It is amazing that the Catskills are so close to New York City, and have so much beautiful nature to explore. The Catskills are in the winter are incredible, with snow covered peaks, icy waterfalls, and cozy cafes.
The first time we visited the Catskills in the winter, I was in awe. Exploring the Catskills in the winter is when I started to enjoy spending time outdoors in the winter.
Read further to find out how you too can enjoy exploring the Catskills in the winter.
****Note: This post may include affiliate links to products I recommend. I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) from purchases from these links. But no worries, I only include links to products that we have tried or truly recommend!
*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
Where is the Catskills?
The Catskills is located in upstate New York. It is a large area covering over 5,800 square miles. The Catskills consist of forest preserves, wildlife management areas, and state forests.
From New York City to the Catskill Mountains, it is around 120 miles and takes 2.5 hours.
How to Get to the Catskills?
Lucky for you, there are various ways to get to the Catskills. We always drive to the Catskills because it is convenient to drive to the trailheads of the trails we want to hike and get off the beaten path a little. If you can drive, I recommend it as it will give you more flexibility as to where you can visit within the Catskills.
If you cannot drive, another main option for getting to the Catskills is taking a bus. Taking a bus to the Catskills is a popular way of getting to the Catskills. The best way to take a bus is to book a bus with Trailways. Trailways has buses that go to places throughout the Catskills that are hard to get to otherwise.
One downside of taking the bus is that you will often be limited to only a few trails from where you are dropped off at. However, it is a great option if you are more interested in exploring cute little Catskill towns like Catskill, Woodstock, or Hunter.
If you plan on visiting in the winter primarily to ski, the ski resort you plan on skiing with might also have a shuttle on the weekends. For this option, be sure to check with your ski resort for possible details and options.
Things to do in the Catskills in the Winter
Visit Frozen Waterfalls
There are a ton of waterfalls throughout the Catskills that are gorgeous at all times of year. I thought I was more of a “waterfalls in summer” type of gal, but frozen waterfalls in the Catskills have convinced me otherwise.
When the temperature drops near waterfalls, magical ice castles are created from the drops of water flying all over in the air, resulting in gorgeous temporary ice formations.
There are several waterfalls in the Catskills that are worth seeing in the winter.
1. Plattekill Falls
Plattekill Falls is a waterfall that was super surprising to us in the winter. While in the summer, the waterfall can be a small trickle, in the winter it turns into a huge ice formation. It is a short walk from the parking area and pretty easily accessible even in the wintertime. Depending on the time of season and temperature, you may even be able to walk closer to the ice formations. Please take care when walking around and on the ice as it is very volatile and could break off at any point.
It is definitely worth a visit and my favorite winter waterfall by far!
For more information on Plattekill Falls and other winter hikes, check out my blog post about the best winter hikes in New York!
2. Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls is an incredible waterfall at all times of year. It has been a favorite waterfall of visitors to the Catskills for centuries. Water plummets into the Kaaterskill Canyon. In the winter, the entire canyon becomes icy with huge icicles hanging off the rocky edges. If you’re brave and have the right equipment, you can even hike down to the bottom of the waterfall and walk around the icy spires (but only do this if you are prepared and experienced as it can be super dangerous!).
If interested in more information about Kaaterskill Falls, check out my blog post all about Kaaterskill Falls!
3. Bastion Falls
Bastion Falls is on Route 23A in between Haines Falls and Palenville. It is along the road and can be seen from the road in a sharp hairpin turn heading up the canyon. At the moment, there is not parking available to view this waterfall out of your car, but check back in the future for updates on parking.
4. Buttermilk Falls
There are multiple Buttermilk Falls in New York State, so if you search Buttermilk Falls, this one will likely not be the first to come up. This Buttermilk Falls is located close to the Peekamoose Blue Hole. It is located on a remote road, but is right beside the road and very accessible.
Climb a Catskill Mountain
Climbing any of the peaks in the Catskills definitely is more of a challenge in the winter, but you will be rewarded with gorgeous views and no crowds. While any mountain is generally fine, there are some that would be great choices for the winter.
