When this year’s fall color reports start to roll in, it’s the perfect time to hike, paddle, and pedal your way to river and mountain views in the Western Catskills of New York State. For a perfect autumn day, sampling a little of each of the best sights and activities of the fall season in New York State is the way to go. In the rolling farmland of the Western Catskills, framed by deciduous trees that burst into color in late September through mid-October, you’ll find a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The birch and hickory leaves turn yellow, while sugar maples light up the forest in shades of red and orange, and families can romp around a pumpkin patch or tour a working farm while in the neighborhood.
The Upper Delaware River runs the border between Pennsylvania and New York and is known for its stunning scenery. An autumn visit only highlights that beauty. You can hike or paddle along the Upper Delaware where it meets the Catskill Mountains, then once you’ve worked up an appetite, eat your heart out at the Callicoon Farmers’ Market. Read on for even more great fall trip ideas for the Western Catskills.
Hike to Views from Above
The western slopes of the Catskill Mountains meet the Delaware River at the Pennsylvania state line. The National Park Service maintains a network of trails along the river between Port Jervis and Narrowsburg, but farther north, the local Boy Scouts maintain the Tusten Mountain Trail on private land. This three-mile hike leads to aerial views of the river from 1,100 feet. Although the loop is short, some steep and rocky sections make for a moderately challenging climb. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy from lookout rocks at the top.
Access the Tusten Mountain Trail from Crawford Road off Route 97 between Narrowsburg and Barryville. Park at the Ten Mile River boat launch.
Paddle for Views from Below
Back at the river’s edge, smooth water mirrors the rainbow of colors on tree branches above. This is the angle for taking photos worthy of posting to your Facebook wall.
Rent a canoe or kayak from Lander’s River Trips and drift with the gentle current under a canopy of autumn leaves. Most paddlers can cover about three miles per hour, depending on river conditions. Much of the land on both sides of the river is privately owned, but the outfitter runs three campgrounds along the river for overnight adventures. For the best post-paddle eating options, start and finish your trip from the outfitter’s Callicoon base. Contact Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor for information about guided excursions and equipment rentals near Catskill Park.
Ride Through Rolling Hills
Whether you want to go 10 or 50 miles in a day, cyclists have endless options for scenic rides. Here’s a 25-mile loop that locals recommend:
- Start in Fosterdale at the intersection of Routes 17B and 52.
- Follow Co. 114 west to Mitchell Pond Road and Co. 116 to reach the river at Skinner’s Falls.
- Once in Pennsylvania, follow PA 1004 north along the river to Damascus.
- Continue on River Road (PA 1016) to Bridge Street, which returns you to New York State and the village of Callicoon.
- Take Main Street to Route 17B, which heads back to the start in Fosterdale.
For more cycling routes, check out this list of bike rides in Sullivan County (PDF).
Tour a Working Farm
Try a 22-mile out-and-back route from Callicoon to Apple Pond Farm and Renewable Education Center, where you can meet the goats, learn how to make ricotta cheese, and see how wool is spun. Plan your visit for Saturday, October 10th or Sunday, October 11th, to catch the farm’s annual Pumpkin Fest and Open House, from 12pm to 5pm.
Or, skip the biking and bring the family for Apple Pond Farm’s Farming with Kids, a hands-on program offered Friday and Saturday mornings at 10am in summer and early fall. Owner Sonja Hedlund allows youngsters to help with routine farm chores. Depending on the day, they can feed the animals, milk the goats, groom horses, and pick fresh veggies from the garden.
Refuel in Callicoon
After a morning spent exploring nature, local farm-grown food tastes especially good. On Sundays, more than 30 vendors set up stands at the Callicoon Farmers’ Market (May 3rd through November 8th, 11am to 3pm) next to Peck’s Market at Callicoon Creek Park.
Besides the usual variety of late-season fruits and vegetables, you can try blueberry-ginger kombucha from Clarks Cultures or a garlic scape relish from Channery Hill Farm, a husband-wife team growing organic garlic and leafy greens, along with a line of condiments that co-owner/grower Jen McGlashen calls “stuff you put on other stuff.” Don’t miss the gluten-free zucchini chocolate chip muffins from Natural Contents Kitchen, or their smoked trout and raw knotweed honey, more unusual finds.
Wrap up a culinary adventure with a tasting of naturally-fermented, unfiltered Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, or Chardonnay—all made from sustainably grown grapes in the Finger Lakes region and bottled by hand in a barn at Eminence Road Farm Winery. Prices are a reasonable $20-25 per bottle.
For a casual sit-down meal, head to nearby Cochecton, where Henning’s Local puts trout in the spotlight on a menu that includes a tasty variety of home-style dishes. Norwegian Chef Henning Nordanger makes a point of working with local farms and wineries to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for dining with friends and family.
Special Fall Events
A number of harvest-themed events take place in the Western Catskills in September and October. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts hosts a food festival on Sundays in September, as well as a wine festival on October 3rd and a craft beer festival on October 10th. Also on October 10th, the Narrowsburg Honey Bee Fest includes a pollinator garden tour, vendor market, and honey tasting at The Heron restaurant.
Where to Stay the Night
The lodging experience at The Arnold House centers around a cozy tavern, with small and minimally furnished rooms and comfy beds. The seven-acre property is located between the towns of Livingston Manor and Callicoon Center (not to be confused with the village of Callicoon, which is on the Delaware River). Another option is Ecce Bed and Breakfast, which has five rooms in a private home located on a bluff overlooking the Delaware River in Barryville, 15 miles from Bethel Woods.