- The southwestern corner of the Catskill Forest Preserve has 14,800 acres of land titled the Willowemoc Wild Forest. The area lies primarily in northern Sullivan County with small appendages in the towns of Denning and Hardengburg in Ulster County. The Wild Forest surrounds the Mongaup Pond Campground and abuts the Big Indian Wilderness. An extensive trail system leads to several ponds offering recreation opportunities for campers, hikers, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, equestrians and winter sports enthusiasts. One of many favorite winter sports is dog sledding.
The terrain is generally quite hilly, however, does not include a named mountain summit. Elevations do not vary more than 1,000 feet.
The wilderness area has 40 miles of trails originating from old logging roads. All trails are open to foot traffic and suitable for a variety of recreational pursuits. Approximately 15 miles are restricted to foot travel including the Mongaup-Hardenburg Trail to the Big Indian Wilderness. Several more popular hikes include the Frick Pond Loop with is accessed from the Frick Pond Trailhead. Follow the red-blazes northwest .5 mile to Frick Pond. A loop around the pond can be made by following the yellow blazes for a 2.1 mile round-trip. The Hodge Pond Loop also begins from the Frick Pond Trailhead. Follow the blue blazes of Flynn Trail north to Beech Mountain Nature Preserve, a private in-holding with a NYS easement for public foot travel. The trail bypasses the southern shore of Hodge Pond, about 2.4 miles from the parking area. It then returns to the state parcel. Continuing westward, the Flynn Trail ends at Junkyard Junction (3.2 miles). From here, you can return to the trailhead parking lot via the red blazes of Quick Lake Trail, bypassing Frick Pond. This circuit is 6.3 miles. The Quick Lake Trail follows red blazes from the Frick Pond Trailhead past Frick Pond. Travel up and over along a ridge before descending to Quick Lake. The trail distance from the parking lot to Frick Pond is .5 miles. From Junkyard Junction, 3.1 miles and from Quick Lake, 7.2 miles. Long Pond Trail follows the orange DEC snowmobile blazes from the trailhead on Flugertown Road northeast for 1 mile to Long Pond.
Cross-country skiing is permitted on all trails. The footpaths from Frick Pond are very suitable. Different trail combinations offer skiers loops of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, ranging from the easy Frick Pond Loop (2.1 miles) to the challenging Hodge Pond Loop (6.3 miles). A 14-mile all day trip is the Quick Lake Quest.
Snowmobiling within Willowemoc Wild Forest is a very popular winter recreation. With over 29 miles of marked trails, the area hosts the most expansive system in the Catskills. The system was developed jointly by DEC and the Sullivan County Trails Association. On state lands within the Forest Preserve, snowmobiles are permitted on trails marked by DEC as Snowmobile Trail, when snow or ice covered. Also, on public frozen lakes or ponds marked as snowmobile routes. Otherwise, snowmobiles are prohibited on state lands within the Catskills. They are not permitted on hiking paths, woods roads or other trails traversing state land unless marked with round orange trail markers.
Mountain bikers will not find designated routes but will find many of the area's trails suitable for biking. Snowmobile routes are most appropriate.
Horseback riding is permitted throughout the Willowemoc Wild Forest except on designated footpaths, in Mongaup Pond Campground or on snow-covered snowmobile or cross-country trails. Horseback riding is most easily accessed from Black Bear or Long Pond Trailheads. Parking at either location best accommodates horse trailers.
Primitive camping is allowed at yellow-blazed sites throughout the Wild Forest lands at least 150 feet from any road, trail or water source. A camping permit is required for groups of ten or more people. A permit is also required to camp at the same site for more than 3 consecutive nights.
Campers need to take bear precautions and hang all food, garbage and toilet articles a minimum of 15 feet above the ground and an additional 10 feet from any adjacent tree trunk or overhead limbs and a distance of 150 feet from camp. Other precautions are outlined in DEC publications.
Hunting, fishing and trapping are traditional uses which are encouraged within the Forest Preserve. Willowemoc Wild Forest supports black bear and white-tailed deer which are hunted in the fall. Wild turkey is hunted during both spring and fall seasons. Smaller game including beaver, fisher, bobcat and coyote are regulated as well. Hunting is prohibited in Mongaup Pond Campground, the Fish Hatchery and the DeBruce Environmental Education Camp and other posted areas. Many perennial streams provide excellent trout fishing, especially the Willowemoc, where brown and brook trout abound. Long Pond (15 acres), Frick Pond (6 acres) and Quick Lake (4 acres) contain a variety of panfish, chain pickerel and seasonal brook trout. A NYS easement permits fishing on Hodge Pond which supports pan fish and pickerel. Waneta Lake encompasses 30 acres and supports a variety of pan fish including yellow perch and bullheads. Chain pickerel, largemouth and smallmouth bass are routinely harvested. The largest still body of water is Mongaup Pond which totals over 120 acres containing much of the same variety of fish as the smaller ponds. A handicapped accessible fishing dock is enjoyed by the disabled. Gasoline motors are prohibited. A cartop boat launch is offered for canoeists and small boaters. Electric motors are allowed on boats with current registration.
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