If getting out of the city for a little time amongst nature is at the top of your list for end-of-summer activities, look no further than the Catskills. This region is situated just north of New York City and takes up more than 200 miles that wind you through mountain paths, waterfalls, lakes, and villages. The best part: Getting there will take you less than three hours from the city. We’ve broken down the best places to hike and camp in the Catskills, via car and public transportation.
Model, Influencer & Entrepreneur Lindsey Pelas Reveals Celebrity Pick Up Stories
Difficulty: Easy How far is it: Three hours and 15 minutes by bus How to get there: Take a Trailways bus from Port Authority to Phoenicia, New York. A round-trip ticket will cost you $66. What to expect: Your Tanbark Trail hike begins at a red bench in Phoenicia Park and takes you through 2.3-miles of an old quarry (the stones sourced from the area were used to pave the streets of New York City). You’ll wind through plenty of geological compositions, but be sure to keep an eye out for the “weeping rock” -- a rock formation with a water drip -- which you’ll see before you hit the half-point of the hike. With 800 feet of elevation, the view at the end of this hike offers a stunning view of the entire town of Phoenicia. Nearby campground: Woodland Valley Campground is located right at the foot of Slide Mountain, a 15-minute drive or a two-hour hike from Tanbark Trail. A campsite will cost you $20 a night, and gets you access to hot showers, bathrooms, grills, and a recycling center. The campground is also close to the Slide-Wittenberg and Woodland Valley-Denning trails, as well as tubing on the Esopus Creek.
Sloan Gorge Preserve
Difficulty: Easy How far is it: Two hours and 50 minutes by bus How to get there: Take a Trailways bus from Port Authority to Woodstock, New York. A round-trip ticket will cost you $58. What to expect: Sloan Gorge Preserve (once home to artist Allan Edward Sloan) is the first interpretive geology trail in the region, according to the Woodstock Land Conservancy, meaning you’ll pass by various Ice Age geologies on your way. The gorge itself is a canyon that’s mostly hidden by the Catskill Front, which can be found just northeast of Woodstock. The nature trail that takes you up to the canyon can be located on Stoll Road right near West Saugerties Road. Expect to pass creeks, quarries, and some of the Catskills’ most stunning cliffsides on your way to the canyon. Nearby campground:Saugerties / Woodstock KOA (a 75-minute hike or eight-minute drive from the preserve) is located on 40 acres surrounded by maple and pine trees -- so it’s basically the locale of all your camping daydreams. The campground has a pool, craft programs, a catch-and-release pond, disc golf, and a game room. You can find more information about booking a site on the campground’s website.
The Finger Lakes Trail
Difficulty: Intermediate How far is it: Two-and-a-half hours by bus How to get there: Take the Short Line Bus service from Port Authority to Roscoe, New York. A round-trip ticket will cost you $74. What to expect: You can catch part of the 580-mile Finger Lakes Trail in Roscoe. This free trail is connected to other popular trail systems in the area: The Great Eastern Trail, The Bruce Trail, The North Country Scenic Trail, and The Long Path. Needless to say, you can spend a day, weekend, or weeks taking in the trail, if you’ve got the proper camping gear. Nearby campground: Roscoe Campsites (a four-hour hike or 25-minute drive from the trail route) offers cabin rentals, RV rentals, as well as sites where you can set up your own tent. Aside from hiking the nearby trails, you can bird watch, fly-fish, kayak, and tube at the Beaverkill River. You can read more about the accommodations and pricing (an overnight campsite will run you $50) on the campground’s website.
