Brownstoner Upstate: A Guide to Three Short Catskills Hiking Trails

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    Overlook Mountain Fire Tower View. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

    The heat is finally breaking so we think it’s high time to do some hiking in the Catskill Mountains. While you could join the mass influx of tourists around mid-to-late October (and we wouldn’t blame you), skipping the crowds and visiting off-season is definitely worth consideration.

    Even if you schedule your hiking trip into the late fall and winter months, you’ll still catch the jaw-dropping scenery that keeps us coming back for more. Mid winter turns the Catskills into a new landscape, festooned with sparkling white and frozen waterfalls captured in time. Come up during early fall to miss the throngs of swimming-hole hunters and experience the first golden glimmers of the new season.

    Let’s explore a handful of fun Catskill fall hikes to take anytime of the year.

    Catskills Hiking Trails

    Plattekill Falls, Upper Platte Clove. Photo by Kandy Harris

    Upper Platte Clove, Greene County: Lower Platte Clove just outside of Saugerties is a popular spot for swimming-hole seekers. But for those who love to walk in near solitude, passing by a hiker or two (or perhaps a Girl Scout group) every now and then, head up Platte Clove Road a bit farther to the trailhead.

    Heading from Saugerties, you’ll find the parking area on the left, next to a red rustic cottage where the Catskill Interpretive Center hosts an artist-in-residence. Cross the bridge for the sounds and sights of rushing mountain streams, rocky outcroppings and elevated views of the Platte Clove valley.

    The hike is short, waterfall sightings are guaranteed and it’s an easy one for most ages. It is, however, slippery in parts with sheer ledges dropping off the trail. Wear hiking shoes/boots and walk with caution.

    Note: Platte Clove Road over the mountain is a seasonal road that’s closed from November to April. The alternate route is through Hunter village and south through Elka Park to County Road 16. Catskill Mountaineer provides directions and additional information about upper Platte Clove on their website.

    Catskills Hiking Trails

    Overlook Mountain House. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

    Overlook Mountain, Ulster County: The walk up the gravel road that begins the Overlook Mountain trail might not be the best part of the hike, but the payoff when you reach the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House is worth it.

    What’s left of the stone structure is actually the third incarnation of the hotel that was set over 3,100 feet above Woodstock village. As with its predecessor, it burned to the ground, leaving behind a crumbling, if popular, reminder of the Catskills’ early resort days.

    Continue past the Overlook (not that Overlook, fans of The Shining) toward the fire tower for a climb up to some breathtaking, sky-scraping views of the hills and valleys below. Rattlesnake sightings are not uncommon on the Overlook Mountain trail, so watch your step.

    Hiking to the mountain house ruins and the fire tower is close to a five-mile round trip. Add Echo Lake and the Ledges, and you’re looking at over nine miles of hiking. Trailhead is located across Meads Mountain Road from the KTD Tibetan Monastery, also worth a visit. For more information on the Overlook Mountain trail, check out the hike overview on Catskill Mountaineer.

    Catskills Hiking Trails

    Vernooy Kill Falls. Photo by Robert Cappiello for Alltrails.com.

    Vernooy Kill Falls Trail, Ulster County: Need something kid-friendly? Vernooy Kill Falls trails near Kerhonkson will do just fine. Not only is it a relatively short trip (just over three-and-a-half miles roundtrip), there are no strenuous climbs or dangerous drop-offs.

    The gentle upward slope of the trail will eventually take you to the Vernooy Kill Falls themselves, with a footbridge to walk across the little cluster of waterfalls that tumble into a shallow pool at the bottom.

    Enjoy the canopy of old-growth forest consisting of maple and oak trees during the first part of the trek, and plan to spend some time picnicking around the Falls, which were once the site of an old grist mill built in the 1700s by Cornelius Vernooy. Take note of the mill’s stone wall still standing in its original location.

    To get to the Vernooy Kill Falls trailhead from Kerhonkson hamlet, take Clay Hill Road north to Samonsonville Road. Bear left onto Cherrytown Road, then left on Upper Cherrytown Road. Follow Upper Cherrytown to the parking area on the right, trailhead to the left.

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    Catskills Hiking Trails

    29 Rock Haven Road, Kerhonkson: $135,000

    This cedar-shake cottage is tiny, but that just means less space to take care of. We envision this 3.6-acre property in southern Kerhonkson hamlet (approximately 20 minutes from the Vernooy Kill trail head) as the perfect writer’s/artist’s retreat, just secluded enough to enjoy some quiet time to create in the Catskills.

    Includes wood floors, living room wood stove and custom kitchen tiling. Beds: 1. Baths: 1. Square Feet: 823. Lot Size: 3.6 acres. Est. Taxes: $3,962. 29 Rock Haven Road, Kerhonkson [Coldwell Banker Village Green] GMAP.

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    Catskills Hiking Trails

    513 York Street, Saugerties: $225,000

    We love this fixed-up farmhouse with radiant bamboo floors and exposed brick, but we admit that we’re a bit bummed about the small lot size. Ah, well. At least it’s in the hamlet of Malden, a charming Hudson Riverfront burg just north of Saugerties village.

    Drive 20 minutes west through West Saugerties and you’ll find yourself in Catskills country. Beds: 2. Baths: 2.5. Square Feet: 1,570. Lot Size: .34 acres. Est. Taxes: $3,856. 513 York Street, Saugerties [Andreassen Properties] GMAP.

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    Catskills Hiking Trails

    66 Wittenberg Road, Bearsville: $358,900

    Who doesn’t love a mid-century modern ranch? Even better if it’s one just outside of Woodstock in the neighboring hamlet of Bearsville. It’s stylish inside and out and includes a generous piece of property. Living room is awash with natural light, and the back deck overlooks the lush landscaping.

    If privacy’s what you’re after, you’ll find it here, while still staying close to Woodstock, Phoenicia and Kingston. The Overlook Mountain trailhead is about 20 minutes due west. Beds: 3. Baths: 2. Square Feet: 1764. Lot Size: 3.39 acres. Est. Taxes: $6,723. 66 Wittenberg Road, Bearsville [Coldwell Banker Village Green] GMAP.

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