Last Updated on July 15, 2020 by Lori
Looking for a weekend getaway that is fun, relaxing, and where you can see beauty everywhere around you?
The Catskill Mountains is just a few hour’s drive from NYC and is the perfect day trip or weekend getaway any time of year!
Where are the Catskill Mountains Located?
The Catskill Region is located in southeast New York State, between Albany and New York City, making it one of the best day trips for New Yorkers.
MAP OF NEW YORK STATE CATSKILLS
There are 98 peaks in the Catskill Mountains; but, the peaks aren’t geologically considered mountains at all but a dissected plateau that was eroded and shaped by sediment deposits and flowing waterways, creating towering mountain-like cliffs.
With over 700,000 acres of the Catskill Park, there are more things to do than you can probably imagine making it a place where there is something for everyone.
Best Things To Do In The Catskills
What kinds of things will you find to do in the Catskills?
Well, for one, there are tons of great hiking trails, some of the best fly fishing, zipline adventure tours, breweries, and much more!
Here are 13 Things You Can Do on your next getaway to the Catskill Mountains.
1. The World’s Largest Kaleidoscope
Located at Emerson Resort and Spa – 5340 Route 28, Mount Tremper, New York.
The Kaleidoscope stands at 56 feet tall and 38 feet in diameter and is certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope.
The silo from the original farm, which was built in 1860, was transformed into the Kaleidoscope, and the connecting barn is now the Shops at Emerson Resorts and Spa – one of the most beautiful Catskills resorts.
Visitors can lie on the floor and look up or lean against the wall to see the projected moving images and mirrors. According to the Kaleidoscope’s website, the show changes seasonally and reflects the theme of the Catskills.
If you’re looking for places to stay in the Catskills and would love to stay at a Catskills resort, Emerson Resort and Spa may be just what you’re looking for!
2. Rail Explorers – The River Run at Phoenicia, NY
70 Lower High Street, Phoenicia, NY
One of the more unique things to do in the Catskills is to take the Rail Explorer!
What is the Rail Explorer?
A rail explorer is a pedal-powered vehicle that rides on railroad tracks.
Pedal-powered rail vehicles date back to at least the 1850s when maintenance workers used hand-cars and ‘rail bikes’ to travel along the tracks. They were used to transport crew and materials for track inspection and repairs.
They have 4 steel wheels, hydraulic disc brakes, pedals for each seat and are fun and easy to ride!
Catskills River Run
You’ll be pedaling on the tracks that once was the historic Ulster & Delaware Railroad. The tracks travel alongside the Esopus Creek through the beautiful woods of the Catskill Mountains.
Are Dogs Allowed On The Rail Trail?
Dogs are permitted but their safety is your responsibility. Dogs must be restrained with a leash or harness. Space on the explorers is limited, so larger dogs may not fit comfortably and may be in danger of being struck by the pedals or pinched by the chains.
Be sure to bring a snack and a drink to enjoy at the creek-side turnaround.
Tour duration: 2.5 hours 8-mile round trip (with electric pedal assistance)
Tip: Make a reservation! During summertime, the Rail Explorer books up quickly
3. Saugerties Lighthouse
168 Lighthouse Drive, Saugerties, NY
The Saugerties Lighthouse is located on the Hudson River at the convergence of the Esopus Creek, in Ulster County’s village of Saugerties.
The restored, red-brick Lighthouse offers overnight Bed & Breakfast accommodations, public tours, and special events.
Furnished as it may have looked in the early 20th century, the Lighthouse contains a small museum, gift shop, parlor, kitchen, keepers’ quarters, and two guest bedrooms. The operational light-tower offers a panoramic view of the Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountains.
We enjoyed taking our golden retriever and hiking to the Lighthouse on the half-mile nature trail.
The trail ends at the Lighthouse where we enjoyed the beautiful views. It is an easy hike with many pretty views!
The trail is open sunrise to sunset.
The trail travels among stands of willow and maple trees, along tidal pools, and through patches of wildflowers, eventually opening onto the Hudson River.
Looking For A Unique Place To Stay in The Catskills?
Saugerties Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast
Open Thursday through Sunday nights year-round, the inn is a unique place to relax and enjoy the seasons of the Hudson River Valley.
There are two second-floor bedrooms, each with a double bed, and breakfast is included in your overnight stay.
The first-floor bathroom is the only bathroom and is shared by everyone staying in the Lighthouse. It contains a sink and a claw-foot basin shower with hot and cold running water (but not so hot in the winter).
There is no air-conditioning in the summertime, but the breezy location cools the rooms with the aid of a vintage fan. It is heated in wintertime.
