Hiking the New York's Catskills (found in the southeast corner of the state) is magical experience that will stay with you whether you're after a day trip or a few nights in the backcountry. The rolling green mountains of the region are packed with miles of hiking trails that span both public and private lands in the greater Catskill Park. A lot of these trails will take you past impressive waterfalls or hidden fly fishing spots, and in the winter the region is filled with cross-country and downhill skiers. After you hit the hiking trails, be sure to stick around for a great farm-to-table meal or a craft beer at one of the local breweries.
Here are eight of the best hikes to get you started exploring the Catskill Mountains:
This year-round trail will take hikers up some 1,900 feet on a 6-mile out-and-back that ends with panoramic views of the range beyond. The mountain is mostly known for the part it played in several 19th century industrial ventures, and many of the structures that have been erected over the years still stand. Hikers using this trail should be mindful of its higher than normal rattlesnake population, and bring a first aid kit along just in case.
This easy 1.6-mile hike is a great choice for getting out without putting in a ton of miles. The gradual ascent on this loop trail allows for great views of Schoharie Valley below once at the summit. Named in the early 18th century for having the appearance of a nose, some stone boundaries near the trail still remain from the days of the Revolutionary War.
Kaaterskill Falls is one of the country's oldest tourist attractions, and the 1.3-mile hiking trail to get there is one of the busiest. Coming in at 260 feet, Kaaterskill is the tallest two-stage waterfall in New York, and the steep ascent to get there is made of 620 stone stairs that will challenge even the experienced hiker. Be careful when climbing this trail as the rocky steps are very slippery when wet.
This popular hiking trail in Woodstock offers a five mile out and back with 360-degree views at the summit. The 3,000-foot peak was once identified by Native Americans as a home to great spirits, and the Tibetan Monastery and the infamous Magic Meadow of Woodstock Rainbow Tribe (both near the trailhead) lend themselves well to this idea. Once out of the tree cover, follow power lines to top where you'll find a historic fire tower and cabin.
Graham Mountain is the seventh highest peak in the Catskills, and this 8-mile out-and-back trail will take hikers through a hardwood forest up to the ruins of a relay station built for Instructional Television in the 1960s. Although a popular trek for those seeking membership to the Catskill Mountain 3500 Club, parts of the trail remain unmarked and on private property. Be sure to contact the Furlow Lodge caretaker, Bill Scholl, at 845.586.4056 to gain proper permissions before heading out.
North Point is a great choice for a short hike excellent views of the surrounding country. The 3.5-mile hike has some steep and rough sections, but this trail is largely a tame endeavor that is well signed and shaded in the summer. From North Point you'll be able to enjoy a break as you peer down onto North-South Lake and the Hudson Valley. Return the way you came, or continue on the trail to North Mountain.
This one is a little more of a workout, but if you're up for the challenge, the views are a great reward. It is a steep approach to Hunter Mountain, coming it at 2,200 feet of elevation gain in the short hike to the top, but you'll also only be hiking 5.5 miles round trip. The Hunter Mountain Fire Tower sits at just over 4,000 feet, so your views will be totally unobstructed in clear weather. You'll even have nearby overnight options if you care to extend the trip to other objectives, such as the Colonel's Chairlift.
If the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower sounds a little daunting, the Balsam Lake Fire Tower may be a wise alternative. At 6 miles, the Dry Brook Ridge Trail is a slightly longer walk, but the 1,100 feet of elevation gain is only half what you'll face to surmount Hunter. And the views from the fire tower are equally majestic!