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Good Catskills basecamp for day hikes?

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  • Good Catskills basecamp for day hikes?

    New to the forum. Planning a trip to Catskills with a few friends in August. I'm a fairly experienced backpacker, but I'll have some newbies with me. Looking for recommendations on a good base camp location in Catskills that serves as a launching point for bagging some peaks with daypacks. Ideally it would have:

    *Water/swimming source nearby
    *~5 mile hike from car --> campsite (not just straight up car camping)
    *Have access to off-leash dog trails (is this a thing in the Catskills?)

    Any ideas jump to mind? Thanks!

  • #2
    I would suggest North/South Lake campground run by NYS. There are no specific trails for off-leash dogs and loose dogs can lead to many problems. There are rattlesnakes, copperheads, porcupine and other hikers, many with dogs of their own.


    • #3
      Originally posted by dundee View Post
      I would suggest North/South Lake campground run by NYS. There are no specific trails for off-leash dogs and loose dogs can lead to many problems. There are rattlesnakes, copperheads, porcupine and other hikers, many with dogs of their own.
      Thanks for suggestion, dundee, but I'm looking for a primitive campsite that requires a decent hike-in ( something like 5 miles). Should have been more clear on that. Basically, looking to give my friends the feel of "beginner backpacking" without having them doing anything super strenuous.


      • #4
        Welcome to the forum! My immediate suggestion is to buy the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference map set for the Catskills (or buy the PDF map on the Avenza Maps app). Just updated in 2018 and shows all designated backcountry campsites in the Catskill Park (as well as a ton of other useful information such as water sources, lean-to shelter sites, viewpoints, parking areas, private land boundaries,etc.). Since you mention that you'll have some newbies with you, I've included some extra information for people new to backcountry camping.

        As Dundee mentions, dogs must be leashed at all times. Please make sure that everyone in your group reviews the DEC State Land Camping and Hiking Rules, especially the following:
        • Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or other body of water except at areas designated by a "camp here" disk. Camping next to a lean-to (or tenting inside a lean-to) is NOT ALLOWED.
        • Groups of ten or more persons OR stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger responsible for the area.
        • Do not use soap to wash yourself, clothing or dishes within 150 ft of water. [heat water in a cook pot on a camp stove and soap up from there.]
        • Use pit privies provided near popular camping areas and trailheads. If none are available, dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6"-8" deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites. Cover with leaves and soil.
        • Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided. Use only dead and down wood for fires. Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch. Do not build fires in areas marked by a "No Fires" disk. Camp stoves are safer, more efficient and cleaner.
        • Carry out what you carry in. Practice "leave no trace" camping and hiking. [Please don't leave any trash or food. Keep these places beautiful for others to enjoy.]
        • Keep your pet under control. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Collect and bury droppings away from water, trails and camp sites. Keep your pet away from drinking water sources.
        Also, please be sure to practice bear-safe food storage.

        For backcountry camping with good water sources nearby, I'd suggest the following:

        Option 1. Near Westkill, NY, hike in 1.2 miles from the Spruceton Road trail head to camp near the Diamond Notch lean-to (check with the local rangers Jeff or Katherine to confirm if there is a designated tent site), near the junction with the Devil's Path. You could do a day hike up to Westkill Mountain, or go east to Hunter and Southwest Hunter (you can also do a 10 mile loop). Just be aware that the water at Diamond Notch Falls can be extremely powerful, so be very cautious about swimming there. It's also usually quite cold.

        Option 2. Near either Denning, NY or Big Indian, NY, hike from either the Phoenicia East trailhead on Denning Road (1.5 miles to camp) or the Slide Mt. trailhead on Route 47 (3.6 miles to camp) on the yellow Phoenicia East Trail to the junction with the blue Peekamoose-Table trail, and go approx. 0.3 miles south on the blue trail to reach a few designated tent sites near the Neversink with options to hike to Slide Mountain and / or Peekamoose and Table mountains. This area is extremely popular and can get very crowded, so camping mid-week is recommended in summer. There is great off-trail hiking to many peaks in the area, but you need very good map and compass navigation skills.

        Option 3. Further north (near Windham and Maplecrest, NY), hike in 1.5 miles from Big Hollow Road to camp near the Batavia Kill lean-to, which has one or two designated tent sites that fit about 2 tents each. There is a very good stream (the Batavia Kill) as a water source, but no swimming. There is also a designated tent site about 2 miles up the trail at Lockwood Gap (near where the red Black Dome Trail meets the yellow Blackhead Trail), with a reliable spring as its water source.

        From either of these points, you have lots of good day hike options to Windham High Peak, Blackhead, Black Dome and Thomas Cole (all on the Catskill 3500 list). Other favorite nearby destinations are the views from Acra Point and Burnt Knob.

        Let us know what you decide, and I hope that you post a trip report after you get back. Enjoy!
        We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


        • #5
          There *IS* a designated tent site just south of Diamond Notch LT.


          • debmonster
            debmonster commented
            Editing a comment
            Thought so, but I haven't been there in about 8 years, so wanted to make sure nothing had changed. Thanks!

        • #6
          Originally posted by debmonster View Post
          As Dundee mentions, dogs must be leashed at all times.
          Deb, that's some great information and should help quite a bit. One quick note however is that dogs do not have to be leashed in the Catskills on state land. Dogs must be under one's control, but voice control is sufficient if you have a well-behaved, trained dog.
          To Go and to See
          Is to Know and to Be


          • debmonster
            debmonster commented
            Editing a comment
            Ah, I was looking at the rules for the Slide Mt. Wilderness, and forgot to specify that limitation. The quote from the DEC above says to "restrain on a leash when others approach." I tried finding the exact wording on the DEC / NYS websites, but no luck. But the NYNJTC and AllTrails websites both say dogs must be leashed. See

          • eleventhgear
            eleventhgear commented
            Editing a comment
            Deb, Interesting. I looked at the link you posted. The information printed there says that dogs must be on leash, but this is factually incorrect. Part of NY's Forever Wild Lands rules stipulate that dogs must be controlled but are not required to be leashed (unless necessary for them to be considered controlled). I do not own a dog but I don't begrudge folks who choose to hike with their well-behaved pets the ability to let them run a bit. I have had negative interactions with dogs but choose to believe this is the exception rather than the rule.

        • #7
          No, dogs DO NOT have to be leashed on Forest Preserve lands (ADKs & Catskills, except in High Peaks wilderness), but they do have to be under control, which is sometimes a problem. Dogs DO have to be leashed in NY state parks, like North/South Lake and Harriman/Bear Mt. and that is probably what NYNJ TC is referring to. I noticed that the website says "dogs on leash". I believe that this is a strong suggestion and an effort to get folks to use some common (sometimes not too common) sense.


          • #8
            I love dogs but...

            It's a rare dog (or should I say human controlled dog) that can actually be voice controlled under all conditions that one might encounter in the back country. Bears, deer, rabbits, squirrels, porcupines (!), other dogs, people, smells, sounds... As a volunteer at a fire tower, it's very rare to see a dog that well behaved. I never blame the dog, I blame the humans...

            As for back country camping, the lean to on Table is a good stiff walk (3.5 miles or so, and a lot of up). But the water source is not very reliable.
            Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

            Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
            Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
            Past President Catskill 3500 Club
            CEO Views And Brews!


            • #9
              Thanks for the advice, everyone. The Neversink area sounds like a pretty good option. Only potential issue is we'll be there on a weekend in August. If the primitive sites are occupied, how feasible is it to find a decent site 150+ feet of trail / away from water?


              • #10
                Lots of good spots 150' or more.