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Catskill Backcountry Information

Updated March 2020

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.

Current Conditions

  • Plan ahead and be prepared if you decide to hike or camp out in the colder weather. Please make sure you have adequate gear for the temperature and conditions.
  • There is still snow in the mountains. Please make sure that you are prepared with microspikes just in case when hiking at higher elevations.
  • Looks can be deceiving. Often conditions in low-lying areas can be very different than conditions once may face when hiking mountains through the Catskills. Keep in mind, during winter, there may be ice and snow on mountain peaks even when none is present at trailheads. Be prepared for colder, windier, and more treacherous conditions at upper elevations than you face at lower ones. Plan ahead and prepare by bringing traction devices, gloves, and extra clothes should you need them. When the mountains are thoroughly covered in snow, snowshoes are the best way to avoid post-holing.

Road and Trail Updates

  • Kanape Parking Area on Watson Hollow Road (County Route 42) is now open after an expansion project starting The Kanape parking area offers access to the Ashokan High Point trail.
  • Blustone Wild Forest, The gate at Onteora Lake that provides access to the lower parking area will be closed once the road becomes covered by ice and snow. The upper parking area will still be available for use.
  • Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, The gate at Alder Lake that provides access to the upper lot will be closed when the access road becomes covered by ice and snow.
  • Willowemoc Wild Forest and Sundown Wild Forest, Snowmobile trails in the Sundown Wild Forest and Willowemoc Wild Forest will be opened for use once trails are covered in ice and snow. Seasonal gates allowing access to snowmobile trails will e opened once the trails are sufficiently covered in ice and snow.
  • Kaaterskill Falls, town of Hunter: All hikers are reminded to use extreme caution in this area throughout the year due to steep trails and numerous cliffs and drop offs. Hikers are reminded to stay on the marked trails and note that rocks can be very slippery when wet. Please stay away from cliff edges. Please enjoy the views from the base of the lower falls and from the viewing platform at the top of the falls.
  • Sundown Wild Forest, Ulster and Sullivan counties: As the warmer weather approaches, please note that a permit is required to visit the Blue Hole on Weekends and Holidays between May 15th and September 15th of each year. Permits can be acquired from the Reserve America website . Permits are free of charge, but must be acquired at least 24 hours in advance and cannot be acquired more than a week in advance.

Additional weekly trail conditions are available from The Catskill Interpretive Center.

Regulatory Updates

  • Regulations have been adopted for the following four areas: Kaaterskill Falls Riparian Area (town of Hunter, Greene County), Kaaterskill Clove Riparian Corridor (towns of Hunter and Catskill, Greene County), Platte Clove Riparian Corridor (town of Hunter, Greene County, and town of Saugerties, Ulster County), and Colgate Lake Wild Forest Area (town of Jewett, Greene County). For more information see the press release.
  • 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.

Emergency Contacts

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.

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.
  • Reservations for the 2019 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.

The Upper Esopus Fire Tower at the Catskills Visitor Center (5096 State Route 28, Mt Tremper, NY 12457) is open! The cab is open weekends from 9AM- 4PM. Weekdays feel free to climb the tower to just below the cab for a great view of the area.

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.