It was only one night. Two days. But from high mountain high jinks to an overnight in a chic new hotel on the banks of the Hudson River, a surprisingly wide variety of adventures were had during a roadtrip through the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY.
New York City residents can hop on a train at the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station in Manhattan, take a two-hour ride to the Hudson Station, pick up a rental car and get started on their own one-of-a-kind getaway.
First stop: Hunter Mountain. It was here— at the highest mountain in the county and the second highest in the Catskills—that I learned to ski decades ago while in high school. Fun times that have taken on an almost magical sheen in my memory. With a 1,600-foot vertical drop, 67 trails and 13 lifts, it remains the region’s premiere ski resort. Nearby Windham Mountain also offers world-class skiing and four-season outdoor fun.
But Hunter Mountain is fun to explore at any time of the year. When I arrived, in the first few days of October, the annual Oktoberfest celebration was in full swing. Just outside the main lodge, at the base of the mountain, multiple tents offered up German food and fun. And of course beer. As a band played Elvis tunes and other classic rock, I wandered through the happy crowds. Pierogis, Belgian waffles and other treats called out to me.
I hopped on the Hunter Mountain Scenic Sky Ride; The six-passenger Kaatskill Flyer whisks you to the 3,200-foot summit in just 11 minutes. At home, the trees hadn’t even begun their annual transformation, but here I was greeted with a breathtaking display of colors even though peak fall foliage was probably still two weeks away. I’ve always loved riding on a chairlift. As the scenery changes on the ride up the mountain I often note that, when it is time to disembark, my attitude has changed as well. At the top I wandered around taking in the panoramic views—in one direction you can see all the way to the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Some more adventurous folks were setting out on trails; one 4-mile hike leads to the Hunter Mountain Fire Town, the highest fire tower in New York State.
Once back on the ground I headed into the inviting mountain town of Tannersville. I passed the Hunter Mountain Brewery; the parking lot was almost full, perhaps because of the chicken curry I’ve heard so much about. The downtown strip is chock full of eclectic eateries, galleries and shops. Sandwiches at Maggie’s Krooked Cafe & Juice Bar or comfort food at Pancho Villa’s Mexican Restaurant are always good options. But I was completely captivated by Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Cafe. It was a gorgeous 75-degree day and customers giddily sat outside on the sidewalk. The inside was also bustling. I headed to the cheese counter, where I was momentarily overwhelmed by the extent of the delicious choices laid out before me. After a brief discussion with the guy behind the counter I opted on a wedge of baby gouda. Great choice. I packed it up and headed to my next destination: Kaaterskill Falls.
The largest cascading waterfall in the state, Kaaterskill Falls drops, in two tiers, more than 260 feet. (Multiple people ask the same thing: yes, Niagara Falls is much wider and overall bigger. Kaaterskill Falls is higher.) There are three major places to take in this impressive waterway. You can hike to a viewing platform high above the falls, to the bottom of the first drop, or all the way to very bottom. For those who haven’t visited in a while, in 2016 the DEC made major trail improvement and you can now access all these points from the same starting place. I hiked in to the viewing platform, a 1.4-mile, mostly flat hike through pretty woods. The falls are spectacular; it’s easy to see why Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of Painting, was inspired to paint them.
Afterwards, while driving down the picturesque and winding route 23A, I thought about how easy it is in Greene County to get from the Catskill High Peaks to the other side of the county on the banks of the Hudson River, just 35 miles away. This is not Colorado or even Vermont, both places I love to visit. But nobody is pretending it is. But the Catskills are gorgeous and moody and to be able to be there in the morning and then sipping lattes in a trendy town on one of the country’s most historic rivers in the afternoon; well, that is truly special.
I arrived in Coxsackie around 5:30 pm and made my way down to the 5-acre Riverside Park. Wow. The state recently awarded $3.2 million to make improvements, which include a new pavilion and renovations to the boat launch. The pretty park is immaculately maintained. At first, I couldn’t figure out what made these Hudson River views extra spectacular. Then it hit me: there are almost no old factories, no crumbling boat yards—in fact, almost no obstructions whatsoever. Pristine views greet you in all directions.
