The Catskills have long been a popular getaway for New Yorkers. With everything this picturesque area has to offer—quaint small towns, vast open spaces, crystal-clear freshwater streams, and inspiring mountains—not it’s surprising. What’s not to love about a place that is so picturesque that well-known landscape paintings barely do it justice!
The Catskills region was a popular summer vacation spot for city dwellers looking for fresh air, cooler temperatures, and recreational activities from the 1920s to the 1970s. The Catskills had more than 500 hotels during its 1950s heyday. The region became known as the “Borscht Belt” due to the large number of Jewish family resorts, and for some New Yorkers of a certain generation, memories of its heyday still evoke nostalgia.
The Catskills seem to be on the rise again. Over the past ten years, there has been a resurgence in tourism, leading to the construction of opulent new hotels and the trendy transformation of some small rural towns. Modern travelers are catered to by recently opened or reopened hotels, bungalow colonies, and resorts. Some historic resorts continue to provide the traditional Catskills all-inclusive vacation experience, as seen in the Netflix series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Discover the top destinations and activities in this picturesque countryside, just two hours from New York City. We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in the Catskills to help you plan a fantastic trip, whether you’re going for a relaxing weekend getaway or a week-long vacation.
1- Slide Mountain, Catskills, NY
If the Adirondack High Peaks and the Delaware River watershed are excluded, Slide Mountain, which rises to a height of 4,180 feet, is the highest mountain peak not only in the Catskills but also in Ulster County and the entire state of New York. If you prefer a well-marked trail, there are three different ways to get to Slide Mountain in the small town of Shandaken in Ulster County. If you prefer a bushwhack, there are many more options.
The trail that is picked will have a significant impact on the length and level of difficulty of the hike. The summit is rounded and gentle, similar to other peaks in the Catskills, and it forms a short ridge that widens at the eastern end. Numerous varieties of maples, beech trees, and yellow birches cover the mountain. Balsam fir dominates the boreal forests at higher altitudes.
2- Go Fishing on the Delaware River
The Catskills’ Delaware River is one of the Northeast’s top spots for fly-fishing. The Catskills’ top-notch trout fishing attracts tourists from neighboring states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York as well as foreign fly-fishing enthusiasts.
The Catskills’ principal fly-fishing locations are Deposit, Livingston Manor, and Roscoe. Only catch-and-release fishing is permitted in some areas of the Delaware River (and on other rivers in the Catskills).
The town of Roscoe, which calls itself “Trout Town USA,” takes great pride in its history of fly-fishing. There are a few eateries and coffee shops in this tiny, historic town, as well as a number of places where you can buy fly-fishing equipment.
Livingston Manor, the birthplace of American fly-fishing, is home to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum on Route 17 and the renowned fly shop Dette Flies, which was founded in 1928. With its abundance of gourmet food shops, cafés, and local restaurants, this trendy town is also a culinary destination in and of itself.
In Roscoe, particularly in Livingston Manor, visitors will discover a wide selection of excellent dining establishments and lodging options.
The 80-acre Arnold House property is located in the lush Shandelee Mountain forests not far from Livingston Manor. There are hiking trails, an updated “tavern” restaurant, an outdoor area with a garden, and a renovated barn with picnic tables.
Other options in and around Livingston Manor include the recently renovated contemporary-style Callicoon Hills resort, which is about a 15-minute drive from the city center of Livingston Manor, and the upscale resort property The DeBruce, which features a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant.
Other streams that flow through the Catskills, including the Beaverkill River, Neversink River, Willowemoc Creek, and Esopus Creek, also offer fly-fishing opportunities.
3- Windham Mountain, Catskills, NY
Windham Mountain is a well-known family-friendly resort in the charming town of Windham, New York’s Northern Catskills, just two hours from New York City. The resort provides the best skiing and riding within 200 miles of New York City, with 54 trails spread across two peaks, six terrain parks, and 12 lifts serving 278 acres of varied ski terrain.
With an inn, an alpine spa, night skiing, a golf course, an adventure park, three restaurants, and a mountain bike park that is accessible by a chair lift, Windham Mountain Resort offers fun all year long.
4- Plattekill Mountain, Catskills, NY
Plattekill Mountain is a private family-friendly resort that offers great skiing in the winter and fantastic mountain biking trails once the snow melts. It is situated in the town of Roxbury, New York, not far from Catskill Park. The mountain has 38 trails that range from easy to extremely difficult, with a vertical drop of 1,100 feet.
