The Catskill Mountains are an area for all seasons. The lush green forests of summer become kaleidoscopic in the fall and the spectacular snow currents of winter end with dazzling blooms in spring. Charming towns with artistic appeal draw weekend lovers all year round, and a vibrant list of outdoor excursions changes with the weather.
These rolling plateaus might not be brought to life by the all-night energy of neighboring New York City, but make no mistake – there’s always something new happening in the Catskills. Here’s a guide to navigating the upstate New York destination year round.
High season in the Catskills runs from June to October
Best time for outdoor adventures
When summer heats up the northeast, the Catskills provide a place to cool off. The region’s pastoral towns are only minutes away from an abundance of freshwater lakes and forest trails, and by the end of June they are teeming with townspeople ready to indulge in the offerings.
The onset of fall in mid-September is a great time to observe the leaves – when crowds come to admire the fall foliage and celebrate the harvest of the year. Plan your trip early – weekend bookings at the best hotels and campsites can fill up months in advance.
Save money during shoulder season: April and May, November and December
Best time for budget travelers
Spring is mud season – when the freezing winter melt creates swampy conditions for hikers. It’s also when the waterfalls are at their most powerful, fly fishing is at its best, and bird watchers can spot migrating species like warblers and tanagers flying through the blossoming forests. Summer crowds don’t arrive until Memorial Day, which keeps deals at hotels until mid-May.
November and December bring colder temperatures and occasional snow. Nature trips are always worth it, but these days are the best for exploring the cozy main streets nestled in the mountains.
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Avoid the crowds from January to March
Best time for winter sports
The Catskills wear a white blanket all winter long, inspiring two types of activities: snuggling indoors or hitting icy slopes. Seasonal businesses tend to close or limit their opening hours during this time of year, so there won’t be as many options for shopping and eating – a problem for people planning to drop by. their time skiing, snowboarding or ice skating. Thinner crowds allow city residents to book last-minute retreats.
January is for the snow bunnies
The coldest month in the region may seem the most worrying, but there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Bundle up to join the snow bunnies rolling down Hunter Mountain, or slip on snowshoes to view the frosty landscape of the Catskill Forest Preserve.
Experience icy outdoor adventures in February
Months of below freezing temperatures mean that ice-covered lakes are generally safe enough for skating, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. Families book weekend vacations at lodges like Mohonk Mountain House for a snowy Presidents Day vacation.
Things get muddy in March
End of March is the start of the sludge season. The ground begins to thaw, the ice begins to melt, and an irregular mix of snow and rain makes it a great time to relax at a local cafe or brewery.
The important event: St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Jeffersonville
April means fishing
The sludge season continues, with rivers and streams flowing at full capacity. It’s also the start of the fly fishing season in New York City, when anglers head to Roscoe (nicknamed Trout Town, USA) to cast their lines at Junction Pool. At the end of the month, pastel flowers are popping up in the countryside.
Bird watchers flock to the Catskills in May
Cold mornings give way to hot afternoons, and on Remembrance Day sleepy towns come to life with the reopening of seasonal businesses. May is the best time for bird watchers to spot a wide array of avian visitors, but it’s also when pesky black flies rear their heads. Bring bug spray when you venture into the woods.
The important event: TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival
June is the perfect time to hike the trails
The temperate climate in early June is perfect for hiking. Seasonal residents don’t arrive in droves until the end of the month, so take advantage of the smaller crowds at popular venues. Remember to bring a sweater – even in summer the nights can be surprisingly cool.
Key events: Trout Parade, Stagecoach Run Art Festival
Find a cool swimming hole in July
Take advantage of the hot July days by jumping into a swimming hole or floating down a river. Blueberries and raspberries are plentiful, and you can find freshly picked local fruit at farmers’ markets. The hottest month in the Catskills is also the most sought after, which means longer queues, crowded destinations, and rare vacancies at boutique hotels.
Key events: Independence Day, Catskills Irish Arts Week
Enjoy the Perseid meteor shower in August
The summer heatwave continues until August, with the lakes reaching ideal temperatures for swimming all day. Plan a camping trip around the Perseid meteor shower, when shooting stars light up the night sky. Late summer is the best time of year to snack on sweet corn, which grows throughout the region.
Key events: Flea Valley Festival, Little World’s Fair
Picking apples in September
As summer residents flock south after Labor Day, New York City weekends take their place to enjoy harvest festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, and slightly cooler temperatures. Immerse yourself in the autumn spirit by picking apples at a local farm.
Key events: Harvest Festival at Bethel Woods, Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest, Woodstock Film Festival, Big Eddy Film Festival
October is leaf viewing time
It’s peak leaf viewing season – when fall foliage turns the Catskill Mountains into an arboreal art exhibit. Take tree-lined paths or travel scenic drives to see the region at its most scenic.
Key events: Fall Affair in Windham, Taste of the Catskills Festival, Plattepalooza Family Festival, Woodstock Halloween Parade
The hunting season starts in November
The end of fall foliage means fewer people and cheaper hotel rooms. Mild days are always possible, but expect morning frosts. The end of November also marks the start of the deer hunting season. Outdoor enthusiasts who are keen on hiking should wear bright colors (preferably bright orange), stay on designated trails, and choose a site where hunting is prohibited. Summer businesses close or limit their hours for the winter.
Key events: Hunting season
Bethel Woods Holiday Markets are a must in December
Stays at the Hygge Hotel are best during the first weeks of winter. Stroll the main streets of towns like Livingston Manor, New Paltz or Woodstock to find unique holiday gifts in local boutiques. Snow is always a possibility; be prepared for inclement weather.
The important event: Holiday Market in Bethel Woods, Peace, Love & Lights