4. Mountaintop Arboretum
4 Maude Adams Rd., Tannersville, NY
Mountain Top Arboretum is a public garden in the Catskill Mountains dedicated to displaying and managing native plant communities of the northeastern US, in addition to curating its collection of cold-hardy native and exotic trees.
The Arboretum is located 2,400 feet at the top of the New York City Watershed and creates a unique environment for education, research, and pure enjoyment of the spectacular and historic Catskills landscape.
The Arboretum trails and boardwalks connect 178 acres of plant collections, natural meadows, wetlands, forest, and Devonian bedrock—a natural sanctuary for visitors interested in horticulture, birding, geology, local craftsmanship, hiking and snowshoeing!
Self-Guided Tours At Mountaintop Arboretum
There are four main areas at Mountain Top Arboretum: West Meadow, Woodland Walk, East Meadow, and Spruce Glen.
Dogs are not permitted in the West Meadow or the Woodland Walk. Dogs are permitted on leash on Maude Adams Road and the East Meadow and off-leash on Spruce Glen trails
We took our Golden Retriever, Buddy on the East Meadow walk which is a very pretty walk.
Since I wanted to take photos of other areas of the arboretum where dogs aren’t allowed, Buddy and my husband sat in the shade on very nice benches while I explored the Woodland Walk and other areas of the arboretum.
Each area takes about 30-45 minutes or more to explore, depending on your speed of strolling, visiting plant collections, enjoying views, and watching wildlife.
The Arboretum is open dawn to dusk, every day of the year.
Best Hikes In The Catskills
There are hiking trails in the Catskill Mountains for all levels of hikers.
Whether you’re looking for an easy Catskill hike or you are a more advanced hiker – Catskill Mountains hiking trails are some of the most beautiful and best hiking around.
5. Kaaterskill Falls
Rt 23A, Haines Falls, New York
One of the most popular hikes in the Catskills is to Kaaterskill Falls, a two-stage waterfall of Kaaterskill Creek. The two cascades total 260 feet in height, making it one of the highest waterfalls in New York.
Located between Haines Falls, NY and Palenville, NY, Kaaterskill Falls provides a beautiful and serene hike for all ages and skill levels
To reach the viewing platform take Rt 23A to Haines Falls to North Lake Road (County Rt 18). Make a right onto Laurel House Road until the end.
TIP: The parking lot to the viewing platform is very SMALL – so I advise you to get there early!
From the parking lot, there are several paths you can take (kids especially love to ‘cut through’) or you can stay on the main path.
Kaaterskill Falls is beautiful any time of year but especially viewing the Catskills in the fall is very scenic!
We have been there when the water has been gushing and then again when the falls have been a trickle.
Related Reading: You may enjoy reading more about the trails at Kaaterskill Falls.
6. North-South Lake
County Road 18, Haines Falls, New York
North-South Lake is not only known for a great place to camp in the Catskills, but it is known as one of the best places for views of the mountains!
There are seven hikes along North-South Lake and Kaaterskill Wild Forest which are rated Easy, Moderate and Difficult.
Easy Hiking Trail To Catskill Mountain House
There are several short hikes at North-South Lake. One of our favorite short hikes it to Catskill Mountain House.
The Catskill Mountain House is an easy hike for all ages! Park at the North Lake Beach and follow the trail which will lead to beautiful views over the Hudson Valley.
From the Catskill Mountain House area follow the signs to Blue Escarpment Trail to Boulder Rock for even more awesome views!
While I thought the trail was a little challenging, my family and our Golden Retriever went right up the hill. We saw many families hiking up the hill and boy were the views worth it!
Here’s a partial view of what you’ll see at Boulder Rock. It was definitely worth hiking the hill for!
You might enjoy reading my post about hiking the Best Hikes In The Catskill Mountains For Beginners
7. Ashokan Reservoir
Did you know there is a 2.8-mile trail, known as the Ashokan Promenade, is a paved pathway along the southern shore of the Ashokan Reservoir. Perfect for walking, running, and biking year-round with awesome views of the Catskill Mountains.
The Ashokan Reservoir provides NYC with 40% of its water supply. Since this is a protected area, dogs are not permitted on the promenade.
There is, however, a trail by the fountains where dogs are permitted on leash.
You may enjoy reading how you can see the Beautiful Views At The Ashokan Reservoir
8. Ashokan Rail Trail
The Ashokan Rail Trail is an 11.5-mile trail from Basin Road in West Hurley to Route 28A in Boiceville.
