Catskill Backcountry Information
Updated February 2017
Alder Lake in the Balsam Lake Wild Forest
For a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience on public lands in the Catskills and New York City's Catskill/Delaware Watershed, please consult DEC's monthly updates, seasonal notices and general information below.
- Conditions that warrant special precautions:
Ice and Snow on Trails: Lower elevation trailheads and trails are generally snow covered and may be icy. The ice may be covered by a layer of snow in some locations. Summits, exposed bedrock and other open areas may have considerable ice. Traction devices/foot spikes may be necessary on lower elevations trails and snowshoes may be necessary in many locations. Carry both and use when conditions warrant. (1/27/17)
- Access Roads: Many access roads are not maintained during winter conditions making some areas inaccessible by motor vehicles, even four wheel drive vehicles. Temperatures will be cooler and winds stronger above 3500 feet. Sight distance may be limited, sometimes significantly, when clouds cover the summits. (12/2016)
- Ice on lakes and ponds: Ice fishers and skaters: given the significant temperature fluctuations this winter, it's not safe to access most lakes and ponds in the Catskills.
Road and Trail Updates
- Kaaterskill Falls, Town of Hunter: Due to ice and extremely hazardous conditions, hikers should not access the steps leading to the middle pool area between the upper and lower falls unless ice climbing in the area. All hikers use extreme caution as icy conditions exist and can be very difficult to see in many places. Hikers are encouraged to enjoy the views from the base of the lower falls and from the viewing platform at the top of the falls. (2/2017)
- Onteora Lake, Bluestone Wild Forest, Town of Ulster, Ulster County: The gate at the Access Road on Route 28 is closed due to ice and snow. However the parking lot on Route 28 is plowed and users can walk down the access road about a quarter mile to the trails at Onteora Lake. (1/27/17)
- Alder Lake, Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Town of Hardenberg, Ulster County: The gate on the road that leads into Alder Lake has been locked due to extremely dangerous road conditions as a result of the recent thaw and freeze cycle. (1/2017)
- Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Town of Hardenburgh: the bridge over the Gulf of Mexico Creek on the Neversink-Hardenburgh trail is currently impassable. A large tree recently fell on the bridge, destroying the east end. (11/2016)
- Indian Head Wilderness, Town of Hunter:
- Platte Clove Road is closed from November 1st to April 15th.
- Roaring Kill Road is a seasonal road and while open, is not maintained during the winter
- Delaware Wild Forest, Town of Colchester: Russell Brook Road and Mary Smith Road are seasonal roads not maintained during winter months, so please be aware of snowy conditions.
- Dry Brook Wild Forest, Town of Middletown, Delaware County: Ploutz Road is a seasonal road and is not maintained during the winter.
- Beaverkill Campground, Town of Rockland: The historic Beaverkill Covered Bridge on Craigie Clair Road is undergoing a major renovation and remains closed to all traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian).
- Big game seasons have closed. Some small game species may be hunted at any hour (i.e. coyote, raccoon, fox)
Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment at any hour while hiking. Please recognize that these are fellow outdoorsmen and women with the legal right to hunt in the Forest Preserve. While hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare, hikers and their companion animals may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.
- Peekamoose Riparian Cooridor, Sundown Wild Forest, Town of Denning: Special Regulations have been in effect for a segment of the Rondout Creek and environs since May 25, 2016. The regulations are intended to protect public safety and the environment. More about the Special Regulations
Report back county emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-408-5850 or call 911.
- Backcountry camping is allowed year-round on state forest preserve lands at designated sites (look for yellow and black "Camp Here" markers) and anywhere below 3500 feet as long as you are at least 150 feet from a waterbody (lake. pond. stream), road or trail.
- Backcountry camping for more than three nights, or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. See the Forest Ranger roster for Ulster and Sullivan Counties or the Forest Ranger roster for Delaware and Greene Counties.
- Campfires are allowed below 3500 feet in elevation. Use only dead or downed wood.
- Campgrounds: All eight of DEC's campgrounds are closed for camping for the season. The campgrounds remain open for day uses such as hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. The campground parking lots at Mongaup Pond, Woodland Valley, and Kenneth L Wilson are open. The parking lot at North South Lake Campground is closed for the season. (2/1/17)
- Reservations for the 2017 camping season can be made online as far as 9 months in advance.
Catskill Fire Towers
There are five fire towers in the Catskill Park that are staffed by volunteer "summit stewards" and open to visitors on weekends between May and October. Get more information on each fire tower.
DEC Backcountry Regulations
- There are regulations and quarantines which apply to the transportation of firewood that have been put in place to prevent the spread of invasive insects and tree disease.
- Special use regulations are in effect for the Peekamoose Valley Riparian Corridor , including the Blue Hole, in the Town of Denning, Ulster County
- See all State land camping and hiking rules
Backcountry Safety and Trail Etiquette
- Hiking safety for all seasons
- Leave no trace-carry out what you carry in.
- Dealing with bears: Black bears are very common in the Catskills. The use of bear-resistant food canisters is recommended, but not required. Hanging your food between trees at least 15 feet above the ground is also effective. See more on how to avoid or reduce human-bear conflicts.
- Fire safety when camping
Access to NYC DEP Lands in the Catskill Forest Preserve
Hiking, fishing, hunting, trapping and boating are allowed on some of NYC Department of Environmental Protection's DEP) watershed lands that are marked with DEP signs stating "Entry by Permit" or "Public Access Area."
A free DEP Access Permit is required for areas marked "Entry by Permit". You can get your Access Permit online and print it out for immediate use. (see Links Leaving DEC's website at right). Access permits are good for five years.
To help outdoor enthusiasts find access to the City's lands and waters, DEP has developed an interactive mapping tool that provides information on the size, location, topography, and allowable uses at each recreation site in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. A link to the interactive RecMapper tool can be found on DEP's recreation webpage (see Links Leaving the DEC website at right)
- Hiking: Allowed at Public Access areas and at other upland watershed lands with a valid access permit
- Fishing: Allowed on the Schoharie, Ashokan, Neversink, Rondout, Cannonsville and Pepacton Reservoirs with DEP access permit and DEC fishing license. All boats must be steam cleaned and registered with the NYC DEP.
- Non-motorized boating: Canoes, kayaks, row boats and sail boats are allowed on the Schoharie, Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day with a DEP access permit. All boats must be steam-cleaned before use in the reservoirs.
- Hunting and Trapping: Allowed on most Public Access areas and "Entry by Permit" areas in season, with NYC DEP access permit and appropriate license from DEC.