Autumn Hikes in the Colorful Catskills, New York
- Hike historic and scenic mountain trails to streams, lakes, and vistas
- Visit one of the highest waterfalls in New York State
- Enjoy autumn's spectacular display of color
- Lodging and meals
- Presentation by a local speaker
- Cruise on the Hudson River
|Dates||Sep 28–Oct 4, 2014|
New York’s Hudson River Valley, and particularly the Catskill Mountains, has been a vacation mecca since the 19th century. The fresh mountain air and cooler temperatures were particularly attractive to New York City residents during the summer. In autumn the leaves change to reds and golds. It is during this spectacular display of color that we will hike the Catskills.
In 1885 New York State formed the Catskill State Park to protect the mountains that had been stripped of their natural resources. Today, much of the 700,000 acres that encompass the Park are set aside as "forever wild," with most of the 98 high peaks over 3,000 feet lying within the Park.
Join us under the autumn canopy as we follow historic and scenic mountain trails that lead across mountain streams, past waterfalls and lakes, and provide breathtaking views from mountain summits. During our hikes we will have an opportunity to observe the unique geology of these mountains, their steep cloves, sandstone rock formations, and mysterious forests. We'll visit one of the highest waterfalls in New York State, explore the site of the 19th century's first mountaintop hotel (located on the edge of a 2,000-foot escarpment), and see the views painted by 19th-century artists of the Hudson River School of landscape painters.
After each day of hiking we return to our comfortable lodge to relax or swim in the indoor pool, and then gather in the lounge for a beverage and snack before dinner. Afterward we'll get together for evening socializing or programs. Our last evening there will offer live music and entertainment.
Each morning we will enjoy a hearty breakfast, pack our lunches, and carpool to the trailheads. Upon our return to the lodge you might take a dip in the indoor pool or a well-deserved nap. Later we can meet in the lounge to share stories and enjoy beverages and snacks before dinner. Our three- or four-course dinners feature traditional Italian cuisine.
After dinner you can relax, swim, play indoor bocce or shuffleboard, read, or join other participants for casual conversation. Each evening we will have a brief meeting regarding the following day's activities.
We will also set aside one or two evenings for discussions/presentations. There will be at least one presentation by a local speaker/author who is an expert in Catskill geography, history, conservation, or flora and fauna. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the Catskills. We will also discuss conservation and wilderness protection. The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is a good occasion to recognize what has been accomplished and the work still to be done.
Day 1: Check-in after 2 p.m. We'll meet at 5 p.m. for introductions at our meet-and-greet. Following our 6:30 p.m. dinner, we will get together for a group orientation to discuss trip expectations, conservation issues (Leave No Trace), trail etiquette, group hiking protocols, meeting times, gear, carpooling, and the general trip itinerary. An up-to-date itinerary will be established based upon weather and trail conditions.
Day 2: We will start with a visit to the former site of the historic Catskill Mountain House. While there we can look for 19th-century names carved into the bedrock by the hotel guests. We will then follow the escarpment 2,000 feet above the Hudson River Valley while enjoying views extending east to Connecticut. On our way to North Point we will stop at numerous vistas, see amazing conglomerate rock formations, and see scenes made famous by 19th-century landscape painters. Once at North Point, we will enjoy lunch and try to catch a glimpse of Albany, the State capital.
Day 3: Ready for a challenge? Our next adventure takes us on a journey to "The Devil's Path." This 25-mile trail crosses six mountains and is a famous hiking challenge. We will ascend one of these summits, Twin Mountain. This hike will take us past 19th-century bluestone quarries where local artisans have created "thrones," walls, and artistic stone formations. We'll also pass a beaver dam that is more than 100 feet long and surrounded by the pointed stumps of trees felled by the beavers. Our ascent includes a short scramble over large rock slabs, and then a final stretch to the summit with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Day 4: Wednesday will be a day of exploration of a different kind. We will start with a visit to the historic artist colony of Woodstock. We will take some time to visit this village that continues to attract musicians, artists, and writers from around the country. The shops offer some of the best craftsmanship you will find anywhere. We will lunch in a Woodstock restaurant and then travel on to the historic Kingston waterfront district, where we will board our ship for a cruise on the Hudson River. You will see the majestic Hudson from the same vantage point that Henry Hudson enjoyed in 1609.
