Catskill Park consists of public and private lands where hundreds of miles of trails of all degrees of difficulty invite the hiker to this varied and delightful area. To access overviews of these trails and their environs arranged by geographical subregions within the Catskills follow the park's link.
The Catskill Forest Preserve consists of state-owned lands within the "BlueLine" boundary of the Catskills. The Preserve contains numerous wild forests, wilderness areas and campgrounds managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The DEC subdivided the Catskills into two regions. Region 3 encompasses Ulster and Sullivan counties; Region 4 includes Delaware and Greene counties.
The bedrock of the Catskill Mountains consists of a great pile of layered rocks that were laid down originally in the Devonian Period, approximately 375 million years ago. Seen from a distance, the relatively similar elevations of these peaks become apparent, and it is easy to understand how this collection of mountainous heights originated as an ancient plateau that was gradually eroded into its present outline. For millions of years, many streams cut deeply into the nearly horizontal beds of the plateau, leaving steep-sided highland areas that were isolated as mountains by the down-cutting action of rushing streams.
Today, the higher summits are crowned by layers of reddish conglomerate, but on most trails in the Catskills, the hiker will encounter outcrops of grayish sandstone – the familiar, well-layered flagstone (also known as bluestone). Fossil plant fragments are often found in the sandstone, and slopes are often underlain by reddish shale that may contain imprints of ancient tree roots.
The long escarpment that forms the eastern edge of the Catskills is an especially dramatic erosional slope that faces the Hudson River valley. The many ledges along this famous escarpment are bounded by a series of near parallel fractures, or joints, produced by the upturning of the sedimentary strata that one projected much further east.
A gentle spring day in New York City may be a day of snow flurries or freezing rain in the Catskills. Temperatures are generally lower in the mountains, decreasing as altitude is gained. Snow may accumulate in November and last well into May. Weather conditions can change quickly, and one should be prepared with extra clothing and suitable equipment. Although the main roads are plowed, some side roads that have no winter residents are not cleared.
The Catskills are beautiful in the winter when covered with snow, and people who hike are likely to enjoy snowshoeing and cross-county skiing. Winter in the woods is exhilarating but exhausting. Hikers and skiers should keep this in mind, along with the fact that daylight ends sooner, when planning winter trips. The Catskill Mountain Club provides links to weather forecasts for several towns/counties in the region.
The Catskill Trails map set can be purchased on this website [use the link above]. Relevant books also available for purchase on this website are Catskill Day Hikes for All Seasons, Catskill Mountain Guide and Catskill Trails.
Keep yourself informed about the latest Catskill news and trails opportunitites by visiting the Catskill Trail News and Programs Page.