The Catskills of New York are a "dissected plateau", a highland worn into mountains and valleys by erosion. Largely rural and wild, the Catskills are a popular vacation destination for New Yorkers, but they also have much to offer the traveler from out of state. The Catskills are adjacent to the Poconos region of Pennsylvania.
- Delaware County - The least densely populated county in New York outside of the Adirondacks, Delaware County offers endless bucolic landscapes in the range's western foothills
- Greene County - The Catskills became "America's First Wilderness" here on the Escarpment, rising up dramatically from the Hudson Valley
- Orange County - The transition to the Catskills begins here, in the northwestern exurbs of the New York metropolitan area, where farms and woodlands nestle with small cities and commuter rail stations.
- Sullivan County - For many people, the home of Woodstock, the Beaverkill's fly-fishing and hundreds of bungalow colonies and summer camps is still synonymous with the Catskills.
- Ulster County - Thousands of acres of wilderness in the western half of the county are home to some of the range's highest peaks, their streams feeding New York City's oldest reservoir in the region.
- Kingston - New York's first state capital is right where the Catskills meet the Hudson, making it an ideal starting point for explorations of the region.
- Monticello - Centrally located in the Borscht Belt, the Sullivan County seat retains that small-town feel
- Windham - A ski town at the north end of the mountains with the New England charm of its namesakes in that region.
- Woodstock - The festival wasn't held anywhere near here, but this town nevertheless lives up to the hippie reputation evoked by its name.
The Catskills mean different things to different groups of people. To most residents of the Metro New York area to the south, they evoke summer camps, weekend homes and the vast reservoirs that supply clean, pure water to New York City. To historians of American popular culture they are home to the majority of the "Borscht Belt" resorts, where many legendary entertainers honed their skills before predominantly Jewish audiences, and where a later generation thronged to a dairy farm for "three days of peace, love and music" called the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. To art historians, they are the landscapes that captivated Thomas Cole, Frederick Church and the other painters of the Hudson River School, America's first homegrown art movement. To fly fishermen, they are the streams where the first dry flies were cast and tied in American waters, tested by Theodore Gordon and other legends of the sport. To hikers and naturalists, the 290,000 acres (1,150 km²) of "forever wild" land in the Catskill Park's Forest Preserve is an environmental treasure, the land where influential American nature writer John Burroughs grew up and which inspired him to write some of his most famous essays.
Yet for all these multiple meanings, no one is quite sure what "Catskill" originally referred to. Perhaps it was Henry Hudson's crew, seeing bobcats around the creek they stopped at, and then naming it "Catskill", which was extended to the distant mountains. Or the many Iroquois stockades along the riverbank, which the Dutch referred to as "kats". Or poet Jacob Kats, supposedly a shrewd land speculator. Or the Iroquois' lacrosse sticks, a small Dutch ship, or a Mohican chief who lived in the area. It's all the more surprising since the range was generally referred to as the Blue Mountains until the early 19th century, when Washington Irving's works popularized the long-scorned Dutch name.
Even with general agreement on the name, it's also hard to say where the Catskills begin and end, beyond the very abrupt boundary created by the Catskill Escarpment at the northeast corner of the range, where mountains suddenly rise to over 3,000 feet (900 m) above sea level from the valley floor. Communities far outside the Catskill Park's Blue Line, as far as the banks of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers, claim to be or are considered to be in the Catskills. Perhaps the only real indicator is what a longtime resident once told historian Alf Evers: that as long as "there are two rocks for every dirt" in the soil, you are in the Catskills.
The Catskills began 350 million years ago as a river delta, absorbing the runoff from the Taconic Mountains to the northeast, then the tallest on the planet, as water drained into a shallow inland sea. At some point during that time, a meteorite one half-mile (1 km) wide struck the river delta; the resulting impact crater eventually formed Panther Mountain in western Ulster County, one of the range's highest peaks, through a process known as "inverted relief." Eventually the Taconics eroded to what they are now, and the rivers and sea dried up. What had been their floors became the shales, sandstones and other sedimentary rock that makes up the bedrock of the range.