Difficulty: Intermediate How far is it: Two hours and 50 minutes by bus How to get there: Buy a ticket to Palenville, New York from Port Authority bus terminal via Pine Hill Trailways. A round-trip ticket will cost you $65. What to expect: You’ll find the tallest two-tier waterfall in New York on this short, steep hike. Be warned: Kaaterskill Falls is a popular spot for hikers, so you probably won’t be the only person taking in the views. If you’re keen on taking in two waterfalls in one day, check out the nearby Bastion Falls. You can find them just off the trailhead -- it’s even visible from the road. The falls are a three-hour hike from Palenville -- you can grab a taxi to drop you off closer if you’re looking for a shorter hike -- but the route from Palenville’s city center takes you through the scenic Kaaterskill Wild Forest. Nearby campground:Blue Mountain Campground is located a quick 4-minute drive -- or a 55-minute hike -- from Palenville. The campground offers tent sites, cabins, and RVs for rent, and if you’re looking for equipment, they can hook you up with that (tents to rent are $25 a night on top of the $32 site rental). It also has an on-site laundry room, a camp store, fire rings, picnic tables, a playground, Wi-Fi, showers, and full-service bathrooms. For more information on renting a site, head to the campground website.
Difficulty: Hard How far is it: Three hours and 45 minutes by bus How to get there: Take a Trailways bus from Port Authority to Hunter, New York. A one-way ticket will cost you $37. What to expect:Plateau Mountain trail is located at the ascent of the Devil’s Tombstone -- a deep pass that cuts through the peaks of Plateau and Hunter Mountains -- and is known as one of the steepest in the Catskills. The hike kicks off with a mile-long ascent that will take you up 1,900 feet. Don’t be disappointed once you hit the summit -- the real view is a short walk away to take in the views of Sugarloaf Mountain on the other side. You can actually climb two mountainsides in one day, if you also take on the two-hour hike to the Sugarloaf trail. Nearby campground: Devil’s Tombstone campground (16 minutes by car or 90 minutes on foot from the trail) offers 24 campsites, fireplaces, a playground, and picnic tables. This region is surrounded by some of the Catskills’ many peaks and is a great area for experienced hikers to explore. You’ll want to reserve your site before making your visit. Boating, fishing, and swimming are located 9 miles away at the nearby North-South Lake.
Catskill Scenic Trail
Difficulty: Easy How to get there: Take I-87 North to NY-28 West How far is it: Three hours and 40 minutes from NYC by car What to expect: This 26-mile trail has a gentle grade that’s great for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. The Catskill Scenic Trail spans through the West Brand of the Delaware River and along parts of NYS Route 10, 23, and 30. The area used to be home to a railroad line (now out of service), and has since turned into a recreational hotspot. It’s recommended that you park at two particular entrances: the intersection of Railroad Avenue and South Street in Stamford or the parking lot on Route 10 east of Bloomville. Nearby campground:Stratton Falls Campsites is located in the Upper Catskills region (about a 22-minute car ride or four hours on foot), right along the West Settlement Stream and the Delaware River. The sites go for $20 -- guests of campers are required to pay a $10 fee -- and include entry for two adults with two children and one vehicle. Visit the Stratton Falls Campsites website for more information on reserving a spot.
Vernooy Kill Falls
Difficulty: Easy How far is it: Two hours and 50 minutes from NYC by car How to get there: Take I-87 North toward Rochester, New York What to expect: Trails.com calls this out as being an incredibly kid-friendly hike, thanks to its lack of cliffsides, shallow water, and absence of adjoining trails. But the best part is that once you get there, you can wade and swim into the falls’ pool to cool off. If you pay a visit during the late spring or early summer, you can catch the mountain laurel bushes in full bloom. Nearby campground: If you’re looking to steer clear of fellow hikers and campers, The Peekamoose Valley in Sundown Wild Forest -- about an 8-hour hike from the falls -- is a great area to find your own site and hook up your tent for the night. Straying from the campground path for the first time? Trail Sherpa has a great list of things to keep in mind when planning a night away from an organized campground. The Peekamoose Valley is a popular spot for primitive campers, but note that you may need a special permit for large groups or if you plan on spending more than four nights in the area. You can read more about the camping rules on the DEC website.