The park is in the Reed Street Historic District, with several blocks of historic buildings, cute shops and trendy eateries.
I checked into the James Newbury Hotel. Opened in late July 2023, this chic industrial 47-room lodging bills itself as only boutique hotel on the banks of the Hudson River. Like almost everything else in the region, this project is the melding of old and new. Once the site of a 19th century shipping port and iron foundry (owned by one James Newbury), the hotel pays tribute to both its manufacturing and maritime past.
Rooms are a mix of industrial furnishings and modern comforts. My king-sized room included a curvy couch, a mini-fridge, an interesting array of mood light and shades that I simply couldn’t figure out how to operate. (They have their own controls on the wall by your bed.) The large, sparkling white bathroom, with an expansive walk in shower, was separated from the room with an oversized, sliding barn door; I appreciated the lush white robe that hung waiting for me. Some rooms have river views and giant soaking bath tubs. A separate event space, literally feet from the water, has been booked with weddings weekend after weekend since opening.
For dinner, I wandered over to Che Figata, less than two blocks from the hotel. It was a Sunday evening around 7:00 pm, but the Italian bistro was bustling—both inside and outside. I sat at the end of the bar—it was the last remaining seat—and while I initially planned to order takeout and bring it back to the hotel I ended up with a pint of beer in front of me—and the rest was history. I was soon chatting with the two men next to me; Coxsackie locals who while watching the TV and commenting on Taylor Swift at a football game, filled me in on all sorts of fun facts about Coxsackie. My dinner—halibut with spinach and mashed potatoes— was absolutely delicious. It was a huge portion, not common at such a high quality eatery and I happily took a giant slab of carrot cake back to the hotel with me.
The next morning I enjoyed a light continental breakfast in the very attractive hotel lobby. The best part? Close up river views as I sipped on my coffee. I then headed twenty minutes south to the town of Catskill, the seat of Greene County. There I met Michael Krstovich, the owner of Screaming Eagle Outdoor Adventures, for a one-hour kayak tour on the Catskill Creek. Here, the 37 mile creek runs into the Hudson River. The company is completely mobile, meeting clients at two sites: on the creek and directly into the Hudson River four miles north in Athens. Mike and his crew take people out on a variety of guided tours, including popular options at sunrise and sunset. Prices vary, but in general a two-hour single kayak tour costs $50. Mike told me about new developments that were popping up on the shores of the Catskill Creek, about the amazing Bass Run in the spring when thousands of people line the shores with the hopes of capturing some fish. Right by the mouth of the Hudson, Mike pointed out a bald eagle perched high on a tree. We approached it and sat almost directly in front of it for several minutes. Kayaking is amazing way to truly experience a region; Mike made it safe, easy and fun.
I stopped for a quick lunch at the Creekside Restaurant, a simple eatery right on the banks of the creek with excellent food. Afterwards, I headed into town to meet Stef Halmos, the cheery and energetic owner of Foreland, an extraordinary 85,000-square foot contemporary arts campus located on the Creek. During the Civil War, the three main brick buildings were used to make uniforms for Union soldiers. The buildings were used for other purposes, but had sat dormant for years until Halmos snapped them up in 2017 and in record time transformed it into a bustling, multi-use space. Gorgeous artist studios, a co-working space, and three private event spaces. (The Bookhouse, one of the event spaces, is a stand-alone, 10,000-square foot building with stunning interiors, including the high ceiling with hundreds of tiny bulbs to create a starry sky.) A floating glass pedestrian bridge connects the main buildings directly to Main Street.
I walked up Catskill’s fun Main Street before heading home. My only wish? That I had time to swing by Frank Guido’s Port of Call, a popular restaurant with unparalleled views of both the Catskill Creek and the Hudson River. I had been craving one of their overstuffed lobster rolls all summer long. But alas, I plan to be back in Greene County as soon as I can.
Experience the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY, via Amtrak to the Hudson Station (HUD). Don’t forget to use the See New York and Save 15% discount!
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