Continental drift and plate tectonics formed the Appalachian Mountains. Instead of breaking up into smaller mountains and hills, the Catskills rose up as a single landform, a process visible in the dramatic rise of the Catskill Escarpment from the Hudson Valley floor in Greene County. Over the next eons, streams draining uplifted rock carved out deep gaps. The Catskills are thus, in geological terms, a "maturely dissected plateau", rather than true mountains, although you would be forgiven if the distinction was lost when driving around them.
In the last million years, the various Ice Ages further shaped the mountains. The glaciers themselves were thick enough to cover all the mountains, save 4,180-foot (1,277 m) Slide, in the Ulster County town of Shandaken, the range's highest peak. The scouring under centuries of ice had some effects, the most significant of which may have been to remove any coal that might have settled there. But it was the lakes left behind as the glaciers melted which left us with the range as we know it today, the rushing meltwaters carving out the dramatic gaps like Stony Clove Notch and Kaaterskill Clove.
The first humans who came kept going. While the Iroquois who settled in Southern New York found routes through the mountains to the rest of their nation, and hunted there, they found the Hudson Valley a more amenable place to settle due to its more fertile soils and milder climate. It was there that they met Henry Hudson and the crew of the Halve Maen, journeying up the river that would be named for him in 1609.
Wars between the Dutch and the English kept most settlers for venturing into the mountains for the rest of the century. It was not until 1708, well after English rule had been established, that Lord Cornbury, the colonial governor, granted the Hardenbergh Patent, covering most of what is today considered the Catskills. Subdividing and selling the land, however, proved difficult. The Iroquois, as well as the few squatters in the region, disrupted the survey to the point of unreliability, and as the century wore on there were increasing questions about the validity of the deal, given the Cornbury's well-deserved reputation for corruption and the patentees' willingness to enrich themselves by selling shares despite all these issues. It took until the middle of the century for all the land to be subdivided and settlement to begin.
Nevertheless the Catskills came to the attention of the wider public, if only through scientific research. Swedish botanist Peter Kalm passed through the region on his journeys to Niagara Falls, noting some of the species he found. One was "balm of Gilead fir", today known as balsam fir and mostly found only on higher summits in the range. Philadelphia botanist John Bartram went to the North-South Lake area with his son to collect some seeds of the tree for correspondents in London. His 1753 account of the trip, "A Journey to Ye Cat Skill Mountains with Billy", was widely read both in the colonies and England.
Most early settlers were tenants, who held their lands under a quasi-feudal arrangement known as the "three-life lease", by which a father, son, and then grandson could theoretically take title to their land if the three generations were able to pay for it. In practice this rarely happened, and even after a pro-British tenant uprising against their independence-minded landlords was put down at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the many Anti-rent wars continued until a new state constitution abolished those leases in 1840.
With the region's politics finally settled, its economy began to shake out. It was built around two industries—tourism and tanbarking–that would shape it into the 20th century. The first began with the Catskill Mountain House hotel, near North-South Lake in the Greene County town of Hunter. Hotelier Charles Beach marketed the spectacular views over the valley from the Escarpment after taking over sole control in the 1820s, and by the Civil War presidents, artists and other visiting dignitaries and celebrities were visiting "America's First Wilderness", where other hotels, some on mountaintops, had been built as well.
Deeper in the mountains, barkpeelers went into the abdundant forests looking for the many large groves of Eastern hemlock. They sought not the wood itself, useful for some pieces of furniture but little else, but the reddish bark. When stripped from a sufficiently mature tree and boiled, it yielded quality tannin for the tanning process essential to making leather. The woods yielded enough bark that most of the leather holsters issued to Union Army officers during the Civil War were tanned in the Catskills. Other than bluestone used in making sidewalks, it was the only exploitable resource the mountains yielded.
