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Catskill Backcountry Information

October 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.

Recreation Highlight

Planning an outdoor adventure this weekend? Follow @NYSDECAlerts on Twitter for Real-time updates to help plan and prepare. @NYSDECAlerts provides updates for DEC managed lands throughout New York State, including the Catskill Mountain Region.

Discover what parking areas are full before you arrive so you have move straight to your back-up location and get on the trail sooner. Check for special advisories or links to alternate hikes. Love our NY Lands by hiking responsibly and planning ahead with help from the most up to date information.

Catskill Updates

  • Catskills Visitor Center: The Catskills Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 9:30 AM - 4:00PM with all new interactive exhibits. Stop by for a visit before your next adventure. Have your questions answered, get trip planning advice or pick up maps and local information and more! Contact the Catskills Visitor Center for more information. 845-688-3369 or email info@catskillcenter.org. Additional weekly trail conditions are available from the Catskill Visitors Center (leaves DEC website).
  • DEC Campgrounds: The following DEC Campgrounds in the Catskills are closed for the season:
    • Bear Spring Mountain Campground & Day Use Area
    • Beaverkill Campground & Day Use Area
    • Devil's Tombstone Campground & Day Use Area
    • Kenneth L. Wilson Campground & Day Use Area
    • Little Pond Campground & Day Use Area
    • Mongaup Pond Campground & Day Use Area
    • Woodland Valley Campground & Day Use Area
    • North South Lake Campground will remain open until October 24th.
  • Slide Mountain Wilderness Area and Overlook Mountain Wild Forest: Trail counters have been installed at Giant Ledge and Overlook Mountain trailheads. Data from the counters will provide an understanding of the amount of visitation these area receive as well as help to establish sign-in rates at trail register locations.
  • Sundown Wild Forest: Permits are necessary to recreate or camp in the valley from May 15th - September 15th each year.
  • Peekamoose Blue Hole & Riparian Corridor: 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 the impacts to the environmental resource. The special regulations are:
  • Require visitors to obtain a permit for a $10 fee through Reserve America, consistent with the fees for other recreation-oriented Day Use areas in the Forest Preserve from May 15th-September 15th;
  • Each permit will be linked to a vehicle, and the permit must be displayed on/in the vehicle;
  • Limit parking to designated parking areas only. Parking along the shoulder of the road is prohibited by the Town and is a Tow Away Zone; and
  • 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 nearby designated camping areas only):
    • 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 house after sunset;
    • Camping;
    • All fires (including charcoal fires, wood fires, gas grills, propane stoves or other portable stoves);
    • Use of portable generators;
    • Alcohol;
    • Glass containers;
    • Coolers larger than 12" in any dimension; and
    • Radios and other audio devices.
  • Kaaterskill Falls: The Molly Smith parking area on Route 23a in the Town of Hunter has been closed to improve visitor safety. Kaaterskill Falls can still be accessed from Laurel House Road, Schutt Road, or North South Lake Campground.

Leave No Trace

The Autumn leaves are bursting with color and the air feels crisp. As you plan your leaf peeping adventures, check out these three tips on how to Leave No Trace while enjoying the fall foliage.

  1. Prepare for Changing Weather: Fall weather can be unpredictable and can change quickly. Plan for cool temperatures by bringing extra layers that will help to keep you warm & safe.
  2. Keep an Eye on The Trails: As the leaves fall, expect trails to get covered making it harder to find your way. Plan your route ahead of time and pay attention to trail markers to avoid wandering off trail. Sticking to the trail will keep you safe and will help to protect sensitive trailside plants and vegetation.
  3. Enjoy the Colors Without the Crowds: Protect the quality of your experience by visiting destinations and viewpoints that are less popular, or plan your visit during times that are not so busy. Always have a backup plan in the event that parking areas have reached capacity.

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

Emergency Contacts

Report back county emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Forest Rangers at 833-NYS-RANGERS (833-697-7264) 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: Seven of the DEC campgrounds in the Catskills 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's 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 (leaves DEC's website) and print it out for immediate use. 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 (leaves DEC's website) that provides information on the size, location, topography, and allowable uses at each recreation site in the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

  • 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.