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Catskills Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth Catskills travel guide?

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For over a century, people have been traveling to the Catskill Mountains to take in the beauty of nature and escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Located about two hours from New York City, the Catskills provide a gorgeous mountain retreat for those looking to slow down and take in some fresh air. It’s the perfect weekend getaway whether you’re looking to do some hiking, visit one of the famous mountain resorts, or enjoy some time on the river.

And with the perfect photo-ready scenery you’ll find in the mountains, you won’t be surprised to learn that the area has been inspiring artists for decades.

In the Western Catskills, you’ll find many quaint small towns to explore along the Delaware River.

Wander Main Street in Livingston Manor where you’ll find tons of cute shops, restaurants, and even breweries catering to the town’s hipster clientele. You can even take up fly fishing at the Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club, which teaches guests and visitors all about the sport on the very creek where it was created, the Willowemoc.

In the Northern Catskills, you’ll find some higher peaks — perfect for hiking and skiing.

Explore amazing New York hiking trails like Pratt Rock, where you can find the accomplishments of 19th century banker and politician Zaddock Pratt carved right into the mountain.

You can also zip down the trails of Windham Mountain, one of the area’s top destinations for skiing and snowboarding.

Wherever you choose to go in the Catskills, you’re sure to have a good time! Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to the Catskills in New York State.

Note: This ultimate Catskills guide contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Catskills Map

Use this Catskills area map to begin planning your trip to this incredible destination!

Catskills map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

Catskills Travel Guide

Visiting New York’s Catskills Region? Some fun things not to miss include:

Upstate NY Travel Guide

Looking to explore the best of New York State travel? Don’t miss:

New York City Travel Guide

Looking for a travel guide to New York City? Check out:

New York State Road Trips

Planning a New York State road trip? These guides can help:

Best Catskills Tours

Explore local culture with a Catskills tour guide through these unique excursions:

Click here for a full list of Catskills travel tours!

Renting A Car In The Catskills

Need a rental car for your Catskills trip?

Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!

Hotels In The Catskills

Click here to browse the best Catskills hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays and experiences. The rental link and map are set to New Paltz, but you can easily change the location to your specific destination:

Catskills Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on a Catskills tour. When visiting the Catskills — or anywhere else in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your Catskills travel itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Catskills Travel Guide FAQ

Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about traveling in the Catskills.

Q: What are the Catskills famous for?

The Catskills have been a top getaway destination for New Yorkers and residents of the East Coast for decades.

The sprawling Catskill Mountains offer tons of opportunities for outdoor adventures and the region’s proximity to New York City makes it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle.

For much of the 20th century, New Yorkers would spend their summers at the Catskills’ famous resorts, made famous in movies like Dirty Dancing.

Though many of those resorts have since closed, a few still remain and several new resorts have opened in the past ten years.

Beyond the gorgeous setting of the Catskill Mountains, these resorts offer tons of great amenities and activities to keep you entertained and relaxed.

Q: Where should I go in the Catskills?

The Catskills region has tons of great small towns worth visiting.

The aptly-named town of Catskill is the perfect destination for art lovers looking to get a little fresh air.

The town was once home to painter Thomas Cole, father of the Hudson River School artistic movement, and today his home is a National Historic Site.

You can tour the artist’s home and former studio, all while taking in some unbeatable views of the nearby mountains that inspired many of his paintings.

The museum also often showcases the work of contemporary artists, so you may just discover the next big thing on your trip!

Beyond the Thomas Cole House, the town also has several great galleries and performance spaces as well as cute shops showcasing the work of local artisans.

Though the town of Phoenicia boasts a population of only around 300 residents, it’s become a top destination for outdoor adventurers.

The town is located near two of the region’s top attractions, Hunter Mountain and Kaaterskill Falls, as well as Esopus Creek, a favorite spot for tubing and rafting.

You can also hike the nearby Tanbark Trail which will take you 1,100 feet above ground level for some amazing views of Phoenicia, the creek and the surrounding mountains. It’s one of the best hikes in Upstate New York!

And of course, no trip to Phoenicia is complete without a trip to the Phoenicia Diner. This classic diner with a menu of delicious staples has gained a cult status among city-dwellers venturing up to the Catskills for weekend getaways. And if you don’t come home with a tote bag, did you even go?

Music fans will of course want to visit the town of Woodstock in Ulster County.

Though the famous Woodstock Festival actually took place in Bethel, NY, the town still has an awesome arts scene and many relics of its hippie past.

Browse the art galleries on Tinker Street showcasing the work of great local artists or visit the famous sculpture park Opus 40 featuring the work of Harvey Fite.

True to its roots, Woodstock is also home to tons of great music venues that host acts both big and small. Stroll around and stop into venues like Levon Helm Studios and the Colony to check out up-and-coming artists in a wide variety of genres.

Q: What are some fun things to do in the Catskills?

One of the best things to do in The Catskills is to enjoy the great outdoors. The Catskills offer tons of great outdoor activities throughout the year, from hiking to skiing to farm tours.

Visiting the Catskills in the summer or spring? Enjoy the cool mountain air on a hike through one of the area’s famous trails like Giant Ledge or Overlook Mountain.

