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Catskill State Park

More a state of mind than an actual place, the Catskill Mountains State Park is a vast area stretching across four counties in New York State. There is no welcoming center, there is no visitor kiosk, there is no office where you can go and get all the information you are searching for about the park. In fact, there is quite literally no park there.

Instead, what compromises the Catskill Mountains State Park is a tapestry of preserved state lands, various wilderness and wild areas owned and protected by New York State interwoven with private lands, homes, businesses, villages and hamlets. Overseen primarily by the Department of Environmental Conservation, these protected areas combine together to preserve for all time these antique mountains and the extraordinary richness of the environment.

Long of legend, the Catskills formed the backdrop of early colonization up and down the Hudson River. As an imposing physical barrier, they early established the limits of royal authority over the land. Seeming to spring up from the very banks of the mighty Hudson River, they were the stuff of mystery and lore stretching back into the mists of civilization. Honored and revered by Native Americans they were quickly transformed into the focus of folk lore and legend by the newly arriving Europeans. Their imposing high peaks and their hundreds of secret and hidden coves and dells were populated by myths and fables, strange powers and frightening sounds and apparitions. Venturing into these fabled mountains the unwary could fall to their spells and dominion.

In the hollowed bowl beneath the Kaaterskill Falls, Rip Van Winkle, an noted lethargist and back country idler, himself fell victim to the powers of the Catskills. Lured ever deeper into the misty forests and mossy glens, Rip fell victim to the powers of these mountains, time fell away and all that mattered in his life down in the valley passed on without him.

So to will you fall under the magical spells of the Catskills. One of the oldest ranges of mountains in America, the Catskills have been weathered, softened, rounded and carved into an inviting and friendly terrain. Although the highest peaks still reach skyward to over 3,500 feet, the Catskills form the perfect environment for hiking, back country skiing and wilderness adventure. They are traversed by hundreds of miles of developed and well maintained trails. Hiking in the Catskills ranges from the simple family friendly path to challenging mountain scrambling. As you walk the trails the scenery ranges from dense hardwood and hemlock forests carpeted with moss and dripping with water to escarpments with views stretching dozens of miles into the distance. Depending on the time of year and whether you are in a "Wild Area" or a "Wilderness Area" you may go for days without seeing another person or hearing a sound created by man.

The Catskills is filled with small and quaint hamlets and villages offering a range of accommodations from log cabins to luxury spas. If your idea of fun is camping under the stars, the Catskills has both private campgrounds as well as extremely well maintained public camping areas. Wilderness camping is permitted in certain areas as you hike the trails and backwoods of the Catskills.

For the more active outdoors entheuasists, the Catskills offer a range of possibilities. In the Greene County section of the Catskills are to be found the major ski centers of New York at Hunter Mountain and Windham. Various locations offer horseback riding and guided tours through the Catskills, small museums abound and centers of arts and music show and perform all levels of artistic expression. And throughout the Catskills innumerable ponds, streams and kills wander and cascade through the tumbled boulders under the canopy of the forest making for an ideal fly fishing experience. In fact, fly fishing was created and developed in the Catskills.

All in all, though a little difficult to approach and a little difficult to gather information on, the Catskills is a special place to visit and spend time. They require you to arrive and immerse yourself in their lore and relax into their reality. Time really does seem to stand still in the Catskills.

The Catskill Park is a mountainous region of public and private lands in Ulster, Greene, Delaware and Sullivan Counties - the "Forest Preserve" counties. 98 peaks over 3,000 feet form an impressive skyline. This special and often remote mountain landscape was only occasionally habitated by native Americans. Later it was settled by the Dutch, English, Irish and Germans. It's rich history includes logging, bluestone quarrying, leather tanning, wintergreen and blueberry harvesting, trapping, fishing, mountain house tourism, railroads, and even World war II pilot training. Today, a balance between the hands of man and those of nature is returning. Nearly 60% of the lands in the Catskill Park are privately owned, the home of about 50,000 year-around residents; the rest is publicly owned "Forest Preserve".

Specifics on visiting the Catskill State Park were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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