There’s nothing better than escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City and filling your lungs with a big breath of mountain air... Catskill Mountain air, to be exact. Located just two hours from New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley, the Catskill region is filled with mountains, lakes and waterfalls, an abundance of foliage, and plenty of wooded hiking trails for all levels. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely summer stroll or a challenging expedition in the cold, the Catskill hiking trails are worthwhile, year-round.
Vernooy Kill Falls
Perhaps best hiked during the warmer spring, summer, or early fall months, Vernooy Kill Falls is an easy 3.3-mile hike near Kerhonkson in Ulster County to a collection of waterfalls and rock pools. Bring water shoes if you care for a dip in the water after working up a light sweat. Hikers can also fish for trout if desired, but many choose to relax on the rocks and enjoy a picnic lunch while admiring the waterfalls.
Overlook Mountain is a short and scenic ride from the town of Woodstock, New York. Although only a 4.6-mile hike, the entirety of the route is an uphill descent, making this Catskill hiking trail feel more difficult than it probably is. At its peak, the trip is worth the view: an expansive overlook of the mountains and hills below. The reward for your journey comes in the form of free cookies and water, courtesy of kind volunteers that sit watch at the top. But perhaps the best part of this hike is along the trail itself when you come across the ruins of the old Overlook Hotel, eerily erect but sans windows, roof, and most walls.
Located near the favored town of Phoenicia—frequently in demand by those looking for boozy milkshakes from the Phoenicia Diner and a weekend getaway from the city—is the Mount Tremper Trail. A popular 5.9-mile hike, this is an easy walk through the woods and among the trees (but be on alert for timber rattlesnakes!) that will lead you to a small peak and the Tremper Mountain Fire Tower, offering views of the surrounding Catskill Mountains.
Kaaterskill Falls is a top hike in the Catskill region, located near the towns of Haines Falls and Tannersville. It’s an easy 2.6 hike mostly along a path of trodden land (due to popularity), rocks and stones. If you access the hike from street level—which involves finding parking along the winding Route 23—your end destination is a beautiful 231-foot waterfall. Whether hiking in peak summer season or adventuring to a frozen waterfall in the winter, this hike is enjoyable for all ages and skill levels.
Balsam Lake Mountain
With a name nearly longer than the trail itself, the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest Trail is an enjoyable route near Livingston Manor and Hardenburgh that is good for all hikers. With beautiful foliage and wildflowers growing along the trail, the 4.3 miles will fly by as you make your way to the top of this loop, where yet another Catskill town Fire Tower will greet you at the top.
Burroughs Range, also called the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Mountain Trail, is a difficult 12.3-mile hike, yet arguably one of the most beautiful in the region. With boulders to climb over, wooden ladders to descend and bridges to cross, this trail near Phoenicia is not for the faint of heart. Many experienced hikers choose to backpack this trail and spread the entirety of it over a few days by camping along the route. Opt for this route if climbing, red spruce trees, and incredible views sound like a good time.
A popular trail near Beacon and a bit lengthy, Breakneck Ridge is one of the more strenuous hikes in the Catskill region. Hikers can expect to climb over boulders, cliffs, and a river on this 8.6-mile trek. If you’re an experienced hiker up for the challenge, you’ll break a good sweat on this hike, and the views of Storm King Mountain and the Hudson River are certainly worth the sore muscles.
Sugarloaf Mountain (the one in New York) is located between Plateau Mountain and Twin Mountain near Elka Park. A moderately challenging hike on its own, offering panoramic views of the Catskill region from peaks that reach over 3,500 feet, the Sugarloaf Mountain Loop is a section of Devil's Path noted above. Hikers can take in the beautiful foliage and wildflowers along this 6.6-mile hike, or stop and do some bird watching along the way.
Indian Head Mountain
The Indian Head Mountain Loop in Greene County is a 5.9-mile hiking trail recommended for experienced hikers in boots (so leave your sneakers at home for this one). It’s a challenging hike yet doable and fun for anyone that has hiked before and is also part of the Devil’s Path. You can even access the high peak of Kaaterskill Falls from this trail, which offers terrific 180-degree views, including the Hudson River.
This trail is not named the Devil’s Path for no reason. Sometimes described as the most dangerous and challenging hiking trail in not just the Catskill region, but in all of the Tri-State area, Devil’s Path is a 23-mile hike through various peaks and summits, located near the town of Hunter. Experienced hikers will brave cliffs, wildlife, and caves, and have the option to camp and backpack the trail for a few days.