hemlock and white pine trees, sunset

Israel Wittman Sanctuary

This beautiful, serene and contemplative nature walk has so much to recommend it: lovely quiet woods of mixed evergreen and deciduous trees, easy stream crossings over delightful footbridges, dozens of stone fences built by settlers, small quarries and exposed rock faces, as well as fine field of glacial erratics.

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forest cliff face

Sloan Gorge Preserve

You don’t have to climb a mountain to experience the Catskills. The lowlands have so much to offer. Sloan Gorge Preserve is a great example: an absolutely delightful, short, and family-friendly nature walk.

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fishing dock, pond, mountains, trees, catskills

Kenneth L. Wilson State Campground Nature Trail

This kid-friendly nature trail winds through mature hemlock, spruce, and red/white pine woods between Ticetonyk Mountain and Mt Tobias. There are views of Wittenberg and Cornell, and the campground amenities are top notch.

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wooden cabin, two stories

Slabsides / John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary

Slabsides is the rustic two-story cabin hand-built by famous naturalist John Burroughs at the end of the 1800’s. It is preserved just as he left it, including its personal contents. A series of short interconnected trails wind through hemlock-heavy woods and a swamp, past dramatic rock outcroppings and magical waterfalls, and alongside peaceful lakes. The terrain is rugged but the trails are appropriate for well-managed children.

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sunset view

Hike Windham High Peak from Peck Road

This is the hike I recommend to anyone who’s never hiked in the Catskills before, or is wondering if they’d even be able to handle a mountain hike. (Yes, you can.) It’s a short and easy hike — but it’s also very beautiful and so rewarding.

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lake view

Hike Onteora Lake (3 Loops)

Just a 10 minute drive from both Kingston and Woodstock, Onteora Lake is a fantastic set of three interconnected loop trails that are perfect for a hit of the real Catskills. Its lake, ponds, streams, trails, old quarries, hemlock and oak forests on gently rolling hills — with occasional cliffs — are ideal for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing.

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Scenic Catskills View

New Hiking Trail: Ashokan Quarry Trail

The Ashokan Quarry Trail is a brand new, short, but highly entertaining hike most people will be able to do in under an hour. It’s so varied in terms of terrain, flora, views and ruins, I suspect it will be a hit with younger hikers, too.

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creek

Hike Rochester Hollow

An easy hike through beautiful woods leads to a series of magnificent stone fences, ruins, and a memorial to John Burroughs. This is an underutilized and under-appreciated trail. Especially suited to skiers, trail-runners and animal track lovers.

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Spruce & Sunshine

Kelly Hollow Loop: An Easy & Exceptionally Beautiful Hike

Short and easy, but thoroughly absorbing, Kelly Hollow Loop is one of the most beautiful trails in the Catskills. It came highly-recommended to me from several friends and it really delivered.

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the cabin in woods

Hike Balsam Lake Mountain

This route combines the easiest ascent to any summit in the Catskill Park with a much more interesting (and far less trafficked) descent down the south side of the mountain. I also tried to find the scenic view, and visited a lean-to. It’s quite easy to drive past the parking area for Balsam Lake because it’s directly after a curve on Millbrook Rd.

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Ashokan Rail Trail, Fall 2019

Ashokan Rail Trail Now Open

The newly-opened Ashokan Rail Trail on the north side of the Ashokan Reservoir is ridiculously wonderful. Ulster County and the DEP have absolutely aced this project. If you’re a walker, runner or cyclist, this is nine miles of absolute heaven. And unlike other promenades around the reservoir, dogs are allowed.

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summit of bearpen mountain

Hike Vly & Bearpen

Personal opinion: these are the only two boring Catskill 3500 hikes. Vly has a few small ledges to keep things interesting, barely, but I swear the trailed route up Bearpen has almost nothing to recommend it. Luckily, you can bag both of these hills together on a single, easy out-and-back.

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