Rising from the Hudson River’s western bank, the Catskill Mountains span roughly 700,000 acres of ruggedly beautiful terrain, interspersed by idyllic lakes, gushing rivers, and historic towns. Although rural, the region boasts a vibrant cultural scene of farm-to-table eateries, breweries, and art galleries in addition to its natural splendor. Much of the Catskill region lies just two to three hours by car away from New York City, making it an accessible and tempting getaway for many. To help get your trip planning started, we’ve outlined the 10 most charming towns in New York’s Catskills.
Although Livingston Manor is conveniently accessible from NY-17, the town’s quaint Main Street and setting along the Willowemoc Creek feels far more removed. The waterway’s thriving trout population has long attracted fly fishermen. You can catch your own dinner on a guided outing with the Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club, which also houses a glamping site and stylish guest rooms, or sample smoked trout alongside other locally sourced bites at Main Street Farm back in town. Aside from its fly fishing appeal, there are plentiful nearby hiking trails, such as Wildcat Falls and the Balsam Lake Fire Tower. Reward your efforts at Catskill Brewery afterwards.
Catskill embodies everything the region is known for: history, art, trendy cafes, and extraordinary scenery. The downtown core features a wonderful mix of boutiques and cafes in historic Victorian buildings. This particular spot on the Hudson River’s west bank has inspired numerous painters, namely Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of Art. His former studio and residence can be toured to admire his brilliant landscape paintings and artifacts from his life. Across the Hudson at Olana State Historic Site, the former estate of painter Frederic Church is worth seeking out for its galleries and stunning architecture. Conveniently located beside Thomas Cole’s house, the Post Cottage offers elegant accommodation and spacious grounds.
Situated on a scenic bend in the Delaware River, Narrowsburg’s Main Street is chock full of hip boutiques, galleries, and eateries. Just off the main drag, The Launderette merits a stop for delectable wood-fired pizza and exceptional views of the Delaware from its balcony. This portion of the river is also renowned for its water sports opportunities. Lander’s River Trips offers a range of tubing, rafting, kayaking, and canoeing excursions. While the Tusten Theatre and Delaware Valley Arts Alliance maintain an active cultural scene year-round, the annual Riverfest brings artists, performers, and artisans to the town each July for a vibrant street festival.
Due south of Catskill, Saugerties occupies a picturesque setting on the Hudson that can be reached in just two hours by car from Manhattan. Downtown Saugerties is easily navigable on foot, with many restaurants, shops, and bars to explore. Load up on provisions and head south down Partition Street to Saugerties Village Beach for a picnic and refreshing dip in the calm water of Esopus Creek. A bit further out, the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve and Saugerties Lighthouse are lovely spots for a short hike. The Diamond Mills Hotel is a bit steep for the area, but the onsite amenities and private balconies overlooking the waterfront are worth splurging for.
The famous Woodstock Festival actually took place across the Catskills in Bethel, but the flourishing art and counter-culture scene here dates back much further than 1969. The Byrdcliffe Guild, which was founded in 1902 as a utopian artist colony, maintains a stacked schedule of classes, exhibitions, and performances on its 250-acre campus. Downtown Woodstock packs dozens of galleries, restaurants, specialty shops, and a weekend flea market in just a few blocks. Nearby, Overlook Mountain is a popular trek among skilled hikers for its expansive views, whereas the mile-long Comeau Property Trail is better suited for a leisurely stroll or playing disc golf. The boutique Herwood Inn embodies Woodstock’s creativity and quirkiness in its décor and guest room furnishings.
Nestled between forested peaks on the Delaware River’s West Branch, Delhi packs a compelling food and art scene beside nature-based attractions. Dozens of cafes and restaurants line the town’s Main Street, including Quarter Moon Café and Catskilll Momos, known for their innovative fare and Himalayan cuisine, respectively. Just outside town, the renowned culinary arts program at SUNY Delhi showcases its students’ talents at Bluestone. Between meals, the well-maintained trail to Bramley Mountain’s 2,817-foot summit is a worthwhile jaunt north of downtown. Hikers will be rewarded with sweeping views from the fire tower and striking cliffs and caves along the way. The West Branch House is an ideal home base to explore downtown and beyond.
Set right on the banks of the Beaverkill, Roscoe is another hotspot for fly fishing. To stock up on gear or schedule a guided trip, Catskill Flies is your best bet for finding the best spots to drop your line. The local brewery, Roscoe Beer Company, even has a live trout tank in its cozy tasting room and features the fish on many of its cans. Roscoe’s former fire station houses Prohibition Distillery, where you can sample gin, whiskey, and vodka or sip cocktails al fresco at the Bootlegger’s Alley Bar during summer. Outside of town, Russel Brook Falls and Buck Brook Alpacas make for great day trips to get reacquainted with nature and interact with these adorable, furry creatures. Staying at the Reynolds House Inn affords easy access to Roscoe’s downtown shops and eateries.
Located in the heart of the Catskills, Windham is best-known as a convenient ski getaway from New York City. While Windham Mountain’s expansive trail system and terrain parks are certainly a big draw, there is still plenty to do after the snow melts. Mountain biking and hiking opportunities abound in the steep landscape. The ascent to Cave Mountain’s summit affords panoramic views, whereas the Windham Path trail is a gentler trek along the Batavia Kill. Windham’s historic downtown dates back to 1798 and wields a wide range of dining and nightlife options. Due to Windham Mountain’s popularity, lodging here is abundant compared to other Catskill towns. Eastwind Hotel is a top pick for its blend of rustic and contemporary design across its guest rooms and bar.
This village of 309 is the smallest on our list. Many visitors stop just to refuel at the famous Phoenicia Diner, but there is enough in store here to occupy a long-weekend getaway. Several trailheads leading from town cater to all skill levels, including the Tanbark loop, Mount Tremper, and Cross Mountain. Meandering between these peaks, the Esopus Creek’s class II rapids are an exhilarating and refreshing adventure, but take note that Town Tinker is closed for tube rentals for the 2020 season. Fortunately, Rail Explorers is still operating pedal-powered vehicle rides along the historic Ulster & Delaware Railroad. After a full day in nature, Graham & Co. is a hip spot to relax poolside in full view of the surrounding mountains.
Located in the Catskills’ northwestern reaches, Franklin’s Main Street is lined with pristine Greek Revival and Victorian homes alongside trendy antique vendors. The village of just 374 people also boasts one of the region’s best art scenes, which comes on full display during the summer months. Barring 2020, Franklin Stage Company hosts a packed performance schedule from July into September, and admission is granted on a donation basis. An annual self-guided art tour, Stagecoach Run, takes place in July between Franklin and neighboring Treadwell. More than 20 private homes, historic barns, and shops transform into art galleries showcasing mixed-media work by local artists.