PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO
the catskill mountains have long been a vacation destination and there are endless things you can find to do here
There are 30 private acres of land behind the cottage that reach about one mile towards the summit of Evergreen Mountain. A hike in the woods is just outside your door!
If you're feeling more adventurous, it's only a short walk from the cottage to the western trail head of the infamous Devil’s Path Trail, which is often cited as the toughest hiking trail in the Eastern United States. In 25 miles it ascends six major peaks, plunging into deep valleys between climbs as described in this New York Times article: 2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil.
Diamond Notch Falls are also within walking distance of the cottage at the head of the valley and it's just a short drive to the Hunter Mountain trail loop to the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. At an elevation of 4,040 feet, this tower has the unique distinction of being located at the highest elevation of any fire tower in New York State. The original tower on Hunter Mountain-constructed of logs-was built in 1909, and was the first of three fire towers constructed in the Catskills that year. The original tower was 40 feet tall, and was replaced with a steel tower 60 feet high in 1917. That tower was originally placed at an elevation of 4,000 feet-a third of a mile from the true summit-but was removed and reset at its present site on the true summit in 1953. Directions: Take the Spruceton Trail, marked with blue disks, from Greene County Route 6 (Spruceton Hollow Road) in the hamlet of Spruceton. A seven-mile moderately-difficult round trip hike. Or take the yellow-marked trail from the Hunter Mt. Sky Ride when it is open, a moderate four-mile round-trip hike.
NYNJ Trail Conference Map #141 includes nearby trails. Map #141 includes Spruceton Road and its surrounding trails, including the Devil’s Path, Hunter Mountain Loop, Spruceton and Diamond Notch Falls trails. You can also find books that feature of Catskill. Some good links to check out before you come to plan a hike are:
- Northeastern Catskills Trail Conference descriptions
- PDF of area trail map 141 (2015 map)
- Hunter West Kill Wilderness
- West Kill Mountain from the Devil’s Path
You can also download the PDF Trail Map App. From the App, you can either purchase the new, updated map #141 or you can download the FREE Hunter Mountain fire tower map that includes all of the trails at the end of Spruceton Road including the Hunter Mountain fire tower loop, Diamond Notch Falls, Becker Hollow and the Devil's Path trail to 214. If you want to wander farther afield check out the Catskill Mountain Club's guide to 20 Great Catskills Hikes.
Don't believe that hiking is only a fair-weather pastime. Many people, like us, believe that winter is the best time of the year to hike. The forest is at its most beautiful and serene, the overhanging trees keep the trails surprisingly clear, there are no bugs, and the hardest part is to keep yourself cool as you climb. We always hike the woods in the winter.
The John Robb Lean-To. An easy winter hike in the snow that we can recommend is up the old logging road that leads to the John Robb lean-to, which is set on a spectacular sheltered plateau that has views down the valley. We did a great overnight there last Christmas when it was only 17 degrees! The trailhead to the lean-to trail is the first one on the left at the head of the valley. You can recognize it by the long wooden platform in the parking lot that is used to mount horses since this is also a horse trail. The lean-to has an outhouse and there is also a spring if you want to save weight on carrying in water.
So how far do you think you can hike in a day?
The cottage is very close to each of the three major Catskill ski resort areas of Hunter, Windham and Belleayre. You can be off the slopes and be sitting in front of a warm stove or blazing fire pit with a hot toddy in your hand within half an hour of leaving any of these ski areas.
West Kill was the home of Art Flick, author of the fly fisher’s bible, Art Flick’s Streamside Guide. Besides writing this “classic for anglers old and new,” Art ran the old West Kill Tavern down in West Kill, and his mother lived next door in what is now Mountain Creek Cottage, which, incredibly, was moved four miles up the road from West Kill to its present location. While you can fish right on your doorstep at the creek by the cottage, for true enthusiasts some of the best fishing on West Kill Creek is where it flows into the Schoharie where it makes the larger creek widen. According to Art's guide, "the next two or three miles along the Schoharie offer some of the best fly fishing on the entire river and the pool formed by the West Kill meeting the Schoharie is deep and productive." About two miles downstream from this confluence of the two creeks, where there is a sharp bend, you can find a tablet dedicated to Art Flick beside a body of water called Monument Pool. But don't be fooled by the size of our creek, which can slow to a trickle in a dry month, we've seen some HUGE trout in there.
