The Catskill Mountains are a region for all seasons. Summer's leafy-green forests turn kaleidoscopic in fall and winter's snow-covered spectacular ends with bursting blooms in springtime. Charming towns with artsy appeal attract weekenders year-round, and a dynamic list of outdoor excursions changes with the weather. 

These rolling plateaus might not buzz with the up-all-night energy of nearby New York City, but don't be fooled – there's always something new unfolding in the Catskills. Here's a guide for navigating the upstate New York destination throughout the year. 

High season in the Catskills runs June through 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 mere minutes from an abundance of freshwater lakes and woodland trails, and by late June, they overflow with city dwellers ready to indulge in the offerings.

Autumn's mid-September arrival is the cue for leaf-peeping – when crowds come to gawk at fall foliage and celebrate the year's harvest. Plan your trip early – weekend bookings at the best hotels and campsites can fill up months in advance. 

Autumn Day at Sunset Rock, overlooking North-South Lake in the Catskills Mountains of New York
Afternoon sun overlooking North-South Lake in the Catskills Mountains © lightphoto / Getty Images

Save a buck during shoulder season: April & May, November & December

Best time for budget travelers

Spring is mud season – when winter's icy melt-off creates swampy conditions for hikers. It's also when waterfalls are at their most powerful, fly fishing is at its best, and birders can spot migratory species like warblers and tanagers flitting through blooming forests. Summer crowds don't arrive until Memorial Day, making it possible to snag deals at hotels through mid-May.   

November and December bring colder temperatures and occasional snow. Wilderness excursions are still worthwhile, but these days are best for exploring cozy main streets tucked into the mountains.

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Avoid the crowds from January to March 

Best time for winter sports 

The Catskills wear a blanket of white all winter long, inspiring two types of activities – snuggling indoors or hitting icy slopes. Seasonal businesses tend to close or limit their hours during this time of year, so there won't be as many options for shopping and eating – a non-issue for people planning to spend their time skiing, snowboarding or ice skating. Thinner crowds make it possible for city residents to book last-minute retreats. 

The Ski Run Awaits at the top of a run in The Catskills
Join the snow bunnies racing down Hunter Mountain in The Catskills © lightphoto / Getty Images

January is for snow bunnies 

The region's coldest month might seem the most foreboding, but there's no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing. Bundle up to join snow bunnies racing down Hunter Mountain, or strap on snowshoes to see the Catskill Forest Preserve's frosted landscape.  

Enjoy icy outdoor adventures in February

Months of below-freezing temperatures mean ice-covered lakes are usually safe enough for skating, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. Families book weekend vacations at lodges like Mohonk Mountain House for snowy Presidents' Day vacations. 

Things get muddy in March 

Late March is the beginning of mud season. The ground starts to thaw, ice begins to melt, and an erratic mix of snow and rain makes this a perfect time to cozy up at a cafe or a local brewery. 

Key Event: Jeffersonville St. Patrick's Day Parade

April means fishing 

Mud season continues, with rivers and creeks flowing at max capacity. It's also the beginning of New York's fly fishing season – when anglers head to Roscoe (nicknamed Trout Town, USA) to cast their lines at Junction Pool. By the end of the month, pastel blossoms erupt around the countryside. 

Friends hiking on the mountain with waterfall at Kaaterskill Falls, New York
May is the best time to go bird watching in The Catskills © GabrielPevide / Getty Images

Birdwatchers flock to the Catskills in May

Chilly mornings give way to warm afternoons, and by Memorial Day, sleepy towns spring back to life with the reopening of seasonal businesses. May is the best time for birders to spot an array of avian visitors, but it's also when pesky black flies rear their heads. Bring insect repellent when venturing into the woods. 

Key Event: TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival

June is the perfect time to hit the trails 

Early June's temperate weather is perfect for hiking. Seasonal residents don't arrive en masse until the month's end, so take advantage of smaller crowds at popular sites. Remember to bring a sweater – even in summer, nights can be surprisingly chilly. 

Key Events: Trout Parade, Stagecoach Run Art Festival 

Find a cool swimming hole in July

Enjoy July's dog days by jumping in a swimming hole or floating down a river. Blueberries and raspberries are bountiful, and you can find local, fresh-picked fruit at farmers' markets. The hottest month in the Catskills is also the most sought-after, which means longer lines, 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 swelter continues well into August, with lakes reaching temperatures ideal for all-day soaking. 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 all over the region. 

Key Events: Flea Valley Festival, Little World's Fair

Pick some apples in September 

As summer residents flock south post-Labor Day, NYC weekenders take their place to delight in harvest festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, and slightly cooler temperatures. Lean into the autumnal 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 

Vegetable produce at a Farmer Stand in Catskills
Pick up some local fresh-picked produce for sale at farm stands and farmers markets © Dan Hallman / Lonely Planet

October is leaf-peeping time 

This is peak leaf-peeping season – when fall foliage turns the Catskill Mountains into an arboreal art show. Take to tree-lined trails or wind around scenic byways to see the region at its most picturesque. 

Key Events: Autumn Affair at Windham, Taste of the Catskills Festival, Plattepalooza Family Festival, Woodstock Halloween Parade

Hunting season kicks off in November 

The tail end of fall foliage means fewer crowds and cheaper hotel rooms. Balmy days are still a possibility – but expect morning frost. Late November is also the start of deer hunting season. Outdoor enthusiasts keen on hiking should wear bright colors (preferably blaze orange), stay on designated trails, and choose a site where hunting is forbidden. Summer businesses close or limit their hours for winter. 

Key Events: Hunting season

Bethel Woods holiday markets are a must in December

Hygge hotel stays are best during winter's early weeks. Stroll down main streets in towns like Livingston Manor, New Paltz or Woodstock to find unique holiday gifts at local boutiques. Snow is always a possibility; come prepared for inclement weather. 

Key Event: Holiday Market at Bethel Woods, Peace, Love & Lights

You might also like: 
How to plan the perfect Catskills weekend getaway
The Catskill’s best swimming holes and relaxing lakes 
15 unique things to do in the Catskill Mountains

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