Visitors to the Catskills may find it difficult to believe that this serene rural region is just a few hours from the hustle and bustle of New York City. For generations, this mountain range in southeastern New York has drawn travelers and artists with its natural beauty; in the mid-1800s, the Hudson River School landscape painters immortalized the valleys, mountains and forests across the Catskill region. Today, the many sights and attractions in the Catskills still attract those seeking scenic views.
For scenic views, head out to the Catskills' many parks and nature areas. Spend an afternoon or several days exploring the natural beauty of North-South Lake Park. The largest park in the Catskill Forest Preserve, North-South Lake Park offers swimming, camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and some of the best views around. Climb 2,250 feet to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House -- a 19th-century hotel that drew several U.S. presidents -- or take the short walk from the South Lake parking lot to Alligator Rock, an oddly shaped rock formation that's had "teeth" added over the years. For panoramic views that span the Hudson River Valley -- and New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut on clear days -- head to the Five State Lookout. Just outside of East Windham, this state-maintained lookout sits atop the Mohican Trail.
For a glimpse into the past, visit a Catskill museum. The Bevier House Museum in Marbletown is housed in a home dating to the 1680s. Originally a one-room house built by Dutch settlers, today this restored building contains artwork, artifacts, furniture and cultural items from the region, including Civil War memorabilia. The museum is open from May through October, Thursday through Sunday. Tour the locks at the the D&H Canal Historical Society and Museum in High Falls. Set in a 19th-century church building, the museum contains working artifacts from the Delaware and Hudson Canal's heyday, as well as art and artifacts from centuries past. Now a national historic landmark, visitors can take a tour of the locks along the canal on weekends from May through October.
Experience the Catskills' rich artistic traditions at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. Set on a 250-acre campus in Woodstock, this working artists' colony has been promoting the arts in the region since 1902. The colony houses potters, metalworkers, painters, sculptors and performing artists. The Byrdcliffe shop is open Wednesday through Sunday and the colony hosts a regular series of events. The Mainly Greene project has transformed main streets in Greene County into living art galleries; from Catskill to Prattsville, artists, galleries and venues along the Rip Van Winkle Trail offer a series of events, showings, talks and performances throughout the year.
See the subject that inspired authors and artists -- from "Sleepy Hollow" author Washington Irving to painter Thomas Cole -- up close and personal at Kaaterskill Falls. This 260-foot waterfall crashes down over two levels of gray stones. A visit to the falls is a 1.4-mile hike that begins about three miles west of Palenville. Take a stroll or a paddle through RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary, a 480-acre preserve near Catskill. This swamp is home to bald eagles, great blue herons and more than 30 species of dragonflies, as well as river otters, muskrats and beavers. RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary is open year-round and offers cross-country skiing trails in winter.