In 1879 a guest at the Mountain House, Princeton geology professor Arnold Henri Guyot, took note of the many mountains to the west and southwest visible from the peaks near the hotel. It was already known that, contrary to Beach's publicity materials, nearby Kaaterskill High Peak, which had graced so many Hudson River School paintings, was not the range's highest peak. Guyot wondered what was, and in his spare time returned to the Catskills with a survey team. They became the first to record ascents of many of the range's highest summits, and in 1885 stunned the Escarpment hoteliers with the revelation that the highest peak in the range was, in fact, Slide Mountain, located 20 miles to the southwest in the Ulster County town of Shandaken.
The same year, politicians in that county had grown sick of dealing with an expensive problem resulting in part from tanbarking. Once they had stripped the good trees, the barkpeelers often left the land behind; while they reaped the profits, the land defaulted to the county, and by law they were responsible for property taxes owed to the state. The increasing costs incurred were beginning to strain the county's coffers, and when they could not get a reprieve their representatives in the state legislature found an even better solution. Earlier that year the legislature had designated certain state lands in the Adirondacks to be the state Forest Preserve, "forever kept as wild forest lands." They had the lands with the tax delinquencies transferred to the state as payment in full of the outstanding debts ... and nothing in the Catskills would be the same afterwards.
Slowly the quarrying and barkpeeling industries ebbed, done in by the development of cheaper synthetic materials and processes. The hotels around North-South Lake, too, went into decline as their founders died. In their place came those drawn to the newly protected land, especially after the legislature drew the "Blue Line" in 1902, creating the Catskill Park. John Burroughs, a native of Delaware County who became one of the era's leading nature writers, devoted some of his most memorable essays to his journeys into the Catskill wilderness, including one of the earliest accounts of an ascent of Slide.
Another writer was Theodore Gordon, who went to live in the mountains during the 1890s to fight off his tuberculosis infection. To pass the time, he began fishing, and made some money writing about his experiences for Field & Stream. The remote headwaters of streams like the Beaver Kill had been quietly known for years outside the region as brimming with trout, and farmers had been living off the fisheries for years. Gordon not only popularized them, he revolutionized American angling when he introduced the dry fly, developed in Britain to imitate a surface insect, as a lure. Later anglers refined techniques and developed new flies, and thousands follow in their footsteps annually, wading into the cool clear creeks and rivers looking to land a trout to remember.
The waters also interested New York City, which had begun to outgrow its Westchester-based supply network at the end of the 20th century. The city looked all the way to the Catskills, where the "forever wild" language, added to the 1894 state constitution as Article XIV, protected the watersheds of streams like the Esopus and Schoharie creeks. A protracted legal and political struggle over the lands to be condemned led to the 1915 opening of Ashokan Reservoir in central Ulster County, the first of what are now six serving the city.
The city was home to another group of people that would redefine the Catskills. Jewish immigrants in the city, at the time banned from most established resorts, began spending summers in boardinghouses at the farms of their co-religionists in the lower Catskills, where they could at least keep kosher. Those boardinghouses and bungalow colonies gradually grew into resorts of their own like Grossinger's and the Concord, the nucleus of the "Borscht Belt", where dozens of entertainers would hone their skills and launch careers that took them to far greater heights. That era passed when laws ended religious discrimination, although many ultra-Orthodox Hasidim still relocate to the region for the summer. Today the large resorts are closed, and most of the smaller buildings gone, but the memories have been captured in films like Dirty Dancing, Mr. Saturday Night and A Walk on the Moon.
As the Borscht Belt era was ending, in 1969, the event that would redefine the Catskills for the present generation took place. Late that summer, thousands of the era's hippies gathered on a dairy farm near the Sullivan County town of Bethel for "three days of peace, love and music" from some of the era's top acts such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. While the festival was actually declared a disaster area, launching scores of lawsuits, and many of the performances were subpar, the Woodstock festival gave the baby-boom generation a name and a spiritual touchstone for years afterwards, as many claimed to be there who had not been.
And it continues to frame the region today. It's most evident in the town of Woodstock, miles from the festival site, but throughout the modern Catskills you'll find a focus on the artsy and the spiritual, with retreats focusing on Eastern religion and New Age mysticism drawing outsiders to the region in the summer. Older communities hold on, too, even after the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011, damage which can still be seen in many places, particularly the Greene County village of Prattsville. And the hikers and fishermen continue to flock to the trails and streams, rich with the history of their sports, not only in the summer but most of the year.