Day 5: If you like waterfalls, then this is the one to see. At 260 feet, the dual cascades of Kaaterskill Falls are one of the highest in New York State. An easy hike will take us to the base of the falls. There are numerous 19th-century paintings of the falls and you will see why these falls were -- and still are -- a favorite of artists. Our day continues with a drive to the trailhead of our next hike. We will follow a well-worn woods road and the turn onto the trail to Huckleberry Point. Crossing a mountain stream, we will hike through a variety of woods, including a wood of Pitch Pines to find ourselves on the rock ledges of Huckleberry Point overlooking Platte Clove and the Hudson River.
Day 6: We saved the best, and longest, for last. Wittenberg Mountain is a spectacular hike that leads us past high rock walls and dramatic forests, up short but steep rock ledges, and culminates in perhaps the most spectacular vista in the Catskills. Its expansive rock summit overlooks the Ashokan Reservoir (one of New York City's water supplies). We will want to linger and savor the view from here while we enjoy our lunch.
After our final dinner we will gather to reminisce about our trip and discuss plans for our departure. We'll top off the evening with music and entertainment.
Day 7: After our final breakfast, we'll pack our lunches and say our good-byes.
The Catskill Mountains are about 100 miles north of New York City and 45 miles south of Albany. Participants are expected to provide their own transportation to and from our lodge and to the trailheads and activities each day. The best way to get there and to trailheads each day is to drive, though we do encourage carpooling and will provide a roster of trip members so you can arrange that. There is also bus service from NYC and Albany.
Trailways bus: Call (800) 776-7548 (trailwaysny.com)
Nearby Airports (approximate driving times noted):
- New York City: Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport (2.5 hours)
- Westchester County Airport (2 hours)
- Newark, New Jersey (2 hours)
- Newburgh, NY (1 hour)
- Albany, NY (1.25 hours)
After you apply for the trip, you will be sent application forms, which you should promptly fill out and send to the trip leader. The leader will review the forms and contact you by phone to discuss the trip with you. Please wait for approval from the leader before making any transportation reservations.
Accommodations and Food
The trip price is based on room sharing (two people per room). Private rooms or room upgrades may be available at an additional cost. Participants desiring such an arrangement will be advised to contact the innkeeper after they have been accepted as a participant on this trip, and directly pay the innkeeper for any additional costs. All meals (taxes and tips included) will be served in a comfortable dining room. Our lodge is an fourth-generation Italian family resort, so our four-course dinners will consist primarily of Italian-American fare. Breakfast and lunch foods are traditional American fare. Participants will pack their own sack lunches from lodge-provided food.
This trip is best suited for experienced hikers. Trails can be rocky and are often crisscrossed by roots. There will be some steep sections, and elevation gains can range from 1,400 to 1,900 feet during our day hikes of 4-7.5 miles. We will alternate hikes so easier hikes will be followed by a more difficult hike the next day. The exact hikes we choose will depend upon the group's combined abilities and the weather. We will move along at a relaxed, but moderate, pace. The leaders will try to keep the group fairly close together, so it is important for all participants to be in good physical condition. Well-behaved minors (at least 15 years old) are welcome when accompanied by a parent and when capable of keeping up with the hiking group. Parents will be fully responsible for their children. Photographers are welcome, understanding that the focus of this trip is hiking, so photographers are expected to keep up with the group.
Equipment and Clothing
Fall in the Catskills can see temperatures ranging from the 30s at night to the 70s during the day. Please bring clothing for layering (no cotton please) as well as rain gear (jacket and pants), waterproof boots, sunglasses, insect repellent, hat, lip balm, water bottles/bladder, and day pack. A complete equipment list will be sent to all registered participants.
Maps and Guides:
- Catskill Trails map set by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference (njnjtc.org)
- Carol and David White, Catskill Day HIkes for All Seasons.
- Robert Gildersleeve, Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide.
- Evers, Alf, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock.
- Van Zandt, Roland, The Catskill Mountain House.
- Titus, Robert, The Catskills: A Geological Guide; The Catskills in the Ice Age.
Sierra Club volunteer leaders are committed to the conservation of our wild places and the enjoyment of the outdoors. We will practice Leave No Trace principles during our trip to minimize our impact on the environment. During evening programs and on the trail, there will be ample time to share information about the history of the Catskill region. We will discuss the geology, the exploitation of the forests and fauna, and the effect of the European settlers on the native people that inhabited the Hudson Valley. There are many new environmental issues confronting this historic region and we will bring these up as well as listening to the conservation issues that concern you. In addition, 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act—a good time to re-commit to the preservation and protection of our natural environment.