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5 Super Cool Things to Check Out in the Catskills

We bring you breathtaking hikes, the birthplace of American Art, and one man’s ode to self. We bring you the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County.

Magnificent waterfall hikes, check. The place where America’s first artistic expression was invented, check. Epic views, double check. Read on to discover the coolest places in the Great Northern Catskills.

The Man Himself

Rip Van Winkle

Who hasn’t heard of this little Dutch curmudgeon? He’s fictional of course, but who doesn’t admire his work ethic? I mean, the man got to bond with some historically accurate ghosts over what we’re sure was delicious mead, take a 20-year nap, and awaken to find he missed a particularly brutal war. Genius. And, Henry Hudson was a king at nine pins, or so we’re led to believe, so Rip probably had quite a bit of fun watching the ghostly game. Anyway, you can visit the place where Rip laid his fictional head. It’s called the Kaaterskill Clove, and it’s quite a breathtaking sight. Maybe he was so overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding him, he passed out. Maybe the legend of Rip Van Winkle is nothing more than a sheepish attempt to disguise Rip’s romantic tendency toward fainting at the sight of evergreen landscapes? It’s a mystery. Check out the Kaaterskill Clove Experience to see where Rip RIP-ed – if only semi-permanently – and a whole host of top-notch attractions and hiking spots.

Beautiful Waterfalls

Diamond Notch Falls

Imagine — walking along a tree-lined path to a spectacular waterfall on a blue sky day in the Catskills. Does that sound like the perfect day to you? Head to Diamond Notch Falls to experience the bliss of this scene! With a 10-foot drop surrounded by towering trees, you’ll certainly enjoy the natural landscape. This trail offers two hiking options. A two-mile round trip option via the parking area on Spruceton Road or a four-mile loop via the trail at Diamond Notch Road in Lanesville. You can view the falls from a bridge above or down at the bottom. Once you complete this waterfall hike, you’ll be looking for more! Hikers are strongly encouraged to stick to the marked path due to potentially slippery rocks.

Catskill Mountain House Site

From 1823 to 1963 the Catskill Mountain House stood atop the Catskill High Peaks, overlooking the glorious Catskill Mountains and vast blue sky. A massive structure with gorgeous white columns bordering an expansive green lawn, people came from far and wide to visit the popular destination. The nearby Grand Hotel also became a world-famous vacation spot that attracted business tycoons, artists, and presidents.

You can access this stunning vista from one of the most popular campgrounds in New York State, North-South Lake State Campground, which offers easy access to nearby trails from the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail. The Mountain House is an easy walk from the public lot at North Lake beach. Park in the public lot at North Lake beach and follow the blue blazes leading to the grassy open site where the Mountain House once stood. Interpretive signage is located at the summit. This Catskill attraction is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast and the history buff.

The Catskill Mountain House Site is the eighth stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail. This renowned art trail allows you to walk in the footsteps of several pioneering American landscape artists as you immerse yourself in artistic history.

Invented in the Catskills

American Art

That’s right. Thomas Cole, a British expat and soon-to-be artistic revolutionary, changed the course of human history when he sailed up the Hudson River, saw the unspoiled landscape of the Catskill Mountains and marched straight home, brush in hand, to create paintings that would become the cornerstones for the Hudson River School. Cole’s home, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, is located in the town of Catskill and is open to visitors. You can even follow his footsteps – which are now popular hiking trails – to some of the most iconic views depicted in his paintings via the Hudson River School of Art Trail.

One Man's Monument

Pratt Rock

Zadock Pratt was an accomplished personage of the 1800s. He was a tanner, a banker, a soldier, and a member of the House of Representatives. He was a man about town, a titan among men, a bastion of culture amid a great wilderness. And he wanted the generations that followed him to know it. Along with establishing his own bank that printed its own bills, the value of which was comparable to that of a U.S. dollar, Pratt commissioned stone workers to immortalize his life’s achievements by carving them into a rocky ledge near his home in Prattsville, where they can still be seen today.

It may be a leap, but we could probably credit Pratt with inspiring Gutzon Borglum, the carver of Mount Rushmore fame. Then again, probably not. However, the comparison remains and Pratt Rock is often referred to as “New York’s Mount Rushmore.” Located on Route 23 outside of Prattsville, the trail to the rock ledge is steep and shaded, but well worth the trek.