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5 Super Cool Things to Check Out in the Catskills

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

Highest cascading waterfall in New York State, check. The place where America's first artistic expression was invented, check. Epic views, double check. Crusty old Dutch dudes, yep. Read on to discover the Catskills coolest places to visit this fall.

The Old Dog 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.

The Most Epically Cascading Waterfall in New York

Kaaterskill Falls

That’s right; we just relegated Niagara Falls to a close second behind Kaaterskill Falls. The highest cascading waterfall in New York State, Kaaterskill Falls was considered by Native Americans to be the resting place of the creator, a sacred place for the Mohican people who called the Catskills home. In one of his most celebrated paintings, Thomas Cole placed a lone warrior watching over the falls, a testament to the wild beauty of the place. Cole wasn’t the only artist to take inspiration from the falls. William Cullen Bryant and Asher Durand felt the pull of the primal in the presence of the falls, creating masterworks of literature and canvas. Durand depicted the relationship between art and literary circles by painting himself and Bryant into Kindred Spirits, one of his most well-known works of art. Experience your own spiritual awakening at the falls, located off of Route 23A in Haines Falls. The trail is short at 1.4 miles roundtrip, and hikers are strongly encouraged to stick to the marked path due to the treacherously slippery rocks located at the top of the falls. 

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 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 as well as the history buff.

The Catskill Mountain House Site is the eighth stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail Stop. 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 Brit 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 to Himself

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’s 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.