on steep section of the trail; photos by Brian Leitten

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.