New York City gets the bulk of its water from the Catskills for a very good reason: the region, in particularly the area around Slide Mountain, is the rainiest in the state. But that's not the only thing that stands out.
As an elevated mountainous plateau, the Catskill climate differs from its neighboring, lower regions. Summers are generally pleasant and cooler than elsewhere (why else would so many residents of the metropolitan area come to the mountains for long periods during that season?) although the experience of Irene has been a sobering reminder that the region is not some isolated mountain idyll beyond the reach of nature's fury.
After summer gives way to the shorter days and festive colors of fall and its leaf-peeping highlights, winter comes. And that's a different story. The first snows have been known to accumulate on higher summits in early November, before hunting season even starts. With much of the region at least 2,000 feet (600 m) above sea level, there is usually plenty of snow and, in a typical winter, at least a few nights with temperatures several degrees below 0°F (-17°C). The ski areas nevertheless maintain ample snowmaking facilities.
As February turns to March and saplines string trees to each other, gaps start to appear in the snow cover. While some white areas have lingered into early May in shaded areas of the summits, in the valleys it's all gone by the April 1 opening of trout season. From then to Memorial Day, spring gradually creeps up the slopes, just in time for another glorious Catskill summer.
- The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, (Alf Evers, 1982). Few regions can be said to have a single, authoritative history written about them as this magnum opus. Essentially the long (and, at 700+ pages, it is long) version of the history above, it covers everything important that's happened in the region from colonial times to the era of its writing. Evers, a folkorist by training who grew up on an Ulster County farm, pays special attention to the region's legends and the views of its ordinary people. The result is a multigenerational epic that rivals any science fiction or fantasy franchise.
- The Catskill Mountain House (Roland van Zandt, 1966). Somewhat overtaken by the scope of Evers' later work, this history of the region's signature resort was one of the earliest efforts to rediscover the rich history of the Catskills. Features some of the last pictures taken of the ruined building, by the author, before the state razed it in 1965.
- It Happened in the Catskills: An Oral History in the Words of Busboys, Bellhops, Guests, Proprietors, Comedians, Agents, and Other Who Lived It, (Myrna Katz and Harvey Frommer, 2009). There had been many books and memoirs written about summer in the Borscht Belt, but until this no real attempt to tell the whole story. Maybe it doesn't, but the many voices tell a grand enough story as it is.
- The films Dirty Dancing (1987), Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and A Walk on the Moon (1999), were for the most part filmed outside the region, but effectively depict various aspects of the Borscht Belt era.
- The overlooked 1996 comedy-drama Manny & Lo, starring Scarlett Johansson, is worth watching as a cinematic introduction to the region. Not only is it set in the wilder areas of Ulster and Greene counties, it was actually shot at recognizable locations such as Devil's Tombstone campground.
- The Gunks: Colloquial term for the Shawangunk Ridge (see below), in particular the popular climbing cliffs on the east near New Paltz.
- The mountaintop: Local term for the Tannersville–Haines Falls area in Greene County, not because it's on an actual mountaintop but rather from being one of the highest-elevation settlements in the state (Tannersville is New York's highest incorporated municipality; Haines Falls is its second-highest hamlet after the Southern Tier community of Knapp Creek).
- Quickway: Older term for Route 17, from original name at planning stage. Began dropping from use even before conversion to I-86.
- Shawangunk: The ridge, town and stream are pronounced as spelled by visitors but SHONG-gum by locals.
There are no major airports in the Catskills themselves. The two that best serve the region are located to the southeast and northeast.
- Stewart International Airport, 1180 First St, New Windsor, +1 845 564-2100, . Newburgh's airport is well-positioned close to the New York State Thruway and Interstate 84. It is an excellent place to arrive if your destination within the Catskills is on the south, such as Sullivan or Ulster County.
- Albany International Airport, 737 Albany-Shaker Rd, Albany, +1 518 242-2200 . The airport to fly into if you're heading for the northern Catskills, particularly Greene County.
