Mount Tremper, previously called Timothy Berg, is between Ashokan High Point and Overlook Mountain. This 2,740-foot summit is located near Phoenicia, New York, in the hamlet of Shandaken, and is primarily recognized for its industrious and commercial history in the 19th century before being purchased by New York State in the 20th century.
The trailhead is along Old Route 28 on the northeast bank of the Esopus Creek, an important trout fishery. Begin on the red trail, cross over two wooden bridges, and ascend a rock staircase over 0.4 miles before meeting the intersection of an old truck road and the trail’s sign-in station. Turn right and begin to ascend the southwestern slope.
The trail will steepen to 15 and 20 degrees and switch back and forth across the mountain’s face. These wide roads were originally built by timber companies in the late 1800s and later used to access several bluestone quarries. The hemlocks that originally dominated the mountain were logged for ship masts and tanbark, or tannin (used in leather production and ink manufacture).
The first of two shelters, called Baldwin Memorial Lean-To, is located almost 2 miles up the trail, and a fresh spring is located a few hundred feet further. One more mile will bring you to the Tremper Mountain Lean-To and the 47-foot fire tower. Many mountains can be seen from the top including Plattekill, Indian Head, both summits of Twin, Plateau Mountain, Wittenberg, and Slide. The tower, built in 1917, was constructed to replace the fire tower on Slide Mountain (the highest peak in the Catskills), and the location was chosen because of its views of the lowlands that could not easily be seen from the Hunter and Belleayre fire towers. Although it was abandoned in 1971, it was restored and reopened to the public in 2001 and added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is one of five remaining fire towers in the Catskill region. (The four others are Hunter, Overlook, Red Hill, and Balsam Lake.)
The Dutch originally named this mountain Oleberg, which means “oil mountain.” This could refer to the plentiful white walnut trees (the walnuts were pressed for oil) that once covered the land, or the oily sheen found within the local rock throughout the Catskills. In 1897, Hotelier Major Jacob H. Tremper Jr. built the Tremper House Hotel near the adjacent railroad bed as a fashionable destination for remote retreats, and he is responsible for renaming the mountain.
All visitors should be mindful of this mountain’s higher-than-normal population of rattlesnakes. Years of mining activity have resulted in attractive habitats for these cautious yet poisonous creatures. Respect the local environment and carry an appropriate first aid kit.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.