Introducing the Catskills
The Catskill Mountains are an outdoor paradise filled with stunning waterfalls, lakes, hiking trails, rivers, and ski resorts- AND this area is only 2.5 hours north of New York City and is just right above the Hudson Valley.
The Catskills are divided into four counties: Sullivan, Ulster, Greene, and Delaware. While the region is a haven for outdoor lovers, artists are additionally drawn to the Catskills- Thomas Cole and Frederic Church were part of the Hudson River School and painted this pristine landscape.
35 peaks comprise this mountain region, and Catskill Park consists of 287,500 acres. Over 2,000 farmers call the Catskills home, and New York City residents get fresh drinking water from this area of the state. An especially fun fact: The estimated amount of black bears in the Catskills is 2,000!
In the 19th century, the Hudson River School captured the breathtaking vistas of the Catskills- Thomas Cole and Frederic Church were exceptional artists (And you can still visit their homes in the area today!) that truly showed the rest of the country just how special this area of New York State is. American author Washington Irving published the timeless story Rip Van Winkle in 1819. This classic story highlights a Dutch man who hikes in the Catskills, falls into a deep sleep after drinking alcohol, and wakes up 20 years later to discover that he slept through the Revolutionary War!
In 1904, Catskill Park was established after the New York State legislature convened to discuss protecting the Catskills.
The Catskills were also home to the Borscht Belt, an area that New York City residents loved to escape to from the 1920s to the 1960s. The Woodstock Music Festival happened here in 1969, and the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing with my favorite Patrick Swayze was filmed here. American fly fishing also started in the Catskills (You’re welcome, America!)
Author Jean Craighead George wrote a children’s book- my favorite children’s book- about a boy named Sam Gribley who escapes from his New York City apartment and learns to survive on his own in the Catskills. This beloved book was published in 1959, and it was an immediate success- My Side of the Mountain earned a Newberry Honor Award.
If you watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (If you don’t, you should- It’s fantastic. It’s a comedy-drama set in 1950s New York City and it’s from the same producer as Gilmore Girls, so the quick wit and humor are superb), you may recognize how the show took place in the Catskills for the second season.
The Catskills Today
There’s a reason why New York City locals return to this serene place when they long for respite and there’s a reason why some are even moving up north permanently- The scenic Catskill views just reel you in and make it difficult to leave! When you enter the Catskills, it’s as if you left your reality from back home and that you’re in an alternative universe where you leave your overthinking thoughts behind.
Another wonderful element of the Catskills is the diverse amount of activities to do! Whether you have shopaholics, history lovers, or aquaphiles in your travel party, it’s impossible NOT to make everyone happy. Antique stores, museums, lakes, hiking and skiing trails, snowmobiling, biking, zip-lining, farm-to-table restaurants, fishing, swimming, cathedrals, and waterfalls will keep you busy. If Thomas Cole and Frederic Church-along with characters like Rip Van Winkle, Sam Gribley, and Midge Maisel- have an affinity for the Catskills, you will too!