1. Where to Stay
Stay on top of the mountains at Rosehaven Inn (from $125), a picture-perfect, turn-of-the-century restoration that sits atop Kaaterskill Clove Pass and one steep, walkable mile from Kaaterskill Falls. Each of the four large bedrooms has a gas fireplace and double-size whirlpool tubs, but Room 2, in the second turret, has a private terrace and a sunset view.
The Fairlawn Inn (from $109), in Hunter, is a more casual B and B; the turreted Victorian has a pool table and, as of this summer, a sprawling backyard patio with a steel fire pit. Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko adorns the modest mix-and-match guest rooms with his art collection, which includes a few originals of famous twentieth-century abstracts.
Opened in January, the eighteen-room, Adirondack-style Hotel Mountain Brook (from $175), in Tannersville, is steps from the town’s lively restaurant row. The third-floor Byrdcliffe room has a fireplace and vaulted ceilings. Breakfast at the hotel’s excellent restaurant is included.
Splurge on full-service amenities at the retro ski lodge Scribner Hollow Lodge (from $230)—it boasts tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a hotel restaurant with excellent regional fare. Soak sore muscles in the kitschy, cavelike indoor pool, the Grotto. Request the Hunting Lodge for some extra room, a gas fireplace, and unbeatable views of the Hunter Mountain ski area.
2. Where to Eat
For breakfast anytime, stop into the boho Maggie’s Krooked Café (5778 Main Street, Tannersille; 518-589-6101). Order the Top Secret omelet (sh, it’s pesto) with spicy home fries or the buttery, crispy-edged Old-World Potato Pancakes.
Across the street, sample some of the 300 beers and 100 cheeses at Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Café. Sop up the Emmentaler, Gruyère, and brandy-and-white-wine fondue with crusty blocks of French bread. Get some truffles, Belgian beer, and caramel turtles to go from the general store up front.
The Champagne cocktails and dirty martinis at Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room are alone worth the 23-mile trip to Big Indian. Chef Devin Mills, who honed his skills at Gramercy Tavern, serves a daily rotating menu created around the local food supply.
3. What to Do
Hike to the base of Kaaterskill Falls—the 260-foot, two-tiered inspiration to generations of poets, artists, and, of course, hikers—by taking the official trail from the Route 23A horseshoe (rocks are slick and mossy all year around, so wear good hiking shoes), past the smaller Bastion Falls, and up the half-mile, steep incline (locals call it “StairMaster hike”). For a more impressive (read: terrifying) view, drive four miles north to Laurel House Road and take the quarter-mile stroll from the parking lot to the edge of the overlook. Check out the names carved into the stones—some date back to the nineteenth century.
Escape the beached hordes at North-South Lake and rent a kayak ($10 a day), canoe ($15 per day), or paddle boat ($5 per hour) from the recreation center near the parking lot. Paddle to the far side of the lake and take in the green slopes rising straight up from the water’s edge—at 2,250 feet above the valley floor, you can look down over five states in clear weather.
Channel your inner-daredevil by driving the treacherous but scenic Platte Cove Road, located off Route 16, outside of Tannersville. There are no guardrails, so drive carefully as you peer into the precipitous gorge below. Or park in the lot just beyond the old stone bridge and scale down the massive boulders (at your own risk) to get a view of the secluded Devil’s Kitchen Falls.
For less life-threatening thrills, go tubing on the Esopus Creek, in Phoenicia, fifteen miles southwest of the falls. For $20, the Town Tinker, on Bridge Street, will set you up with river-appropriate shoes (a.k.a. an old pair of Adidas), a life vest, and a quick, crowded bus ride up the river (request a wet suit for an extra $10). The beginners’ course and the white-knuckle course are both two and half miles long.
4. Insider’s Tip
Suck it up and hike the wearying nine miles to Kaaterskill High Peak, one of the northern Catskills’ most gorgeous and overlooked summits. The lesser-known Wildcat, Buttermilk, and Santa Cruz waterfalls fall along the High Peak trail, and there’s an eerie skeleton of a plane crash at the summit. The trail becomes poorly marked towards the top, so take a map.
5. Oddball Day
Bliss out for a day by taking a tour of the northern Catskills’ trippy roadside attractions. From Hunter, start out west on Route 23A to the St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (Route 23A/Ukraine Road, Hunter, N.Y.; 518-263-3862), a pagoda-shaped cedar church topped with tall octagonal lanterns and bizarre green obelisks. In the summer months, tour the ornate, wood-carved panels and alter of the interior, open from Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., and for special concerts. Then take Route 28 a few miles east, past the Emerson Resort to the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope (5340 Route 28, Mount Tremper, N.Y.; 877-688-2828), a psychedelic light show inside an old grain silo. Three mind-bending ten-minute shows cost $5. On the way out, choose one of over 300 kaleidoscopes, including handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces that fetch $4,000.
Enthusiasts and volunteers at the Catskill Mountain Club give clear introductions to the region.
Peak at hikers’ videos and pictures of trail highlights at www.catskillsearch.com.
Sick of nature? Peruse upcoming arts and cultural events at www.catskillmtn.org.
Plan your trip around one of Hunter Mountain’s summer music and arts festivals.