Unfamiliar With the Catskill Mountain Region?

The Catskills have been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a magnet for mountain-lovers since at least the early 19th century. To this day, throughout the tri-state region of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and within the greater metropolitan area of New York City, when people speak of "The Mountains," it is the Catskills they are referring to.

One reason is that the entire region, anchored by the "forever wild" forest preserve and the Catskill Park, thus far remains an oasis of pristine wilderness, rural communities, and pastoral landscapes in a sea of dense population and sprawling suburbs. Another reason is the unique character of the mountains and thus of the bounty of outdoor activities they offer.

The summit-seeking hiker may choose from nearly a hundred peaks and ridges topping 3,000 feet. Thirty-five of them are more than 3,500 feet high, and two of them are over 4,000 feet high. In general, the mountains are steep-sided and flat-topped, thickly forested with beech, birch, maple, hemlock, spruce, and fir. "Classic ground" was the phrase used by an 1826 visitor from Boston to describe the topography, while the region's native son, John Burroughs, wrote of hiking uphill "ledge upon ledge, precipice upon precipice." A network of footpaths crisscrosses the vast expanse of public lands that encompasses these mountains, from Windham south to Samsonville, from Roscoe east to Woodstock.

On many of these summits, hikers are rewarded with views of spectacular beauty-views that offer a new prospect with each new season. But you don't have to bag a peak to see wonderful sights in the Catskills. The spring wildflowers and lush ferns on the floor of the forest, the high forest canopy, and the abundant wildlife make any walk in the woods an escape, an adventure, and an education. That may be even more the case in winter, when the region's mountains become a paradise for snowshoers, winter backpackers, and ice-climbers.

Many of the mountain trails were routed over old woods roads that are today perfect for mountain biking or horseback riding. Road biking opportunities range from flat trips along streams and through farmland or climbing loops that can challenge the most elite cyclists.

But the mountains are only the beginning.

American dry fly fishing was perfected in the Catskills, and the region's streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and kills continue to be a mecca for anglers fishing dry flies, wet flies, lures, or worms. Many of these waterways are also navigable by canoeistsHikers below Wittenberg Mtn and kayakers-and available for swimming on a hot summer day.

In autumn, hunters wend their way to the Catskills in droves in pursuit of large and small game-from quail to coyote, from black bear to possum, from turkey to pheasant to deer.

Throughout the year, birders come here to watch, artists come here to see, sightseers come to wander the back lanes and byways in search of antiques and maple syrup and an unfettered, unobstructed view of a natural state that is getting harder and harder to find.

These resources are available to all and accessible to all on public lands throughout the region. Click here to see lands owned by New York State and here to see lands owned by New York City. They are always open, and they belong to us all.

9th Annual Catskill "Lark in the Park" - September 29 - October 8, 2012

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