Some mountains I would recommend for the winter would be Hunter Mountain, Balsam Mountain, or Slide Mountain. All of these mountains have great views and generally pretty gradual ascents without too much exposed rock (meaning there will be less icy areas).
As with any winter hiking, there is definitely some gear you will need to add to your pack when hiking the Catskills in the winter. I have included a gear list at the end of this post that you should definitely consider having on your winter Catskills hike.
I have a whole post on hiking Hunter Mountain which has all the information and various routes, which you can find here.
See Frozen Lakes
In addition to cool waterfalls and snowy mountains, there are a ton of lakes in the Catskills too. Since a lot of the area in the Catskills are at higher elevations, a lot of the lakes freeze in the winter. There are three lakes that would be pretty to see in the winter.
1. North-South Lake
North-South Lake is a popular lake close to Tannersville, New York. While you can park beside North-South Lake, my favorite view of the lake is by hiking the trail to Sunset Rock. From Sunset Rock, you will have views looking down on the lake with mountains in the background.
The shortest way to get to Sunset Rock is the Artists Rock and Sunset Rock via Escarpment Trail which is around 1.8 miles in total.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could also try the trail that goes to Artist’s Rock, Sunset Rock, and Newman’s Ledge via Mary’s Glen Trail which is around 6.2 miles in total.
Both of these trails can be found on AllTrails.
2. Rip Van Winkle Lake
Rip Van Winkle Lake is in the town of Tannersville, New York and is easily accessible. There is no hiking here and the parking lot is right beside the lake. There are some benches along the lake which is surrounded by gorgeous pine trees. The Rip Van Winkle Lake is a great place to watch the sunset.
3. Ashokan Reservoir
The Ashokan Reservoir is a large reservoir located close to the town of Woodstock. There are various places to walk and hike along the reservoir. The trails around the Ashokan Reservoir are very wide, gravel in some parts, and even good for bike riding. It is a nice place to stop even if you just want to walk a short distance in the winter weather.
Explore Cute Towns
There are so many adorable towns in the Catskills. Some of my favorite towns to explore are Hunter, Tannersville, Catskill, and Woodstock.
Each of these towns have their own personality with their own things to explore.
Home of the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, Hunter is hopping in the winter. There are various lodges and different restaurants. My favorite place in Hunter is Fellow Café which has the most amazing baked goods and local products.
If you plan on visiting Hunter, New York, check out my blog post about Hunter and Tannersville, NY!
Tannersville is right down the road from Hunter and has a cute main street with lots of antique stores. I love meandering through all the cute stores. There is a delicious cheese restaurant called Last Chance Tavern and a few cute coffee shops.
If planning on visiting Tannersville, read my whole blog post on Tannersville, New York!
Catskill is one of the larger towns in the Catskills and is close to the main interstate. There are a ton of restaurants, shops, and cafes. The town even has a theme of “Cats” with cat sculptures around the town.
Woodstock has a chill, earthy vibe compared to some other towns in the Catskills. There are various art stores and music events. I love The Mud Club coffee barn right in the middle of town for coffee and breakfast. Another super cool store is Candlestock, a unique candle store with so many different types and colors of candles.
There are two main ski resorts in the Catskills: Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain. Both of these offer great skiing while being not too far from New York City. Hunter Mountain is in the town of Hunter and Windham Mountain is in the town of Windham. Windham Mountain is a little more north than Hunter Mountain.
Either of these would be great choices for skiing in the Catskills!
Relax at a Catskill Resort
It’s no surprise that there are some incredible resorts throughout the Catskills. There are a ton of great luxurious resorts and it really depends on what part of the Catskills you would like to stay in.
Around Hunter, Scribner’s Lodge or Deer Mountain Inn are great choices.
In the Southern Catskills, The DeBruce near Livingston Manor is a great choice.
Near Phoenicia or Mount Tremper, Foxfire Mountain House is a fantastic choice.