Difficulty: Easy How far is it: Two hours and 40 minutes from NYC by car How to get there: Take I-87 North toward Hunter, New York What to expect: This 4.5-mile hike will take you through stunning views of the Huckleberry Point Overlook and Plattekill Mountains. You can climb down to different overlooks of the Clove, but do so at your own risk and tread safely. The trail ends at the Overlook, so the second half of your hike will be from where you came (the entire thing will take three hours). If you’re looking to extend your hike, you can add Kaaterskill High Peak to the trip. Nearby campground: The Rip Van Winkle campgrounds (11 minutes by car or a one-hour-and-45-minute hike) are named after the folklore that was born in the region. As the story goes, a man who was annoyed with his wife wandered into the nearby forested mountains, drank a magic potion, and fell asleep for 20 years (#goals). You can explore the surrounding “cloves” where Rip Van Winkle allegedly snoozed or take in the much more modern statues and monuments inspired by the deep sleeper. The campgrounds are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, firewood, bathrooms, showers, and a laundry room. Make a reservation before visiting.
Difficulty: Intermediate How far is it: Two hours and 20 minutes from NYC by car How to get there: Take I-87 North to Ellenville What to expect: You’ll find a rare mix of fauna in this region -- the 5,000-acre area is home to the uncommon pitch pine barren trees, dwarf pines, and chestnut oak trees. You can also explore the ice caves of Lake Maratanza, one of the five Shawangunk sky lakes. You might even get a peek of Verkeerderkill Falls -- a 187-foot waterfall -- though do note that it’s on private property, so you’ll have to stay on the trail. There’s also a $10 car fee for parking in the lot when you’re visiting Sam’s Point Preserve, which can fill up very quickly during peak season. Nearby campground: Sam Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground -- also known as the Gunks Campground -- offers 50 campsites across 50 acres, 34 minutes by car or five hours on foot from the trail. The nearby cliffside is a huge attraction for campers; it’s only a 20-minute walk to the base of a cliff from the campsite. The campground also offers tours led by Alpine Endeavors guides, if you’re looking for a bit of a lesson in local geography, wildlife (they do have quite a black bear population!), and fauna. As for amenities, the site offers coin-operated showers, a centralized fire ring, limited parking, Wi-Fi access, and picnic tables. To reserve a site, head to the Sam Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground website.
Bear Spring Mountain State Park Loop Trail
Difficulty: Intermediate How far is it: Three hours and 10 minutes from NYC by car How to get there: Follow NY-17 West to Roscoe, New York and NY-206 West to Walton What to expect: The Central Loop of the Bear Spring Mountain State Park Trail will take you through 9 miles of ponds, grassy fields, and a bridge. It’s a preferred snowmobiling and horseback-riding trail, but you can walk it without getting too lost, according to Catskill Hiker. Nearby campground: For $18 a night -- note that there is an additional $5 per night charge for out-of-state visitors -- you’ll find an incredibly rustic place to park you (and your horse, if you’ve got one) for the night at Bear Spring Mountain Campground (two minutes by car or 30 minutes on foot from the trail). This region is known for its incredible horseback trails, as well as hunting and fishing spots. It’s home to 41 sites, athletic fields, 24 horse-tie stalls, a beach, boat rentals, picnic tables, bathrooms with showers, and grills. Oh, and it’s surround by 24 miles of prime hiking trails. You can reserve a campsite on the Reserve America website.
Overlook Mountain Trail
Difficulty: Intermediate How far is it: Two hours and 40 minutes from NYC by car How to get there: Follow I-87 North to NY-28 West toward Woodstock What to expect: Overlook Mountain Trail is a 4.8-mile trail that takes you through fields of wildflowers and the ruins of an old hotel (the former Overlook Mountain House, which was built in the early 1800s). Two things to keep in mind: Don’t miss the fire tower, and keep an eye out for wildlife -- more than one commenter on AllTrails called out a timber rattlesnake sighting. Nearby campground: You can rent one of the 76 sites at the Kenneth L. Wilson Campground (20 minutes by car or three hours at 10 minutes by foot from the trail) for $22 a night. The campground is surrounded by mountains, and it’s located 5 miles from one of upstate New York’s most famed towns: Woodstock. You’ll find firewood for sale, bathrooms, showers, boat rentals (rowboats and canoes), horseshoes, and a recycling center on-site.
Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.
Erika Owen is a Brooklyn-based travel and food writer on the constant search for the perfect pair of headphones.