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By Carly Eisley

At just around a 2 hour drive from the Escape Campervans New York depot, you can go on a quick Catskills weekend getaway.  Want to stay longer? – don’t worry, there are enough trails, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, quaint towns, and scenery to keep you busy for as long as you’d like to roam.   Here are some ideas to get you out and exploring this beautiful region.

Giant Ledge View

Start With Some Hiking

The Catskills is well known for its hiking, and for good reason.  From family-friendly strolls to 20+ mile traverses, there is something to satisfy every trekker.  The trails are extremely well marked and well maintained by nearby hiking groups and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  Here are a few favorites:

  • Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain-This hike starts at a trailhead on route 47 in Phoenicia.   The trail climbs steadily for about 1.5 miles, to a series of scenic ledges overlooking mountains in the distance.  The view is spectacular!  From here, you can turn around and head back down, or continue past the ledge viewpoints for another 1-1.5 miles through a fragrant pine forest to the summit of Panther Mountain.  Return down the trail the way you came back to your car.   Total elevation gain for the hike to Panther mountain and back (~6.5 miles) was around 2,000 feet.
  • Hunter Mountain– At just over 4,000 feet, Hunter Mountain in Hunter, NY is the second highest peak in the Catskills and is also home to a fire tower at the summit and a ski mountain.  There are several trails to the summit of varying difficulties, so do your research before you head to the trailhead.  The easiest route is the Spruceton trail, which gradually ascends a fire-road like trail.  For those who want a steeper, rockier challenge the Becker Hollow trail is only a 2-mile hike to the summit but gains over 2,000 feet of elevation in 1.5 rocky, rooty miles.  The Devil’s path to the Hunter Mountain trail is also a great option.
  • Overlook Mountain– Overlook mountain is a 5 mile out and back located in Woodstock, NY.  The trailhead is across the street from a monastery, and there are hundreds of prayer flags flying outside which is quite a sight!  The trail itself is wide and not particularly rocky or technical.   It climbs steadily but never too steeply.  About 1.5 miles into your hike, be sure to take some time to explore the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House.  As you continue from here, stay on the trail and watch your footing carefully; this area is home to a population of timber rattlesnakes that can often be seen basking in the sun in warmer months.  If you are hiking with a dog be sure to keep them well controlled on a short leash.   Not a snake fan?  Try this hike in cooler weather – the rattlesnakes tend to hunker down in their dens when temperatures drop to the 50s and below.  There is a fire tower at the summit as well as a scenic overlook on a ledge on a short trail just past the cabin.

Kaaterskill Water Falls

Check Out The Amazing Waterfalls In The Catskills

If cascading water is your thing, you’re in luck!  There are numerous waterfalls scattered around the Catskills region, with many requiring only a short walk – making them a great option for a family-friendly stroll or a quick leg stretch.  Don’t worry – if you are looking for a longer hike with an aquatic reward along the way, they have those too!   Check out these Catskills waterfall hike ideas to satisfy every traveler.

  • Kaaterskill Falls – Kaaterskill Falls is perhaps the most famous waterfall in the area.  The 260-foot-tall two-tier waterfall (higher than Niagara Falls!) is in Hunter, NY.  There are several trail access areas; as of this writing in Fall 2020 the best trailhead to visit the Falls is on Laurel House Road in Palenville (the trailhead on route 23A, which you will find listed most frequently, is closed at this time).  This is an extremely popular hike, so visiting during off-hours on weekdays is best to try to avoid the crowds.  The walk to the upper falls viewing area is a very moderate walk down a wide well-maintained path.  The lower falls can be accessed by continuing your hike on well-marked trails down a rocky trail with stone steps cut into many areas.

Quaint town in the Catskills

Do Some Shopping Around Town

There are many quaint towns scattered around the Catskills, with main streets lined with local shops and restaurants.  Check out this site for more information on some small towns with big charm.  Music lovers – be sure to stop at the site of the famed 1969 Woodstock music festival in Bethel, NY.  Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is home to a museum and concert stage, so check out the history and stay for a show!  

The actual town of Woodstock is also home to some great shops, restaurants, and local art galleries and artisans. After exploring Woodstock, don’t miss a meal at the nearby and famous (for good reason!) Phoenicia Diner.  

Tannersville is a small downtown area near Hunter Mountain, home to some fantastic restaurants and shops (tip – check out Mama’s Boy Burgers for delicious burgers, milkshakes, and soft serve.  For a fancier splurge meal out, Jessie’s Harvest House is fantastic!).  

Giant Ledge View

Try Out A Little Rock Climbing

One of the premier rock climbing destinations in the northeast is the Shawangunks (aka the “Gunks”).  These cliffs are located near New Paltz, NY.  Most of the climbing routes are on the Mohonk Preserve, which requires a fee of $20 per day (or $105 for a season pass) to access the land.  There are over a thousand climbing routes and bouldering areas to challenge all skill levels.

Campsite at Catskills

Relax At One Of Many Camping Sites In The Catskills Region

There are many campgrounds in the Catskills region – from secluded wooded sites to KOAs full of family-friendly activities and amenities, there is something for every Escape Campervan to call home after a long day of adventuring.  Check out the Department of Environmental Conservation website for a list of state-run facilities.  A favorite is North-South Lake, with a large lake for swimming and watersports, and access to numerous trails.   

For a quiet hiking basecamp, Devil’s Tombstone is a great place to set up camp.  Planning a rock-climbing trip?  The Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground is near the cliffs of the Gunks – sites are discounted for Mohonk Preserve members.  Check out these campgrounds for ideas for places to sleep.   The state-run campgrounds are seasonal, running from spring to early Fall for most areas.  There are some year-round campgrounds for cold weather campers, but be sure to do your research before hitting the road to ensure operating dates haven’t changed.

Stony Brook State Park New York Campervan Cooking

Book A Campervan And Head Towards The Catskills

This is just the tip of the iceberg for all the activities and fun to be had in the Catskills.  Book a campervan and take a scenic drive!  Hit up some craft breweries for a tasting,  hop on your bike and ride mountain bike trails, rail trails (there are several in the region), or scenic road routes. Or just kick back and relax!  The drive from the New York depot may be short, but when you take a Catskills weekend getaway, the opportunities are endless.

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