Catskill State Park
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
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
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".