A guide to the Catskill Mountains from a 20 year visitor to the area.

Basic info:

catskills photo overlook

The Catskill Mountains are a famous mountain range in New York (aka the Catskill Mountains). It’s a great place to experience the outdoors and many residents of NYC (myself included) often travel there for day trips, overnight camping or even weekend trips.

There’s over 30 peaks, 100s of hiking trails, attractions and towns to explore throughout the Catskills and in this page I’ll be showing you some of the best things you can do here.

Things to do:

things to do in the catskill mountains photo

Scenic drives:

There’s a lot of incredible Catskills scenic drives to explore. Many of them take you through serpentine roads, up and down mountains with incredible overlooks and stops to awesome hikes and places all throughout.


While there’s over 100 waterfalls in the area, I’ve listed at least 10 of the best waterfalls in the Catskills. The most famous one is Kaaterskill Falls which in total is over 200 feet high. Many of these waterfalls can be seen from one of the scenic drives in the area and/or through a short hike to it.

Swimming holes:

There are also many popular swimming holes in the Catskills to explore. Some of them are actually close to some of the famous waterfalls I listed above, but the most popular are Fawn’s Leap and Peekamoose Blue Hole.


The top activity to do in the Catskills (during winter) is skiing. There’s at least 2 major mountains the area that offer incredible slopes for that (as well as other snow sports) and they are Hunter Mountain and Winham Mountain.


Biking as well as mountain biking are also popular activities to do in the Catskills. As you drive throughout the area, you are likely to find cyclists on some of the major roads and if you check out places like Widham Mountain and Hunter Mountain, they too offer access to dozens of incredible mountain biking trails.


There’s many lakes and places to fish throughout the Catskills. The most popular location for both of these activities is North South Lake which is located in the eastern end of the Catskill Mountains.


Camping is an extremely popular activity in the Catskill Mountains too. For most people, North South Lake is the best place to find campgrounds in the whole area, but there are also a bunch of other amazing camping spots in the Catskills worth staying at too.


Obviously hiking is also a popular thing to do and there’s a bunch of trails I would recommend as some of the best hikes in the Catskills to check out, specific ones I’ll be covering in the day hikes section of this post shortly.

Where to Stay:

Hunter Mountain:

Out of all the places to stay at in the Catskills, Hunter Mountain is the most popular. On and around this mountain are many lodging areas including:

Windham Mountain:

where to stay in the catskill mountains photo

The mountain and village of Windham is the 2nd most popular area to stay at in the Catskills and like Hunter Mountain it offers a lot of lodging ranging from cabins, to motels, hotels and more. The most popular places in this area to stay at are:


This is one of the most popular towns in the Catskill Mountains. There’s great lodging, restaurants and attractions to explore but in terms of where to stay, here are a few great options:

Round Top:

This area of the Catskills is very popular for staying at in the summer. Around it you will find a lot of lodging areas with attractions nearby to hikes, waterfalls and these are overall great spots to stop at for families and large parties. Here are some of my favorite places to stay at here:


This is located in the southern Catskills and it is likely one of the most busiest towns to stay at. It does also offer a lot of attractions and hotels and here are some:


catskill mountains restaurants photo

I’ve been to many restaurants in the Catskills and here are some of my favorite picks (and where to find them):

Day Hikes:

catskill mountains day hikes photo

The following are some of the most popular day hikes in the Catskill Mountains:

  • Kaaterskill Falls hike: 1-2 miles, scenic trail to a gigantic waterfall (beginners).
  • Giant Ledge trail: 3-6 miles, scenic trail to nice overlooks of the Catskills (moderate).
  • Overlook Mountain trail: 5 mile in and out trail to great overlooks, a fire tower and old ruins (moderate).
  • Slide Mountain Trail: 4-10 mile hike to one of the best views of the Catskills (moderate).
  • Boulder Rock Trail: 3 mile trail to a giant boulder and overlooks of the Hudson River (moderate).
  • Devils Path: 25 mile trail over 6 Catskill Mountains. Only recommended for overnight or serious hikers (hard).
  • North South Lake trails: North South Lake has many awesome hikes and trails (beginner).


catskills attractions photo

Kaleidoscope museum:

An awesome museum in the Catskills which features telescopes and many kaleidoscopes (learn more).

Rail trail:

A very fun attraction near Phoenicia Catskills where you can rent a trolly and ride it over an old railroad (learn more).

Scenic train rides:

There is a famous attraction known as the Catskills Scenic Railroad which goes on for over an hours and travels in between the Hudson River and Catskill Mountain area. Some train cars are entirely open (no roof) to help you enjoy the better views (learn more).

Mountain Top Arboretum:

A beautiful Botanical Garden not far from Tannersville NY (learn more).

Seasons to Visit:

seasons to visit catskill mountains photo

Winter (best for):
Skiing, snow sports, scenic drives.

Spring (best for):
Hiking, scenic drives, swimming, kayaking, fishing.

Summer (best for):

Everything spring plus camping.

Fall (best for):
Hiking, scenic drives, fall foliage (see Catskills fall foliage)

Getting Around

  • Cars: The best way to explore the Catskills is by car.
  • Trolleys: There are a few trollys in the Catskill Mountains you can use to get from one area to another. They are most commonly used for hikers who wish to do long point to point hikes but can’t have anyone pick them up. You can utilize the Catskill trolley route to help you there.


  • Lyme disease: Know how to avoid tick bites as they are common in the Catskills and upstate area. Wear full clothing, especially on the legs to protect yourself (more tips on how to avoid tick bites when hiking).
  • Parking/park passes: The only passes you need to explore the Catskills are for Peekamoose Blue Hole, North South Lake ($10 entrance fee) and any area that has paid camping spots.
  • Permits: Fishing and camping permits are available here.
  • Hiking tips: Start early! Many hikes in the Catskills get packed after 10 a.m and especially on weekends. If you’re doing a day hike in this area, try to start at 7 a.m if possible.

What to Pack:

Day trips:

  • Snacks (2-3 energy bars per person)
  • Hiking shoes (hiking or trail running shoes are ideal such as the Salomon Speedcross 5)
  • Water (2-3 bottles per person)
  • Daypack (medium sized backpack is fine, trail running vests are good too)
  • Trekking poles (I always carry the Trailbuddy trekking poles on all my Catskill hikes)

Overnight camping:

  • Tent
  • Food (I recommend dry food that doesn’t smell when hiking)
  • Overnight pack (heat warmer, sleeping bag, portable charger, GPS)