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Catskill Backcountry Information

March 2021

Welcome to the Catskills

The Welcome to the Catskills webpage is the place to go if you are interested in learning more about the Catskill Mountains. It provides information about the Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands, outdoor recreation opportunities and Leave No Trace. Be sure to check out the links to additional information and tips for recreating safely and minimizing your impacts on natural resources, recreational infrastructure, and other backcountry users in the Catskill Mountains.

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 regular updates, seasonal notices and general information below.

Road and Trail Updates

  • Catskills Visitors Center: The accessible trails at the Esopus Creek Fishing Access across the street from the Catskills Visitor Center has experienced damage during the recent flooding events. The trails were scoured by the overflowing Esopus Creek which also deposited several inches of thick, sandy mud over several hundred feet of the trail. Due to the damage, the trails at this location no longer meet ADA standards of accessibility.
  • Shandaken Wild Forest: Rochester Hollow- Access to the Rochester Hollow Trailhead on Matyas Road is currently limited to 4-wheel drive vehicles due to damage sustained from the recent flooding events in the Catskill Forest Preserve. Please use caution when attempting to access the Rochester Hollow Trailhead - 2wd vehicles should not attempt access at this time.
  • Bluestone Wild Forest: • Onteora Lake: The gate allowing access to the lower parking will be opened for the season when conditions allow. Currently, the gate is still locked due to slippery road conditions.
  • Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest: The roadway providing access to Alder Lake is closed annually when the roadway becomes covered with ice and snow. The gate is generally closed right before the first big snow of the year.
  • Sundown Wild Forest:
  • The gates allowing snowmobiles access to trails will be closed for the season due to conditions no longer being favorable for snowmobiling.
  • Red Hill Trail and Trailhead: The newly constructed Red Hill Fire Tower Trailhead, located in Ulster County on Denning Road in the Town of Denning, is open for use. The trailhead improves access to the Red Hill Fire Tower in the Sundown Wild Forest through a land use permit agreement with NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). You can find the location of the parking area on google maps.
  • The trailhead is approximately 4 miles east of the intersection of W. Brand and Claryville Road. The Red Hill Fire Tower is a popular hiking destination in the Catskills. Visitors can hike the newly established Blue blazed trail built by Tahawus Trails professional trail crew, traversing both DEP and Forest Preserve Lands through rocky outcroppings and hemlock laden forests. The newly constructed 1.4 miles of trail intersects with the existing trail leading up to the summit where hikers can climb the tower to the top.
  • Kaaterskill Falls: Expect the trails in the Kaaterskill Falls area to be very icy. Hikers should use extreme caution, especially on icy stone staircases and other rock surfaces. Be prepared with traction devices such as microspikes or crampons. For your safety, avoid hiking near cliff edges and avoid the midpool area if you do not have traction devices.
  • Delaware Wild Forest: The gates allowing snowmobiles access to trails will be closed for the season due to conditions no longer being favorable for snowmobiling.

Additional weekly trail conditions are available from the Catskill Visitors Center

Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local

New York State's PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. New York State DEC and State Parks recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. This guidance urges New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

  1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches and other public spaces safe for everyone.
  2. I will stay local and close to home.
  3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
  4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
  5. I accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
  6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
  7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
  8. If I am not feeling well, I will stay home.

Use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share how you get outside safely, responsibly, and locally.

What's Local? Consistent with the NYforward (leaves DEC website) phased reopening plan, DEC and State Parks are encouraging New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (leaves DEC website). Each of the state's 10 REDC regions (leaves DEC website) have a wide variety of recreational opportunities. New Yorkers getting outdoors should use common sense in planning outdoor activities and remember that public facilities like restrooms or other amenities may not be available.

Use DECinfo Locator to find DEC managed resources near you and visit the State Parks website for information about parks and park closures.

Regulatory Updates

  • Blue Hole and Peekamoose Valley: DEC has issued special regulations for the Blue Hole and Peekamoose Valley because of the huge increase in visitors. The purpose of these regulations is to increase public safety and reduce impacts to the environmental resources.
  • Except for the nearby designated camping area, the Blue Hole is only open to the public from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.
  • Users are required to use portable restroom facilities for human waste disposal and the dumpster for all other waste.
  • The following are prohibited at the Blue Hole (limited use will be allowed at the nearby designated camping area only):
    Camping
    All fires (including charcoal fires, wood fires, gas grills, propane stoves or other portable stoves)
    Use of portable generators
    Glass containers
    Radios and other audio devices
    Parking is limited to designated parking areas only. Parking along the shoulder of the road is prohibited by the Town and is a Tow Away Zone.

Leave No Trace

Follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace to maintain minimal impact on the environment and the natural resources of the Adirondacks. Use proper trail etiquette to ensure an enjoyable experience for yourself and others.

  • As the weather continues to get warmer and the days get longer, the urge to hit the trail grows stronger every day. While springtime is a great time for hiking and trail running, it can also be a very sensitive time for the trails we enjoy.
    Keep these three tips in mind for the muddy season and help to Leave No Trace while enjoying the trail.

    1. Be prepared to hike or run down the middle of the trail even when wet or muddy - stepping off the designated trail to avoid mud or standing water can quickly lead to the creation of undesignated trails, which can lead to even more erosion.
    2. Wear water-resistant or water proof footwear - even if you don't have waterproof footwear, remember that shoes dry overnight while erosion can take years to recover.
    3. Consider wearing gaitors to help keep your feet dry when sticking to wet or muddy trails

Enjoy the Spring season, and Leave No Trace.

Emergency Contacts

Report back county emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Forest Rangers at 833-NYS-Rangers or call 911.

Camping

yellow and black camp here marker
  • 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.

DEC Backcountry Regulations

Stay Safe, Respect Others and Protect the Environment

  • Backcountry hiking trails can be rugged and rough. Keep in mind that wilderness conditions can change suddenly.
  • Properly prepare to ensure that you have a safe hiking experience
  • Hiking safety for all seasons
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles (leaves DEC website) to minimize your impacts on the natural resources and others.
  • Dealing with bears: Be away that you may encounter black bears while hiking 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.