Hiking in the Catskills: A Beginner’s Guide to Hudson Valley Treks

Adobe Stock / Demerzel21

Want to explore the gorgeous Catskill trails but have no clue where to start? Here’s a step-by-step hiking guide for beginners.

These are the days for scenic treks, but, before you venture out, make sure you’re prepared. Doug Kluthe from Catskill Outfitters in Phoenicia advises hikers to bring an extra layer or two (temperatures can be unpredictable this time of year), wear sturdy and supportive footwear, and pack plenty of water. Bill Kennedy, owner of Kenco Outfitters in Kingston, suggests packing first aid supplies such as bandages and antiseptic wipes, as well as insect repellent and healthy snacks.

Adobe Stock / Ljupco Smokovski

Here are six hikes that are perfect for beginners. Stay safe by sticking to the marked trail and signing in and out on the register at the trailhead.

Minnewaska State Park


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With a variety of trails that allow hikers to explore as much or as little of The Gunks as they want, this park has something for everyone. The most basic trail is a nearly two-mile loop with easy terrain that circles Lake Minnewaska. As you become more adventurous, make sure to check out the remaining 50 miles of foot trails leading to Sam’s Point or Gertrude’s Nose.

Kaaterskill Falls


Kaaterskill catskills hike
Kaaterskill Falls. Adobe Stock / Janifest

An easy-to-moderate hike to the base of a stunning 260-foot waterfall, this 1.4-mile trail is well-groomed but has lots of stairs (200 to be exact). It begins at the trailhead off Route 23A and ends at the bottom, offering scenic views that have inspired many an artist, including the Valley’s own Thomas Cole.

Ashokan Rail Trail


Although this trail is 11.5 miles in total, you can choose your route depending on how far you want to walk. It’s great for beginners (kids included) and offers a pretty panorama of the Esopus Creek and Ashokan Reservoir. Another plus? The entirety of the trail is made up of an ADA-compliant, flat gravel surface, making it accessible for those with disabilities.

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Related: What to Bring With You on Hudson Valley Hikes This Winter

Ashokan Quarry Trail


Construction buffs will appreciate the views of vintage machinery and a rail car loading zone along this easy two-mile hike. You’ll be on mostly flat terrain except for a small incline to the top of the quarry—along the way, you’ll be able to see mountains and a vernal pool.

Giant Ledge

Big Indian


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This moderate hike features truly breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunset from a series of ledges. The trail is just under four miles and rises 975 feet from the Route 47 trailhead. Camping is permitted at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) designated sites.

Gearing Up

Hiking experts Doug Kluthe, from Catskill Outfitters in Phoenicia, and Bill Kennedy, Tami Kennedy, and Dave MacDonald from Kenco Outfitters in Kingston, share their best tips on how to stay comfortable and safe on the trails when hiking in the Catskills.

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catskills hiking poles
Adobe Stock / Ljupco Smokovski

Telescoping trekking poles, $40

These are easy to pack and come in handy on rough, uneven terrain.

LifeStraw water purification bottle, $30

To help lighten the load of your pack, fill this with H2O you find in streams along your hiking route; the filtering straw makes any water safe to drink.

Plastic water reservoir, $15

This flat, reusable bottle fits conveniently in your pack for easy to-go hydration.

Sawyer’s permethrin spray, $10

Spray your clothes liberally before heading out and say bye-bye to biting insects—ticks included.

catskills hiking
Mossy creek in the Catskills. Adobe Stock / Troutnut

Keen Targhee 3 hiking shoe, $140

With waterproof membranes and good foot support, these shoes are perfect for those starting out on well-groomed trails. Choose a mid-rise for added protection against scrapes and bites.

Red Ledge Unisex Thunderlight Jacket, $55

It’s always a good move to bring extra layers to stay warm when hiking in the Catskills, but this lightweight jacket will help you stay dry, too.

Olicamp Vector Stove with Light Pot, $44

A hot meal on the trails will boost energy and keep you going for hours. Good for coffee, soup, and more, this small burner is easy to carry and reliable for several meals on one fuel canister.

Related: 20 Breathtaking Fall Hikes to Take in the Hudson Valley

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