Catskill Park is a 700,000-acre New York State designated wilderness that stretches from west of Kingston, New York to the East Branch of the Delaware River. Tucked within the beloved Catskill Mountains, Catskill Park contains 286,000 acres of state land that is designated as a Forest Preserve. Another 5% of the park is owned by New York City and protects four reservoirs that supply the city with fresh water.
Catskill Park was established in 1885 as one of only two areas in New York State designated as “Forever Wild.” Protected by the New York State Constitution, Catskill Park “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed, or destroyed.”
It’s not uncommon to hear the land within Catskill Park referred to as being inside the ‘Blue Line.’ With growing concern over the protection of the Adirondacks and Catskills, blue ink was used on original maps to depict proposed park boundaries. Today, the "blue line" defines the literal boundary of both the Adirondack and Catskill Parks – the latter of which spans four counties: Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, and Ulster. Together, these impressive wilderness areas encompass more than six million acres.
The creation of Catskill Park, in particular, is said to have forever changed the way the region was perceived and appreciated by visitors. Though the Catskills were once a place thought to be catered to New York socialites and elitists, Catskill Park became a destination for general outdoor exploration and recreation.
In 1892, the state would spend $250 to carve out a trail up Slide Mountain, attracting hikers and tourists interested in experiencing the highest peak in the Catskills. Throughout the next 50 years, the state acquired land and developed additional trails, lean-tos, and towers. Between 1926 and 1931 the park’s first four campgrounds were established and in 1948, Belleayre Mountain Ski Center was built to entice enthusiastic skiers to visit the Catskills.
Today, more than 500,000 people make their way to the park to explore 300+ miles of multi-use trails through stunning forests, lush meadows, and wetlands. Nearly 100 Catskill summits tower to an impressive 3,000-feet in the park and all but two of the Catskill High Peaks can be found behind the Blue Line.
Overlook Mountain is a popular 5-mile footpath that, just as its name implies, offers unforgettable views of the surrounding wilderness. While Overlook Mountain falls short of Catskill High Peak designation, it is known as a both historically and spiritually significant summit. Overlook Mountain was once identified by Native Americas as a home to great spirits. Overlook was also the site of one of the ‘mountain houses’ first constructed in the Catskills in the 1800s.
Mount Tremper is one of the most popular hikes in the Catskills. The trail leads hikers along a 3-mile footpath to an old fire tower that sits at the top of Mount Tremper in the Phoenicia-Mount Tobias Wild Forest. The trail follows an old jeep trail and ascends a series of switchbacks before reaching the tower, which sits 47 feet off the ground. The Mount Tremper fire tower was built in 1917 and is one of the last fire towers in the Catskills. Though it hasn’t been used since 1971, the tower has been restored and can accommodate up to six people at a time.
If you’re looking for the best views of the Catskills, look no further. The hike to Giant Ledge is best-known for its sweeping views of the Catskills, particularly during Autumn. The trail features five distinct ledges that offer unobstructed, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trail is just 3.2 miles round trip to the first ledge, and about 4 miles roundtrip if for those that continue to the fifth ledge. Or, if you’re looking to bag a Catskill high peak, you can opt to continue on for an additional two miles to reach the top of Panther Mountain.
Reaching over 4,000 feet in elevation, the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower is one of the Catskills’ most challenging treks. This footpath climbs almost 2,000 feet in elevation and spans over 8 miles. The reward, however, is definitely worth the effort. Hunter Mountain is the highest elevation fire tower in New York, and on a clear day, views from the top of this peak can span three states!
Hike to the 2,812-foot summit of Bramley Mountain, the site of a former fire tower and an abandoned bluestone quarry. Along this 4-mile footpath, hikers can expect to be dazzled by impressive cliffs and caves that line the trail. The trail, which was built by the Catskill Mountain Club, gradually ascends through mixed hardwoods and stone walls, many with craggy outcroppings. At the summit, hikers can soak in views of southern high peaks like Mount Pisgah and peaks of the western Pepacton Range.
Known as the birthplace of American art, Catskill is a small town packed with a ton of history. The town, which is nestled along the banks of the Hudson River, is where you’ll find the former home of famous Hudson River School Painters, Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church. Catskill features a variety of Victorian storefronts, charming boutiques, and eclectic restaurants. Visitors can hike to the site of the Catskill Mountain House, stroll beside nearby waterways, or charter a boat to explore the Hudson, all from the picturesque town of Catskill.
Cairo is a small town with a big job – it connects most of the Great Northern Catskills with Albany and other major cities. Cairo also happens to be an ideal basecamp for visitors hoping to explore Catskill hiking trails and scenic vistas. Cairo is best-known for its local events and family-friendly festivities, as well as its charming accommodations and eateries.