It was built on the former Ulster & Delaware Railroad right of way and is perfect for walking, running, bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
How To Get To The Ashokan Rail Trail
There are three entrances to the Ashokan Rail Trail:
Woodstock Dike Trailhead – located at 1285 NY-28 in West Hurley. The Trailhead entrance is 5.3 miles west of NYS Thruway Exit 19 Traffic Circle and approximately 1,500 feet west of the Stewart’s Shop
Ashokan Station Trailhead – located at 3045 NY-28 in Shokan. The Trailhead entrance is 11.3 miles west of the NYS Thruway Exit 19 Traffic Circle across from Mountain Road
Boiceville Bridge Trailhead located at 5080 Route 28A in Boiceville. The Trailhead entrance is off Route 28A approximately 16.5 miles west of the NYS Thruway Exit 19 Traffic Circle.
We parked in the parking lot on Route 28A in Boiceville. The parking lot was small, but it was a weekday in the summer and there was plenty of parking.
Ashokan Rail Trail – Boiceville Bridge Trailhead Map
From the trail map, you can see the Ashokan Rail Trail or “ART” as it is called, follows the entire length of the Ashokan Reservoir.
There is also a port-a-pottie for your convenience in the parking lot.
We were happy to learn that dogs are welcome on the trail so we took Buddy along!
The pathway is shaded, but on this particular day, it was very hot and humid so we only went about a mile down the path.
There are places to sit along the path with nice views of the water.
We enjoyed walking along the ART (Ashokan Rail Trail). The views were beautiful and appreciated the flat surface to walk.
I will be updating this post when we return to the Ashokan Rail Trail later this year. We plan to bring our bicycles to try to ride the entire 22 miles (there and back)!
9. Five (5) State Overlook – Catskills
Have you been to the Five State Overlook in the Catskill Mountains?
We were lucky on the day we stopped that the weather was clear and we had an awesome view!
What Can You See At The Five State Lookout?
They say that on a clear day, you can see:
The White Mountains of New Hampshire
The Green Mountains of Vermont
The Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts
The Helderberg Mountains of New York
The Connecticut Valley
Located on Rt. 23 in East Windam, you will see a pull-off area for the View of Five States.
While it is just a pull-off with no picnic tables, it was a great place to sit and have our sandwiches for lunch.
Other Fun Stops In The Catskills
10. Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts – Tannersville, NY
Looking for things to do in Tannersville?
On your way to Kaaterskill Falls, you will want to stop in one of the cutest coffee shops we’ve found on our travels!
Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts not only has amazing coffee but also delicious donuts made while you wait!
We also had a Cappuccino to go along with our donuts. My daughters thought the bacon donuts were the BEST!
While you’re waiting for your donuts & coffee, you can relax in the sitting area, or play some pool!
Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts – 5950 Main St, Tannersville, NY
Check the Twin Peaks Facebook page for days & times they are open!
11. Check Out A Farmstand (or two) in the Catskills
We stop by to pick up vegetables and even a delicious pie to take back to our campsite! There’s also “fresh fish of the day” and our go-to most favorite item- Pepper Jelly.
Just 15 minutes from Woodstock, NY and Phoenicia, NY. Don’t Miss It!
12. Woodstock Brewing – Phoenicia, NY
5581 NY 28, Phoenicia, NY 12464
Looking for a FUN Place to hang out? Be sure to stop by Woodstock Brewing for some GREAT food & beer.
Woodstock Brewing was founded by two friends with a passion for beer and tinkering. The brewery has grown from a 1/2 barrel pilot system in a Woodstock garage to a 15 barrel brewery.
There’s a nice fire pit to keep you warm in the fall too! We had a great time at Woodstock Brewing which is located almost right across from one of our campgrounds – Sleepy Hollow Campground.
13. Walkway Over The Hudson
Walkway Over The Hudson is the World’s Longest Elevated Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is open 7 a.m. to Sunset, but it may be closed due to winds or lightening)
The Walkway is 1.28 miles from one gate to the other. It stands 212 feet above the Hudson River.
Where is the Walkway Over The Hudson Located?
The Walkway Over the Hudson is located in the Hudson Valley and spans the Hudson River connecting the City of Poughkeepsie and the town of Highland, New York.
Does It Cost Anything To Visit Walkway Over The Hudson?
The Walkway Over The Hudson is Free of Charge (except for special events). There is both free parking available and fee-based parking lots ($5 for 4 hours) near both sides of the walkway.
History About The Bridge
The bridge originally opened in 1889 as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad bridge. At the time of its opening, it was the longest bridge in the world.
During World War II it was painted black to make it less visible in case of an attack.
During spring and summer, there is a 21-story glass-enclosed ADA compliant elevator on the Poughkeepsie waterfront which operates from 9 a.m. until 90 minutes before park closing.
Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times.
Entrances are located at 87 Haviland Road in Highland, New York and 61 Parker Avenue in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Walkway Over The Hudson was a nice walk and the views were fantastic!
The Catskill Mountains has so much to do, you’ll want to take several days to have time to experience all there is to see!
What are some of your favorite places to go in the Catskills? Let me know! I would love to hear about them!