When the temperatures rise, head to one of the many Catskills lakes or rivers to cool off. Enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and fishing at Colgate Lake Wild Forest or take a leisurely float in a tube down Esopus Creek.

For an extreme Catskills adventure, try your hand at ziplining on the New York Adventure Zipline Tour at Hunter Mountain. There’s nothing like the views from above the trees!

In the fall, the Catskills come alive with the changing leaves. The Catskills are one of the best places in the country for leaf-peeping, with tons of great trails, parks, and nature preserves where you can see the area’s fall foliage in all its glory.

Hannacroix Creek Preserve features 113 acres of hiking trails, waterfalls, and more to explore that are even more gorgeous during the fall months.

Fall also brings harvests from the area farms where you’ll find tons of great fresh food to enjoy. Pick your own apples and pumpkins at a local farm or pick up fresh produce from one of the many farmer’s markets in towns like Lexington and Tannersville.

Winter activities abound in the Catskills during the colder months.

Hit the slopes at ski resorts like Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain, some of the state’s top destinations for skiing and snowboarding. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, both resorts make their own snow to keep the winter fun going.

Off the mountain, you can explore the area on snowshoes or cross-country skis. After a day in the snow, head back to your hotel or rental to warm up with a hot drink by a roaring fire!

Q: What are some top Catskills hikes?

The Catskills are home to some great hiking trails that cater to all levels of outdoor explorers.

One of the most famous trails in the area is Giant Ledge, not far from Phoenecia. This 3.2-mile hike takes about two hours out and back and is ideal for the intermediate hiker.

The trail takes you through the gorgeous Slide Mountain Wilderness and offers amazing views from the top, particularly when the fall foliage is out in full force.

Once you’re done with your hike, head down to the charming town of Phoenicia and refuel with a delicious meal at the Phoenicia Diner.

Overlook Mountain is also a favorite of visitors to the Catskills and locals alike. This moderately difficult 2.3-mile trail offers incredible views of the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest and the valley below, as well as opportunities to explore the Overlook Mountain House ruins and the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower.

The Overlook Mountain House Hotel was built in the 1800s as a respite for the wealthy. Today, forest growth has taken over the building, offering hikers incredible views.

The mountain’s proximity to Woodstock also makes it the perfect hike for a weekend getaway.

The Catskills are also famous for their gorgeous waterfalls that make for great scenic hikes. Kaaterskill Falls in the town of Haines Falls is probably one of the area’s most famous sites and has been inspiring artists like Thomas Cole for decades.

The hike is just 1.4 miles roundtrip, making it the perfect trek for advanced beginner hikers who want to see some truly incredible sites. You’ll also see tons of smaller (but similarly gorgeous!) falls along the way.

Wear some sturdy shoes and bring your camera to capture the beauty of the trail.

Q: When it comes to Catskills vs Adirondacks, what is the difference in travel experiences?

Both the Catskills and the Adirondacks have their own advantages and are incredible travel destinations in their own right.

The Adirondacks are a bit more isolated, but offer incredible views and challenging hikes for more experienced trekkers.

The Catskills are perfect for those looking to explore small towns while enjoying the great outdoors.

The best option generally depends on the time of year and your priorities for your trip. For incredible fall foliage views and winter ski experiences, head to the Adirondacks.

To cool off in the great outdoors during the summer months, book a trip to the Catskills, where temperatures top out in the 70s and 80s.

Of course you’ll have plenty of fun in the great outdoors wherever you decide to go.

Q: What are the nearest towns to the Catskill Mountains?

Some of the nearest towns to the Catskill Mountains include Kingston, Woodstock, Roxbury, Saugerties, and of course, Catskill.

Q: Are the Catskills safe?

The Catskills are considered a very safe area, with fairly low levels of crime.

As with any travel destination, it’s important to remain vigilant, particularly in more popular tourist areas — make sure any valuables are in a safe place and out of view.

Also, be sure to practice good hiking safety if you’re heading out on a trail. If you’re going out alone, be sure to let someone know where you’re headed and when you expect to return, and always lock your car at the trailhead.

Q: How long can a tourist stay in New York?

Most visitors from abroad who are allowed to enter the United States — the country New York State is located in — can stay for up to six months. Entry requirements and allowances vary depending on where you are from, so definitely check the US government website.

Q: Do I need a travel visa for New York?

Visa requirements vary depending on where you are from. You can visit the US government website to see if you need a visa and what type.

Q: Where are the Catskills located?

The Catskills are located in southeast New York State, between Albany and New York City. It includes:

  • Sullivan County
  • Delaware County
  • Greene County
  • Ulster County

Q: Are credit cards accepted in the Catskills?

Credit cards — particularly Visa and Mastercard — are widely accepted around the Catskills, though it is always wise to carry some cash for smaller establishments and in case of emergency.

Q: Can you drink the tap water in the Catskills?

While tap water is safe to drink in most places, it’s smart to check with the hotel in your specific destination to be safe.

Q: What is the local currency in New York State?

The local currency in New York is the US Dollar (USD).

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