The untamed beauty of the Catskill Mountains draws many a person to climb its towering peaks and canoe the quick waters, but before rushing out the door with only hiking boots and a paddle, remember to pack for cool nights and a chance of rain (or snow). Enjoy the rustic attraction of the Catskill Mountains instead of having weather blues.
Located in southeast New York state, the Catskill Mountains provide a diverse natural playground for the beginning or expert hiker. With mountain peaks reaching 3,000 feet into the clouds, the Catskill Mountains give hikers a bird’s eye view. The park’s 98 mountain peaks, five rivers, nearly 4,000 square miles, lakes and valleys present endless outdoor possibilities.
The Catskill Mountains witness two climate zones, creating a 25-degree temperature difference in areas at the same elevation. However, January is the coldest month with average temperatures between 14 and 28 degrees F, while July temperatures stretch into the 80s. Catskill weather is usually on the cool side, even dipping to the 40s in July. Snow, an annual average of 80 inches, is expected until April and average annual rainfall rings in at 50 inches.
The reasons for the different Catskill climates are up-sloping and down-sloping. When air moves over a mountain, it cools as it rises and condenses into moisture. The moisture rich air creates clouds and precipitation on the other side of the mountain. Likewise, air forced down the side of a mountain warms up, losing its precipitation. The first process, up-sloping, can bring rain and snow to one side of the mountain range while down-sloping, the second process, creates drier conditions.
The Catskill Mountains’ cool climate makes it ideal for many outdoor activities. Foremost, hiking may be the most popular activity with nearly 150 trails in the park. April sees the beginning of the canoeing season as the snow melts and the rivers rise. Horseback riding, camping and wildlife viewing are also popular summer activities. Cross-country skiing and snow shoeing find their hold in the park as New England storms drop snow on the Catskills.
In most mountain ranges, temperatures differ wildly from the foot of the mountain to the peak. Also, as a person exercises, internal temperatures can increase. Regardless of the season, wear layers of clothing when hiking in the Catskill Mountains. Layers allow for easy temperature adjustments. Well-tractioned shoes and a broad-brimmed hat are other dress essentials.