For over 20 years I’ve explored the Catskill Mountains and among other things, what I love about this area is it’s scenic drives. In this post I want to share with you my top 10 and these are not just general recommendations but specific locations and which routes to take within this gigantic area to get amazing views.
My top 10 Catskill Mountains scenic byways:
- Road 23A (Eastern Catskill Mountains)
- Road 16 (Platte Clove Road)
- Road 214 (Phoenicia area)
- Road 30 (Grand Gorge area)
- Road 23 (Widham area)
- Road 212 (Woodstock area)
- Route 23C (Tannersville area)
- Road 44 (Lake Minnewaska area)
- Road 42 (West Kill area)
- Road 6 (Spruceton Road)
1) Road 23A:
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in Palenville NY and head west on 23A all the way to Grand Gorge.
Road 23A begins in the eastern section of the Catskill Mountains. It runs westward for over 40 miles throughout the mountain range and has you cross several towns including Tannersville and Hunter Mountain.
While the entire drive is beautiful, the standout for me personally has always been the eastern section of this drive from Palenville to Haines Falls. That section of the drive has you officially enter Catskill Park and drive across a stunning serpentine section where you cross beautiful Catskill swimming holes including Fawn’s Leap as well as one of the trailheads to the super popular Kaaterskill Falls hike.
2) Road 16 (Platte Clove Road):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start at Tannersville and drive east on Road 16 toward West Saugerties.
To date this is my favorite scenic drive in the Catskill Mountains. It’s located in the southern section of the Kaaterskill Wild Forest and is only about 15 miles long. However on those 15 miles is a another beautiful serpentine road that rises a few 100 feet in elevation and gives you incredible gorge views of the eastern Catskills as well as access to 2 very popular destinations and they are an access point to the Long Path hike and the beautiful Plattekill Falls (there’s a very short hike from Road 16 to get to it).
One important thing to know is that the easternmost section of Platte Clove Road closes during winter so make sure to only go there before mid October. I’ve personally driven up and down this particular road and going down is in my opinion more fun and scenic.
3) Road 214 (Phoenicia area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start on Road 23A at Stoney Clove and head south on Road 214 towards Phoenicia.
This is another one of those incredible scenic drives in the Catskills I’ve done many times and highly recommend as well. It’s about 20 miles long and has you pass through some of the most beautiful views of the Catskill Mountains, specifically the Devils Tombstone Campground area. It ends in the town of Phoenicia which is very small but an excellent spot to stop at after your drive.
4) Road 30 (Grand Gorge area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in Grand Gorge NY and head north on Road 30 towards Minekill Falls.
This is a beautiful up and down road you’ll find in the northern Catskills area. It had you pass the town of Grand Gorge and work your way up to the New York Reservoirs. While on this road you will have amazing 360 views of the Catskills with many beautiful fields and farms. The entire drive is about 30 miles but highly recommended especially towards it’s end when you reach an area called Minekill Falls which is one of the best Catskills waterfalls.
5) Road 23 (Widham area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in Ashland NY and head east towards East Widham.
Widham is one of the most popular regions in the Catskills and it’s typically popular year long. However the main road which goes through the area, Road 23 is also very scenic and this is why I’m going to be recommending you check it out too. The entire drive is a little over 30 miles and can be done east to west or vice versa. On that road you will pass the town of Widham itself and there’s a bunch of places for lodging and exploring there too and in addition to that, exploring the Widham Mountain itself is also highly recommended.
6) Road 212 (Woodstock area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in Mt. Marion and head west on 212 past Woodstock and towards Phoenicia.
This is one of the main scenic drives in the southern Catskills, particularly near the town of Woodstock. It’s a little over 40 miles long and on it you will pass a lot of mountain sights, but in addition to that you will also pass by the town of Woodstock itself which has beautiful neighborhoods, great hiking trails like the Overlook Mountain and much more.
7) Route 23C (Tannersville area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in Tannersville and head north on Route 23C towards East Jewett.
This scenic drive is a great mix of both an amazing winding road and incredible stops along the way. It’s about 10 mile long and has you pass some of the biggest houses in the whole Catskills area. In addition to that there are also castle like structures throughout this drive, an incredibly scenic church and a botanical garden called Mountain Top Arboretum which I strongly recommend checking out.
8) Road 44 (Lake Minnewaska area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start at the entrance of Lake Minnewaska State Park, then head west on 44 until you reach the town of Kerhonkson.
This scenic drive is one of the shortest on the list but it is also extremely scenic and worth taking especially if you plan to visit Lake Minnewaska State Park which happens to be one of my personal favorites in terms of best state parks in New York. On this drive you will slowly head downward on a serpentine road and see beautiful views of the southern Catskills regions. While the mountain ranges in this section of the Catskills aren’t as huge as the options mentioned before on this list, they are still amazing and I personally love this short drive (it’s only about 10 miles).
9) Road 42 (West Kill area):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in the town of Lexington, drive south on Road 42 towards Shandaken.
This is another great scenic drive in the western section of the Catskill Mountains. Here you are driving past some of the biggest mountains in the area including West Kill Mountain. There are also serpentine roads and great overlooks of the giant mountains across the way. This drive is only about 20 miles long but is highly scenic throughout with hikes and trailheads available throughout. There’s even a few waterfalls throughout that you can hear and hike to that are close to the road. Originally I was considering adding it to my Catskills fall foliage recommendation, but just doing this drive year round is a stunning experience, so we’ll just keep it for this post.
10) Road 6 (Spruceton Road):
- Recommended scenic route to take: Start in the town of West Kill and head east on Road 6 until you read the end (10 miles).
This scenic drive is also short but has you go through an open field surrounded by Catskill Mountains. It also leads you to some very popular trailheads such as Spruceton trailhead which is one of the end points to a popular and difficult hike called Devils Path. Additionally it also takes you to a short hike (only 1/4 miles) to Diamond Notch Falls which is also very stunning.