Guide to the Catskills
The peaceful, scenic surroundings of the Catskill Mountains are the perfect antidote to the city's noise and energy. Get away to the Catskills for winter snow sports, for summer adventure, or for taking in the vibrant colors of changing seasons. The Catskills are a relaxing vacation any time of year.
Located just 100 miles northwest of New York City, the Catskills are a perfect weekend getaway for couples and families. A far cry from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the Catskills boast lush forests, rivers, creeks, waterfalls, mountains and wildlife. The region is large, occupying much of Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties. With so much to see, people return year after year.
How to Get There
Fly into Greater Binghamton Airport, Albany International Airport or Stewart International Airport. To go by train, take Amtrak along the Hudson River to the Hudson Station, or take Metro-North to Poughkeepsie and rent a car from there.
When to Go
Different seasons offer a dfferent experience of the Catskills. While it might rain a lot in the spring season, it’s an ideal time to see wildflowers and wildlife. Summer is high-tourist season with ideal weather for being outdoors and dozens of festivals to enjoy. Autumn offers vibrant fall colors, and winter is perfect for snow sports enthusiasts.
Parks and Trails
A must-see for first-time travelers to the region is Bear Mountain State Park. The park not only features stunning views of the surrounding landscape but there are picnic areas, trails, biking paths and even an outdoor rink for part of the year. Their famous Merry-Go-Round is especially popular among children. Each of the 42 seats is hand-carved into native animals of the Hudson Valley like wild turkey, deer, raccoon, swan and bobcat among others.
The 26-mile Catskill Scenic Trail (CST) or “Rails to Trails” is ideal for hiking, horseback riding and biking. In winter, the trail is set up for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Kaaterskill Falls are the highest waterfalls in the entire state and a scenic reward for the journey. The trail is about 1.2 miles long and takes between one and two hours to complete. From here, Bastion Falls are also visible.
Ski the Catskills during the winter season. Hunter Mountain has with 240 skiable areas and over 50 trails. Ski Plattekill Mountain Resort in Roxbury and Belleayre in the Catskill Forest Preserve are other great options. Windham Mountain is easy to reach via the highway and has 46 trails of different levels. Holiday Mountain is one of the more family-friendly ski parks, offering downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing.
Summer activities range from leisurely to extreme. Winter revolves around snow but summer caters more to water sports like tubing, white-water rafting and fishing. Serious fly-fishers often head straight to the Roscoe Junction Pool, which is where the Willowemoc River and the Beaverkill Creek meet. The formation causes strange currants and therefore, the migrating trout linger for a few days while deciding which current to follow. Alternatively, grab a tube and float along the Upper Delaware River.
Bridle Hill Farm, LLC in Sullivan County teaches horseback riding lessons for children and adults. The farm has an indoor and outdoor arena and is open year round.
Armstrong’s Elk Farm offers visitors an educational look at elk farming while the Bailiwick Ranch & Discovery Zoo takes a more traditional approach. Finally, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary houses horses and other farm animals that were rescued from neglect. The CAS hosts various activities that appeal to adults and children like a vegan cooking class and summer day camp for kids.
Wineries and Vineyards
The Catskills has a reputation for producing top-tier wines and there are plenty of wineries and vineyards open to the public. Stop by the Windham Vineyard and Winery to sample fine wines like Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot while overlooking mountains from the estate’s outdoor vineyard deck bar. Similarly, Tousey Winery offers tastings Fridays-Sundays and upon request.
Where to Eat
The culinary scene in the Catskills is as varied as the landscape. A good number of graduates from the nearby Culinary Institute of America remain in the area working in established restaurants or opening restaurants of their own. There’s definitely a farm-to-table trend here, especially in the more touristy towns like Hunter, Windham and Woodstock. Head to Blue Mountain Bistro for a Mediterranean meal served tapas style. For a taste of Germany in the heart of the Hudson Valley, Chalet Fondue Restaurant is tough to top. American Bounty Restaurant is a safe bet for farm-to-table fare and Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Café serves comfort food.
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Where to Sleep
The Catskills is a unique destination and deserves equally unique accommodation. Instead of booking a standard hotel, take advantage of the many home rentals in the area for a more local experience. Many travelers look for homes in Woodstock, Roxbury or Windham and Fleischmanns is popular as well. From luxurious ski condos near the Hunter Mountain slopes to spacious villas with mountain views, accommodations range in size and scope and cater to every budget.
Whether you have an entire week to enjoy the Catskills or only a weekend, there are endless ways to pass the time. For two-day trips, it’s best to stick to either the north or south ends of the Catskills. Woodstock is a good starting point, as there are a slew shops, restaurants and bars clustered together. From here, Kaaterskill Falls is fairly close and there are also options for other adventures like hiking, kayaking, tubing, fishing or canoeing. For longer trips, start with the southern area and move along to the north or vice versa.