At a massive 700,000 acres, the Catskill Mountains are the closest retreat for many New Yorkers. Just two hours northwest of New York City, these beautiful mountains are home to the most famous small town in the world (Woodstock); its water reservoirs are the source of New York City's tap water. Its highest point, Slide Mountain, towers some 4,000 feet. And you better believe its summit has some really incredible views.
Not a hiker? Not to worry — there are plenty of breathtaking views from the side of the road! So whether you’re up for a 3,000-foot challenge, or just road tripping through the area, we’ve picked out some of our favorite ways to see the best views in the Catskills.
For those willing to climb for the views, the Catskills are full of remarkably scenic and memorable hikes. One of our favorites is Overlook Mountain, with multiple points of interest. After about a forty minute trek uphill, the trail leads straight up to the grand facade of the Overlook Hotel, a structure dating back to the beginning of the 1900s. (The hotel's longer history dates back to 1833, when the original structure was built, but then burned down.) Almost 100 years since it was built, the hotel is now overgrown with trees, vines, plants and wildflowers; the resulting scene is otherworldly. Just a short trek beyond the hotel ruins is the mountain's summit, with two incredible views. The first is a clearing in the trees; the second is a clearing with a fire tower on top. Guess which one has the better view?
For more leisurely sightseeing, the view from the Ashokan Reservoir can't be beat. Many of the Catskills' 35 peaks can be seen, seemingly floating above the reservoir, which is one of several bodies of water that later become New York City's famous tap water. To get here, route yourself to the intersection of Historic Route 28A and Monument Road just outside of Olivebridge, New York. There's a parking lot at the foot of a long pedestrian-only bridge, perfect for a short jog, bike ride or sunset stroll.
Another leisurely way to take in the Catskills is by train. There's no shortage of scenic train rides in the 770-acre park, but our favorite is the Delaware & Ulster Railroad in Arkville, New York. The train is a beautifully refurbished Rip Van Winkle Flyer, taking some older riders down memory lane while capturing the imaginations of younger folks of what life was like in the “olden times.” The historic observation car has a bubble vista on top for 360-degree views of the mountains.
For real thrill-seekers, white-water tubing is a great way to explore the Catskills. Two tubing businesses in the ultra-cool town of Phoenicia, New York, the "tubing capital of the world," compete for your business. We've tubed with both down the Esopus Creek, and in every type of weather, we’ve seen fish, deer and bald eagles. It takes sightseeing to a whole new level — just don't forget to look up!