- For private planes (including jets), the best option in the region is Sullivan County International Airport, , in Bethel, a short distance from the county seat at Monticello.
There is no passenger rail service directly to the Catskills. The Rhinecliff and Hudson stations on Amtrak's  Empire Service line along the Hudson River correspond to the river crossings closest to the Catskills, and bus connections can be made. Amtrak also serves Poughkeepsie, which has the most bus connections, although if you're coming to that station from within the New York area you must use Metro-North  to get there instead.
Adirondack Trailways  offers two routes across the region from its west-of-Hudson line. One follows Route 28 west to Pine Hill, Belleayre Mountain and beyond from Kingston. The other, from Saugerties, follows Routes 23A and 23 across Greene County, with stops in Tannersville, Hunter and Stamford. Both lines eventually reach Oneonta, where transfer is also available from Trailways' service along the Interstate 88 corridor.
The New York State Thruway (Interstate 87), a divided toll road, is the primary route to the Catskill region for visitors coming from the south and southeast (i.e., New York City and its suburbs). As signs along the highway inform you, Exits 16–21, roughly 45–113 miles (72–185 km) from the city, serve the Catskills. The toll for that distance ranges from $2.50-5.20, with discounts available for users of the EZPass electronic payment system. Which exit you'll want to take depends on where in the Catskills you're headed.
New York State Route 17, a freeway in the process of being converted to Interstate 86, begins its westward journey at Exit 16 in Harriman. In its early years it was called the Quickway, for the speedy trip it offered to the many resorts in Sullivan County and the fishing spots of the Beaver Kill and upper Delaware system. It is still the preferred route to those areas, and as a result it can be crowded on Fridays and Sundays during the summer months, especially around the exit due to the proximity of the neighboring Woodbury Commons outlet mall.
If your plans take you to the Catskills on one of these Fridays, consider leaving closer to the evening hours as many of those heading for the mountains are Orthodox Jews who leave the city early to arrive before sundown and keep the Sabbath; the roads may be a little clearer after dark. Traffic from the north and east should take Interstate 84, either directly from southern New England or by getting off at Exit 17 in Newburgh, then get on Route 17 westbound at Middletown. Route 17 is also the only expressway leading to the Catskills from their west; the highly scenic route from that direction begins from Interstate 81 just south of Binghamton and takes you along the Delaware's upper branches and then Beaver Kill, all usually being well-fished in season, on the way to Sullivan County.
The most convenient highway to the central Catskills, New York State Route 28, begins at Kingston. After getting off the Thruway at Exit 19, you'll bear right into the traffic circle and see the Catskill Park welcome sign before you cross the Thruway. Don't let the car dealerships and restaurants just beyond the overpass disappoint you. Ahead lies a 30-mile (50 km) drive up the Esopus Creek valley that just gets more and more picturesque as you go, taking you past New York City's Ashokan Reservoir to the hamlet of Phoenicia, the largest settlement in the corridor, nicely recovered from the floods that ravaged it after Irene. After you continue past Shandaken and Big Indian, the road climbs almost 2,000 feet (600 m) in a steady two-mile (3 km) stretch past Pine Hill to the divide between the Hudson and Delaware watersheds (also the Ulster–Delaware county line), and the entrance to Belleayre Ski Center. Beyond, it continues to Margaretville, Delhi and the city of Oneonta at Interstate 88 before heading north to Cooperstown and the Adirondacks.
From Exit 20 in Saugerties, follow New York State Route 32 a few miles north, then bear left on the short New York State Route 32A to Palenville, where it ends at New York State Route 23A. Immediately after heading west, you'll begin the scenic climb of Kaaterskill Clove. At the bottom is Kaaterskill Creek with its many waterfalls and cliffs, where it will be easy to find popular swimming holes on nice summer weekends. On either side are the tall cliffs of this break in the Catskill Escarpment. Near the top of the climb is the short hike to Kaaterskill Falls, popular despite the dangerous road walk along the highway required to reach the trailhead. Once you've leveled off, you're headed for Haines Falls, Tannersville and Hunter, with the spectacular Devil's Path range to the south.
