There are 35 Catskills mountains over 3500 ft and there’s a club of volunteers devoted to maintaining these trails, and leading group hikes, called the Catskills 3500 Club. Two of the best extra resources are the Catskill Mountaineer website in which you can see a great deal of detail on each hike in the Catskills and a set of maps produced by the NYNJ Trail Conference. All the hikes are pretty strenuous, steep and miles long – not just your proverbial walk in the park. Furthermore, nine of the hikes are bushwhacks, which means there is no trail and you must rely on a map and compass. Some of the hikes are arrestingly beautiful, with waterfalls, lush vegetation and mountaintop lookouts that reward the hiker with stunning views that extend for hundreds of miles over the Catskills’ peaks. But don’t go unprepared. These hikes demand a high fitness level and expert advance planning, especially in winter. Novice hikers should not be attempting peaks in summer or winter without advice.
As an introduction to hiking, I hiked in the summer first and you never forget your first peak. Balsam Mountain in the summer is spectacular. Here are links to five reviews of the Catskills 35s:
Balsam was an enchanting introduction to hiking in the Catskills in the summer, being like a magical forest adventure with a magnificent view to reward the hiker at the summit.
Bearpen is stunning, but a bit treacherous during mud season as its mostly a wide, snowmobile trail. At the summit you will find traces of the old ski-lift. This is a super summer hike as it’s long, slow with great views at the top.
Hunter is the second highest peak in the Catskills with panoramic views from its camping spot and John Robb lean-to, and a fire tower at the summit.
Sugarloaf is charming even in the late Autumn when all the leaves are off the trees. There’s an old quarry with stone sculpture park, a swamp, forest and a view of Kaaterskill High Peak.