Catskill Mountains

The Catskill Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern part of New York State. These mountains are a part of the range that falls within Catskill Park, a 2,800km2 area of preserved forest. They begin at the Catskill Escarpment and run all the way to the Delaware River

Geography And Geology Of The Catskill Mountains

Geographically, the Catskills sit in the southeastern part of the state, some 160 kilometers north-northwest of New York City and roughly 64 kilometers southwest of the city of Albany, encompassing both Ulster and Greene County. 

Caterskill Mountains
Fall foliage in the Catskill Mountains.

The Catskill Mountains are actually a mature dissected plateau. Rather than being geological mountains that buckled or flooded from underneath, they were created by the erosion of a flat region, possibly by ice, glaciers, or waterways into peaks and sharp reliefs. In the case of the Catskills, the initial plateau was the Allegheny, or Appalachian Plateau. The mountain range runs for approximately 180 kilometers in a north-south orientation. Width-wise, they average 164 kilometers from their eastern to the western edge. Their total area is roughly 15,300 km2.There are over 30 major peaks in the range with an elevation greater than 1,100 meters. The highest summit is Slide Mountain, which has a maximum elevation of 1,270 meters above sea level.

At the easternmost end of the Catskill is the Catskill Escarpment, which unofficially marks the beginning of this section of the range. It has a dramatic incline jutting up from the Hudson Valley. At the western end, the mountains slowly decrease in elevation and gently slope into the Allegheny Plateau. Because of this, the unofficial eastern border is the Delaware River’s eastern arm.  

Climate In The Area

The climate in the Catskill falls within the Allegheny Highlands forest ecoregion and has two major climate zones. Mostly, the area experiences a continental climate that is warm and humid, but the valley areas tend to have extra hot and humid summers. 

Recreational Facilities In The Catskills Mountains

Hikers relax at the top of Kaaterskill Falls in Haines Falls, NY
Hikers relax at the top of Kaaterskill Falls in Haines Falls, NY. Editorial credit: KMarsh /

The Catskills are a very popular recreational area, and outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers are known to frequent the area to enjoy a variety of recreational sports and activities. The mountainous landscape and waterways make for endless hiking, climbing, skiing, biking, and water sport opportunities.

Hiking In The Catskill Mountains

Hikers in the Catskill Mountains
Hikers in the Catskill Mountains. Editorial credit: KMarsh /

Catskill Park is famous for hiking, camping, and on-foot activities. It is part of the larger New York Forest Preserve. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference maintains the trails and paths in the area. Several paths are popular with hikers, from introductory to advanced. These include walks such as the Giant Ledge, which offers beautiful scenic overlooks. Sam’s Point is a more difficult path with a great payoff as it features an aerial view of Verkeerderkill Falls, scrambling opportunities, and even ice caves to explore. Similarly, the Kaaterskill Falls trail allows for views of the tallest waterfall in New York State. Other prominent trails include Hunter Mountain Fire Tower, Frick Pond Loop, the Neversink River Unique Area, Bramley Mountain Trail, Catskills Scenic Trail, Mountain Tremper, Overlook Mountain trail, North Point, and the Balsam Lake Fire Tower hike. Notable campgrounds include Bear Spring Mountain, Little Pond, Mongaup Pond, and North-South Lake.

Water Sports In The Catskill Mountains

Water activities such as canoeing and kayaking are common in the area. A tributary of the Hudson River known as Esopus Creek runs through the region from Winnisook Lake at Slide Mountain. Its path forms a sharp 270-degree bend at Panther Mountain. This area, in particular, is known for its water tubing experience, where visitors can float down the river in an inflated inner tube. Fishing is also popular in Catskills, including permit-only fishing in the Ashokan Reservoir and flying fishing in the Esopus Creek.

Skiing  In The Catskill Mountains

Ski Resort in the Catskills Mountains of New York
Ski trail at Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort in the Catskills Mountains of New York.

The Catskill Mountains also offer a variety of skiing and snowboard opportunities. Olympic-level ski runs are available in Belleayre Mountain, and there are also a variety of runs in Windham Mountain, Plattekill Mountain, and Hunter Mountain. Monticello also has family-friendly skiing opportunities, and Joppenbergh Mountain is known for having hosted a major ski jumping competition. 

Biking In The Mountains

The mountain range also makes for excellent mountain biking and cycling. The area hosts the three-day-long Tour of the Catskills cycling race and the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Windham. More casual biking opportunities can be found along the Catskill Scenic Trail, Roundtopia trail, and the Headwaters Trails of Stamford. Similarly, several ski runs are converted to downhill mountain bike trails in the summer months. 

The Mountains provide various outdoor activities, scenic views, and nature experiences for experts and novices alike. Whether skiing, hiking, camping, or sightseeing, the Catskills are a great place to get away from the city and soak in the beauty of New York State.