Colonel’s Chair refers to the 1.1-mile yellow-blazed path that connects the chair lift at the top of Hunter Mountain Ski Center to the Sprucetown Trail. This continues one more mile to the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. The elevation at the top of the chairlift is approximately 3,180 feet, and it’s almost a 900-foot climb to the summit from here. At 4,039 feet, Hunter Mountain is the second tallest peak in the Catskill region, second only to Slide Mountain (4,190 feet).
There are several ways to access Colonel’s Chair. Some hikers from Becker Hollow or the Diamond Notch Trails choose to extend their trip here after reaching the tower. Others may make a divergence from the Sprucetown Road on their route to the tower. In the winter, many enjoy riding up the ski center’s chairlift to begin their cross-country ski or snowshoe trek through this part of the Rusk Mountain Wild Forest.
Near the chairlift there is a sculpture of Rip Van Winkle that pays homage to Washington Irving’s short story of a man who disappeared from a nearby village for 20 years during the American Revolution. From here it’s an approximately 500-foot climb over a rocky and rooted path to the Sprucetown Road. This route features a variety of trail markers including large white signs, numbered wooden posts, and large yellow circles with black arrows. Upon reaching the intersection, go left and follow this wide dirt path for another mile as you climb another 400 feet to the summit. You’ll come to a clearing with a ranger station, which is staffed on the weekends, and the 60-foot fire tower. The tower boasts incredible 360-degree views to the surrounding Catskill Mountains.
Hunter Mountain was originally known as Greenland Mountain until it was changed in the mid-1800s to honor local landlord John Hunter. At this time, Colonel William Edwards was extremely successful at harvesting the hemlock bark for tannin, which is why the chairlift still honors his name. Between 1903 and 1917, Hunter Peak and Southwest Hunter Peak were thoroughly logged by the Fenwick Lumber Company, virtually eliminating all the virgin forest. Remnants of these extensive operations can still be found in the nearby woods. Former railroad beds and trucking roads remain as mountain trails.
The current tower was built in 1953. It is the third tower since the original 1909 wooden version, which was located a quarter-mile to the south on the blue-blazed trail. The tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places, renovated, and reopened to the public in 2000. The top cabin remains padlocked and reserved for rangers.
There are two lean-to shelters within a few miles of the tower. Campers staying more than three nights and groups of ten or more are required to have a special permit from the DEC. Refer to the DEC’s website to view camping rules and regulations. The Catskill Regional Tourism Office and Greene County Tourism websites can provide more information about attractions and recreational opportunities in the area.