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

Photo by Walter Earl

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.

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.

catskills hiking

Photo by Adobe Stock | Diana Robinson



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 2-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.



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.



catskills hiking

Ashokan Rail Trail, Boiceville | Photo by Walter Earl

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.



Construction buffs will appreciate the views of vintage machinery and a rail car loading zone along this easy 2-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.


Big Indian

This moderate hike features truly breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunset from a series of ledges. The trail is just under 4 miles and rises 975 feet from the Route 47 trailhead. Camping is permitted at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) designated sites.

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