In addition to surface lifts in the snow tubing park and beginner’s area, there are two chair lifts that go to the mountain’s highest points. Every summer, thousands of people flock to the grassy slopes for the free Music on the Mountain concerts. Summertime activities include mountain biking in addition to kayaking, guided hikes, fly fishing, and overnight camping.
5- Hanford Mills Museum, Catskills, New York
One of the few locations to witness a historic mill in operation is Hanford Mills. The sawmill, which was established in the 1840s, later added a gristmill, a feed mill, a woodworking shop, and a hardware store. Hanford Mills used equipment like waterwheels, water turbines, and gas engines and quickly developed a reputation for being inventive and creative.
Although visitors can take independent tours of a few of the buildings, a guided tour that includes the sawmill, gristmill, and woodworking shop is the best way to experience the museum.
6- Pitch a Tent at Gorgeous Campgrounds
Sleep in the cool mountain air under starry skies and awaken to the golden glow of the setting sun. Whether your campsite is next to a tranquil lake or a babbling brook, camping in the Catskills brings you closer to nature. It’s an opportunity to relax in a pristine natural setting.
North-South Lake Campground in Haines Falls, the biggest and busiest campground in the area, is home to renowned hiking trails like the Escarpment Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley landscape and beyond. Seven camping areas with more than 200 tent sites, water access, hot showers, and flush toilets are among the amenities. The two lakes, two beaches, a pavilion, boat rentals, a fishing platform, a playground, volleyball courts, and two picnic areas with tables and charcoal grills are additional features.
One of the first campgrounds in the Catskill Forest Preserve, Devil’s Tombstone Campground is another must-see destination. The campground is situated in a remote area that is shielded by some of the highest peaks in the Catskills. There are 24 rustic campsites at Devil’s Tombstone Campground, as well as a playground, picnic area, fireplaces, water access, and hiking trails.
Glamping locations offer a good substitute for those looking for an outdoor-themed overnight experience without having to rough it. A well-equipped glamping destination called Purling Waters at Tumblin’ Falls in Purling is tucked away in a heavily forested glen close to Shinglekill Creek.
7- Zoom Flume, Catskills, NY
East Durham is home to the well-liked family water park Zoom Flume. The Gravity Gorge Zipline, a one-of-a-kind water park zipline that soars above park grounds by more than 100 feet, is the park’s most distinctive feature. In addition to the Zoom Flume, there are many thrilling waterslides that are designed for speed and fun.
Birthday celebrations, family reunions, business gatherings, and other events can all be held in the park. Zoom Flume offers discounted season passes and nearby lodging specifically for families. Every year, the park is accessible from late June to early September.
8- Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest
At the top of Beaverkill Valley is this 13,500-acre nature reserve. Alder Lake, a trout haven, is located in Beaverkill Valley, a region renowned for its excellent fly fishing conditions. There are 22 miles of trails in the forest, with lengths ranging from 1.5 miles to 13.4 miles. There are several ways for visitors to reach the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain.
Lakes, a waterfall, streams, ponds, and other fascinating natural features can be seen along each route. Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest visitors frequently go hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, camping, and backpacking during the summer months. Visitors enjoy using the trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
9- The Belleayre Beach at Belleayre Mountain, Catskills, NY
In the Hamlet of Pine Hill, there is a waterside adventure park called Belleayre Beach at Belleayre Mountain. The park offers a wide beach where visitors can rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, row boats, and other watercraft for a small fee. Large-group pavilions, grills, a basketball court, and a volleyball court are also available.
Along with swimming, fishing, and canoeing in the lake, tourists like to explore the hiking trails that surround Belleayre Mountain. While some of the trails are short and easy, others are difficult and lengthy. Finally, the park hosts events and parties for the whole family all summer long.
10- Catskill Scenic Trail, Catskills, NY
The Catskill Scenic Trail, which is in Delaware County, is a popular spot for biking, horseback riding, running, and hiking. Along the 26-mile trail, the Delaware River meanders through farms, hills, and forests.
The Catskill Scenic Trail (CST), formerly the Ulster & Delaware Railroad, was transformed into a recreational trail in the 1990s with assistance from several kind organizations. Thousands of people use the CST annually, demonstrating the success of the “rails to trails” project. On the flat surface of the path, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.