Exit 21 is not only the last Catskills exit, it's the Catskill exit—literally. The Escarpment and the tall peaks of the Blackhead Range, the Catskills' third, fourth and fifth-highest mountains, loom off to the side of the Thruway. Here New York State Route 23 makes a slow climb up the north face of the Escarpment, past Five State Lookout (which lives up to its billing on clear enough days), to Windham, home to another popular ski area with that same name. To the west it continues along Schoharie Creek to flood-damaged Prattsville, then to the remote Delaware County communities of Grand Gorge and Stamford before meeting Route 28 outside Oneonta.
Some of the state routes through and within the region are also designated as bike routes. In addition, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is considering formally allowing mountain bikers to use some unpaved roads within the Forest Preserve areas, which would make some shortcuts possible.
- While Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT)  serves primarily the more populous eastern half of the county, it has lines to Ellenville and Belleayre.
- Greene County's Rip van Winkle Express Bus service  mainly connects outlying areas, including some in the mountains, with Catskill, the county seat. Service is limited.
The northern segment of New York State Route 42 goes through the dramatic Deep Notch between Halcott and Sherrill mountains, both major peaks of the range, shortly after leaving Route 28 at Big Indian. It then descends past West Kill, following the creek of that name to Schoharie Creek at Lexington, where it connects to Route 23A.
New York State Route 213 is a roundabout back road from Kingston to Ashokan Reservoir. If you've got more time than you need get between them along Route 28, consider following Route 213 down Rondout Creek, past the bed of the old Delaware and Hudson Canal, through the picturesque hamlets of Rosendale, High Falls and Stone Ridge. From there Route 213 plunges through dense woods to drop you off just in front of the reservoir's main spillway, now closed to cars but not pedestrians.
Probably the most-used Catskills interior route, New York State Route 214 follows Stony Clove Creek up from Route 28 at Phoenicia through Stony Clove Notch, the pass between Plateau and Hunter mountains pictured at the top of this page. North of there it connects to Route 23A between Hunter and Tannersville.
Just west of Hunter, New York State Route 296 climbs north from 23A, offering some beautiful views of Hunter and Rusk mountains in the rear view mirror. It continues to Route 23 at Hensonville.
As with most large mountainous regions, there have been efforts to link hiking trails into a long-distance network. So far, there have been two that allow long-distance multi-day hikes in the Catskills:
- The 558-mile (897 km) Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) begins its trip to that region at a trail junction in the Slide Mountain Wilderness Area, near the headwaters of the Neversink River. From there it heads west, following white blazes past the Balsam Lake Mountain firetower and Pepacton Reservoir, through Sullivan and Delaware counties.
- The FLT begins at a junction that is part of the Long Path, a 347-mile (560 km) trail from the George Washington Bridge to (currently) the Schenectady area. Most of the trail in the Catskills has been taken off the road; the one section where a road walk is still required passes close by the hamlet of Phoenicia. Highlights include Slide Mountain, much of the challenging Devil's Path range, and the North-South Lake area. Generally it follows existing trails on state land; when on roads or private property it follows the same aqua blazes as the rest of its route.
Although it is primarily a tourist heritage line, the Catskill Mountain Railroad, serves some short-range transportation needs along the Route 28 corridor, most notably for tubers on the stretch of Esopus Creek below Phoenicia. It has recovered from severe damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene; there have been plans to connect its Kingston segment with that one using the old Ulster and Delaware tracks although those have faced strong local opposition from proponents of a rail trail.
- North-South Lake, County Route 18, Haines Falls, NY 12436 (NE of Haines Falls along North Lake Road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 24. An excellent all-around introduction to the Catskills for either day or overnight. Fish, boat and swim in the lakes, or hike the extensive trail system to the ruins of the Catskill Mountain House and the views it made famous. $22 for camping permits; less for day use.
- Opus 40, 50 Fite Road, Saugerties NY 12477 (Off Glasco Turnpike between Mt. Marion and NY 212), ☎ . Thursdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays 11AM-5:30PM. A splendid sculpture garden listed on the National Register of Historic Places, carved out of an old quarry, with spectacular views complementing the art $10 adult, $7 students and seniors, $3 children 6-12, under 6 free, no dogs.
- Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, 1031 Old Route 17, Livingston Manor, NY (2 mi west on Old Route 17 from Exit 96 on NY 17), ☎ , fax: +1 845-439-3387, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM–4PM daily April–Oct.; same hours Tues-Sat. Nov.–March. Located on the banks of Willowemoc Creek, this is an excellent introduction to the region's historic trout streams for both the experienced angler and the novice who'd like to give it a try. Childrens environmental education classes $90 once a summer.
- Hiking. The Catskill Mountain 3500 Club, a group of hikers who have climbed all 35 peaks in the range above that elevation, whether trailed or trailless, as well as a select group of four in winter (and many have climbed all 35 in winter, as well), is the hiking club with the most specific focus on the Catskills. It schedules regular weekend hikes, most but not all on those 35 peaks. Other outdoors organizations that organize group hikes in the Catskills are the North Jersey-New York chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club and several chapters of the Adirondack Mountain Club. If you'd prefer to explore the mountains and trails on your own, the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference produces the standard maps of the region.
- There are several ski areas in the region. Hunter Mountain, on the range's second-highest peak in the eponymous Greene County community, is the best-known and most popular. It programs events year-round, and operates its chairlift in the summer for those who'd like to get a high-level view without the hike. Outside Pine Hill, in Ulster County, is state-owned Belleayre Mountain, where slopes are less challenging but prices are cheaper. Windham Mountain, formerly a private club near the north end of the range, comes in third. Delaware County's sole ski area is small but interesting Ski Plattekill, outside Roxbury. In Sullivan County, the very small Holiday Mountain just off NY 17 near Monticello is ideal for families on day trips.
During summer, there are many kosher restaurants open, particularly in the areas of Sullivan County that have a high seasonal Orthodox Jewish population, but they are usually quite expensive. Year round, there are plenty of restaurants selling basic food items, such as pizza, burgers, and fries. Sweet Sue's, along Main Street in Phoenicia, is regionally renowned for its filling pancake breakfasts. There are few local food specialties, but one you may want to try to is fresh maple syrup, after the sap season in late February. You can easily buy some to take home with you, although it costs more than it would at a supermarket.
If you or a friend have been fly-fishing and have caught a large enough trout to consider actually keeping it instead of releasing it as is the custom (and indeed the law in some areas), nothing tastes better than eating it fresh around a campfire, prepared by someone who knows how to cook it.
During summer, some hikers particularly appreciate snacking on the blackberries and raspberries that grow wild alongside trails in some areas. Ginseng and some other common herbs are also collected from the woods. However, they cannot be taken from public land.
If you are deep enough in the woods and come across a running stream or a spring, consider using a common hand-pumped water filter to drink from it. None other than John Burroughs himself once said that you could live on Catskill water for a few days; if it's good enough for New York City, it's good enough for anyone.
During summer, many people go into the Catskills from New York City. Some of them drive like they're still in the city, so be careful when driving. In winter, the roads have ice and it gets very slippery.
Monticello can also be very shady (especially after dark). Use caution if wandering around there at night.
On the east, the Catskills are adjacent to the Hudson Valley, to the point that it's almost impossible not to visit that region while visiting the Catskills. The Albany metropolitan area, known in the state as the Capital District, is located in the valley's north, just to the Catskills' northeast. Beyond it, to the north, are the Adirondacks, the larger of upstate New York's two mountainous regions.
Southeast of the valley is the New York metropolitan area, home during the week and the off-season to many Catskills visitors. Due south is the state of New Jersey, split at its northern end between the suburban Gateway area on the east and the hilly, wooded Skylands on the west. In Pennsylvania, the smaller mountains across the Delaware River are the Poconos, also a popular resort destination for New York metropolitan area residents.
Upstate New York has several regions to the west. Route 17 continues across the Southern Tier to Binghamton, Elmira, Corning and Jamestown. On the northwest, crossing Interstate 88 leads to Central New York.