Nature & Wilderness at its Best: The Catskills in Upstate New York


Can you see the end?

Considered “America’s First Wilderness,” the Catskills in New York offer endless outdoor adventures. While some excursions are more leisurely, others are pure adrenaline rushes. To help you get your heart rate up in the beautiful setting of the Catskills, here are my top picks:

Ride North America’s Highest And Longest Zipline

Located at Hunter Mountain, their year-round zipline is North America’s highest and longest zipline, as well as the second largest zipline in the world. It features over four miles of zipline, heights of nearly 700 feet and speeds up to 50 miles per hour. While they offer a variety of tours, the most extreme option is the SkyRider Tour. You’ll need to take a ski lift to access the first line of this criss-crossing zipline — which features five zips and one shaky canopy bridge — before propelling your body over a canyon so high you almost can’t see the bottom. If you can keep your eyes open, you’ll enjoy mountain, lake and woodland views.

Skydive The Ranch

Imagine throwing yourself from a turbine-powered airplane 13,500 feet in the air while immersed in the beautiful scenery of the Catskills. Skydive The Ranch makes this visual a reality. During this extreme adrenaline rush, you’ll also be encouraged to pull your own ripcord and fly the parachute. And if you think you want to take your skydiving to the next level, they also offer an “Instructor Assisted Freefall (IAF)” skydiver training program.

Ice climbing. Image via spock1.

Climb A Frozen Waterfall

One of the most thrilling adventures to have in the Catskills is scaling a frozen waterfall or ice-covered mountain. The region is especially great for ice climbing as it has trails for all abilities. Around Saugerties, Tannersville and Phoenicia in the Catskills you’ll find many different ice climbing options, like Deep Notch, Stony Clove, Platte Clove and Kaaterskill Clove. My top picks include Kaaterskill Clove and Platte Clove. While Kaaterskill Clove is home to Buttermilk Falls, Hilyer Ravine and the famous Kaaterskill Falls, Platte Clove features the challenging Devil’s Kitchen, Black Chasm and Japanese Falls. And when the ice melts, these areas opens up to mountain, rock and alpine climbers.

If you’ve never climbed, there are an array of companies in the Catskills that offer a guided experience, like Mountain Skills Climbing Guides, HighXPosure Adventure and Alpine Endeavors.

Hike Sugarloaf Mountain

With a 1,761-foot vertical incline and rough terrain, the 6.69-mile Sugarloaf Mountain hike is considered one of the Catskills most difficult and adventurous treks. You’ll spend time on a section of the Devil’s Path — one of the world’s most daring hikes due to dizzying cliff ledges, precarious rock chutes and difficult climbs up sheer walls and cork screwy chimneys. While hard work, hikers are rewarded with a spruce covered summit, wildflowers, clear creeks, beaver meadows, hemlock ravines, expansive blue stone quarries and views of the central high peaks along the trail. Note: This hike is difficult and dangerous as there is a possibility of falling off the mountain, so make sure you’re experienced and prepared. Hikers can access the trailhead from Mink Hollow Road in Pine Hill.

Cat 2-3 Berm Section

Mountain Biking Down Plattekill

While known as being the ski resort of choice for daredevil skiers, when the weather warms up the mountain becomes a haven for extreme mountain bikers. Known for pushing bikers to their full potential, the mountain offers 60 miles of lift-served bike trails with a summit elevation of 3,500 feet and 1,110 feet of vertical. On the mountain you’ll find a variety of beginner and intermediate trails; however, they’re known for their extreme downhills and intense single tracks, all with harrowing names like “Nightmare,” “Unholy,” “Flight Deck” and “Crazy Horse.”

Jessica Festa
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey ( and Epicure & Culture ( Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor's, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn't really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.
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