Planning to do some fishing, but like the idea of doing some homework first? Then consider buying the latest edition of Art's book or one of these guides to fishing in the Catskills and fly fishing in New York.
The easiest way to buy your fishing permit is online. All you need is a connection and a printer. Please don't fish without one since the rangers are always on patrol. Permits are inexpensive and you can buy one to cover as short a period as seven days.
The Catskills have long been known to be a watery Eden. While the locals call them swimming holes, paddling holes might be more accurate description for the swimming places on our creek, which is just fine when you just need to cool down on a hot day or let the kids loose. (Just bear in mind that any water over knee height can be dangerous.)
Used to swimming laps, deep-water swimming or practicing to swim the English Channel? Try some of these great local swimming places:
A summer favorite for families and picnickers, this man-made lake has it all: kayaks and pedal boats, barbecue grills, volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoe pits, swimming lessons, and a white-sand beach. The sand definitely isn't local, but the vibe most assuredly is. Pine Hill. Route 28.
These two lakes, joined by a narrow band of water, boast the biggest state campground in the Catskills, with over 200 tent sites. Two beaches -- North and South -- have swimming areas; as in all state parks, when the lifeguard isn't on duty swimming is prohibited. Also on tap: Non-motorized boating, hiking, fishing and more. Haines Falls. County Route 18.
This beloved swimming hole on the Saw Kill, tucked into the woods just out of town, is public, but it feels wild enough. No lifeguards, no amenities, just a rope swing and a cool respite from the summer heat. Be warned: You may encounter the odd nudist. This is Woodstock, after all. Woodstock. East of town on Route 212.
Off the beaten path, and well worth the trek: An icy cold, deep blue basin tucked into the woods near the border of Ulster and Delaware Counties. A little more popular in the last couple of years, since it got dubbed one of America's best swimming holes by Travel and Leisure magazine. From Route 28A in West Shokan, go 10 miles southwest on CR 42.
We have bikes available for you to ride. The valley’s a great place for a gentle pedal to the trail head at the end of the road and a refreshing coast home.
Training for a triathlon or the Tour de France? Cycle a little farther and the up-and-down terrain will give your thighs the burn they crave. You could also register for one of our local races, like the Tour of the Catskills Bike Race and/or Preview Ride.
outdoor classes and cottage & valley workshops
Fed up with just being an urban lumberjack (or Jill), then sign up for some of local classes and return home happy that you will know more than you knew when you got here. The Catskill Forest Association holds a range of outdoor courses throughout the year, for example, Robert took the Game of Logging course and wrote about his experience here.
Always wanted to learn how to “put up” supplies for the winter? Learn how to can everything from tomatoes to peaches or turn them into delicious jams and jellies. Or maybe you'd just like to write about it and sign up for our valley's annual writer's workshop at the Spruceton Inn with local author, Stephen Foreman, whose blog post "My Mountain," (which you can find at the bottom of this blog post of his) truly is a piece of writing that captures the magic of being here and our affection for our mountains.
Workshops will be posted on the events page as they come up or are arranged.
Not everyone who goes on vacation wants to sit around and read a book all day. We're always up to something, whether it’s gathering ramps from the woods in spring, maintaining trails and gathering wood in summer, picking and pressing apples to make cider (hard and soft), and canning tomatoes and vegetables in the fall, there’s always something to do. No workout in a gym comes close to how good a little outdoor exercise can feel. Things you can join in with will be posted on the events page as they are arranged.
We're very much looking forward to the opening of West Kill Brewing by our good friends Mike and Colleen. Situated within staggering distance of the cottage, it will be heavenly to complete a day of hiking with their locally brewed beer and locally sourced food. Follow Mike and Colleen's progress on their website, Facebook page and Instagram feed and make sure you make a booking in time for their grand opening.