7 Hiking Trails in the Catskills that Locals Love
Author Meagan Drillinger has spent more than 20 years exploring the Catskills and its many mountains, parks, and preserves.
New York's Catskills Region is one of the most beautiful areas in the state of New York. This mountainous area spans more than 700,000 acres and is teeming with waterfalls, ski resorts, rock climbing, lakes, rivers for paddling and fishing, beautiful vistas that overlook swaths of treetops, and, of course, hiking trails.
I grew up splitting my time between New York City and the Catskills, and my family has been visiting the Catskill region ever since the day of New York's famous Borsht Belt — summer retreats for New York City Jewish families back in the days when Jews were excluded from other country clubs and summer residences. The Catskills are important to me and my family's history, and I've spent years hiking its trails.
If you're looking for the best hiking trails in the Catskills that locals love, I am here with the intel for you. Read on to discover seven popular hiking trails in the Catskills.
Where Are the Catskills?
But first, where exactly are the Catskills? The Catskills sit sandwiched between New York City and Albany, part of the mid-Hudson River Valley.
You can access the Catskills by car via the New York State Thruway or by bus via the Trailways bus system that leaves from both New York City and Albany. You can also take an Amtrak train from New York City to Hudson, New York, which is across the Hudson River from the town of Catskill.
1. Ashokan Rail Trail
Perhaps one of the most beloved hiking trails in the Catskills is the Ashokan Rail Trail. It's an 11.5-mile hiking trail that runs along the defunct railway line of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad. The railroad ceased operations in 1978. In 2012, the Ashokan Rail Trail was proposed as a public recreational trail and today is one of the best hiking trails in the Catskills.
Running along the Ashokan Reservoir between West Hurley and Boiceville in Ulster County, the ART is popular year-round for hiking, dog-walking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
One of the best things about the ART is that it's easy and you don't have to be a master hiker to finish it. The trail is flat the whole way around and paved with compacted crushed stones. It's not plowed in the winter, but winter sports enthusiasts love that about it.
No matter the season, the views around the reservoir are mesmerizing. I personally love it even in the winter, when the snow hanging from the trees creates a fairytale snow globe scene. If you bundle up, the cold won't bother you one bit.
2. Kaaterskill Falls
The Catskill town of Hunter is most famous for its ski resort. But Hunter is a dream for other types of outdoor adventure, too — hiking, in particular. One of my favorite hiking trails in Hunter is the hike to Kaaterskill Falls, a more than 200-foot waterfall right here in the Catskills.
It's an easy hike of less than two miles to the Upper Falls, with ample parking and a gently sloping trail that leads down to a viewing platform that overlooks the gushing falls. Just be wary in winter when the path is slick with ice. The views here are absolutely epic, both of the falls and the valley below.
You can continue the trail down past the viewing platform to get to the bottom of the waterfall. Follow the stone stairs down to the bottom of the drops and you'll have one of the most intense up-close-and-personal views of the waterfall.
3. Overlook Mountain Trail
Of course, not all hiking trails in the Catskills are this mellow. You can certainly dial it up several notches with more challenging Catskill hikes. Overlook Mountain, for example, is the pride and joy of local hikers, particularly those in Ulster County.
Overlook Mountain is the looming mountain that - as the name suggests - overlooks the town of Woodstock. The trail to its summit is 4.6 miles out-and-back, climbing nearly 1,400 feet in elevation.
The good news is that the elevation gain is pretty steady and the trail is mostly gravel. Along the way to the top, you can also stop at a few interesting points, like the ruins of an old hotel and a fire tower. If you are up early enough for sunrise, the fire tower is a great place to watch the day begin.
4. Ashokan Quarry Trail
Just outside the town of Olivebridge, the Ashokan Quarry Trail is a really beautiful and moderate hike through deep woods, leading to beautiful lookouts over Ashokan High Point, North Dome, and Mount Tremper.
The trail is just two miles and wanders through what was once an active quarry. In fact, about half a mile from the trailhead, you'll see the remains of a building that used to house explosives used for mining in the quarry. If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll find evidence of the area's mining past all over the trail.
The loop trail is open year-round, but if you go in the fall you'll have a spectacular view of the colorful leaves from the lookout point. Summer is also particularly gorgeous because everything pops with rich, lush green colors.
5. Mount Tremper Trail
One of the most iconic Catskill scenes is the view of undulating blue-green mountains that extend out as far as the eye can see. While the Catskill Mountains are by no means on the same level as the Rockies or the Eastern Sierras, New Yorkers are fiercely proud of their rolling "mountain hills."
Just outside the hamlet of Phoenicia (one of my favorite spots in all of the Catskills), the Mount Tremper Trail is a relatively challenging route that pays out with the Catskill views you came for. The entire trail is six miles out and back with an elevation gain of just over 2,000 feet. If you do the entire trail, it will take about four hours to complete and your glutes will definitely be feeling the burn.
If you're not in the mood to do the whole trail, however, you can hike about a mile to the first lookout point and have breathtaking views over the valley. If you do continue up the summit of Mount Tremper, what you'll have is a full 360-degree view of the Catskill region.
Author's Tip: After the hike stop in town for brunch at Sweet Sue's. Or, if it's later in the day, head over to the Phoenicia Diner.
6. Devil's Path
Note: This is a challenging, 22-mile hike, with 8,000 feet in elevation. It can be done in sections.
The most intrepid hikers will want to tune in to this one. The Devil's Path Trail is often considered to be one of the hardest routes in the entire Catskill region. It's also considered to be one of the best because it offers hikers the chance to encounter a little bit of everything that makes the Catskills so wonderful.
Let's just start by pointing out that this trail is 22 miles long with an elevation gain of more than 8,000 feet. The total trail takes 15 hours to complete, so many hikers opt to do this trail as an overnight. If this challenge feels like an invitation to you, then keep reading.
This is a point-to-point trail, which means you can do any of the sections you like if you don't want to finish the trail in its entirety. If you do complete the trail, you'll be going over many of the highest peaks in the Catskills, which top out at over 3,000 feet.
The "easiest" peak to tackle is Indian Head along the Eastern section of the Devil's Path.
7. Slide Mountain Trail
Finally, another popular hiking trail among Catskill locals is Slide Mountain Trail, the tallest peak in the Catskills. Although the mountain summit sits at more than 4,000 feet, this hike is actually quite manageable.
The 6.3-mile loop takes less than four hours to complete, with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. The ascent is fairly gentle, though, Some sections of the trail are quite rocky and overgrown with roots, so you'll need proper footwear for these scrambles.
One of the most beautiful sections of the trail is the Spruce Tunnel, a stony pathway that leads through a long corridor lined with gorgeous spruce trees. It's one of the most magical sections of the trail.