All of these places offer various amenities, activities, and cozy vibes to give you the best winter weekend in the Catskills.
If you’re on more of a budget (like we are), I recommend checking out unique cozy AirBnb rentals!
For the Adventurous: Go Ice Climbing
If you want an adrenaline filled adventure, you can try ice climbing in the Catskills. There are various guiding services that provide all the equipment and instruction you need to go ice climbing in the Catskill Mountains.
You must find a guiding service to take you if you plan on ice climbing in the Catskills. It can be super dangerous and you definitely need your guide’s expertise. One popular company that does guided ice climbing tours in the Catskills is Alpine Endeavors.
One thing that I have always wanted to do in the Catskills, but haven’t done (yet) is go ice climbing in the Catskills. If you go ice climbing in the Catskills, let me know how it goes!
Places to eat in the Catskills in the Winter
There are so many delicious places to eat throughout the Catskills that I couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are some that have nice cozy options for the wintertime.
Fellow, Hunter NY
Fellow is one of my favorite coffee shops and bakeries in New York. They have the most amazing cinnamon rolls and focaccia.
The Mud Club, Woodstock NY
The Mud Club is a super unique coffee shop on the main street of Woodstock. You order your coffee from the window of barn and sit outside around fires drinking your coffee. It is a super cute and cozy place to enjoy the outdoors with a warm beverage.
Last Chance Tavern, Tannersville NY
If you’ve read any of my blog posts about Tannersville, you will know that I love the Last Chance Tavern. They have cheese, antiques, great chocolate, and delicious food.
The Phoenicia Diner, Phoenicia NY
The Phoenecia Diner is a class diner located Phoenecia, New York, the heart of the Catskills. Even though it is named a diner, they have amazing gourmet food.
Rough Draft Bar and Books, Kingston NY
Rough Draft Bar and Books is located in Kingston, New York on the eastern side of the Catskills. They have amazing coffee and a wide assortment of unique books. It is a super cozy environment to chill on a winter afternoon.
Gear to Have to Explore the Catskills in the Winter
Having a Stanley Thermos has completely our winter hiking experience. You can put hot chocolate or coffee in the thermos to have a warm drink with you all day. It is sturdy, but keeps whatever you put in it warm for hours. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, check out the same Stanley Thermos we have on Amazon.
Microspikes are absolutely essential to winter hiking in the Catskills. They are essentially like four-wheel drive for your feet. Winter in the Catskills is icy no matter where you go, so if you’re planning on any sore of walk or hike, you definitely need to have microspikes with you. If you’re interested in getting a pair of microspikes for yourself, here are the same pair of microspikes that we have on Amazon.
In the cold weather, your hands are some of the first parts of your body that become cold. Having warm gloves or mittens will help you enjoy your time outside better. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Here are one of the the type of gloves we have that we got from Amazon.
Winter in New York can be dark. It may get darker earlier than you think. I recommend always having a head lamp with you, even if you plan on being back from your hike by sunset. It could get darker earlier than you think or you make take longer than you expect. I love the energizer headlamps which you can find on Amazon here.
Tips for Visiting the Catskills in the Winter
Be prepared for icy conditions (both hiking and driving)
Since the Catskills are at a higher elevation than the Hudson Valley, the conditions are likely icier than where you’re coming from. If you’re driving, expect there to possibly be some snow and ice on the road.
Prepare for the cold
Prepare to be cold in the Catskills in the winter. Especially if you are hiking, it will be cold in the Catskills. As you gain elevation, it will be much colder. Even if at the bottom of the hike is not too cold, it could be snowy and freezing at the top. Bring more layers than you think you’ll need.
Know that places close early
Towns in the Catskills are super cozy and small. Since they are small communities, often times many of the shops close early in the day, in the afternoon. Some restaurants may be open in the evening, but make sure to check the closing times of places you plan on visiting or eating at.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Catskills in the winter! Is there anything I’m missing? Let me know down in the comments below!
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Thanks for reading!