Roll down the windows, turn the radio to your favorite song, and take a scenic drive through the Catskills. Long straights contrast with winding hillsides to make the Catskill Mountains a driving paradise. With endless beauty to explore, every turn in the road leads to a new discovery. There will be picturesque vistas, world-class cultural attractions, and fantastic food finds abound.
There is a certain contentment and nostalgia that comes with lazily meandering from town to town and village to village through lush forests and past towering mountains. Whether you're a weekend warrior, looking to experience as much of the region as possible in a short amount of time, or a seasoned visitor looking to uncover something new, a little windshield time is just what you need to make the most of your Catskills adventure.
From irresistible restaurants to century-old landmarks, the unique and historic features of the Catskills landscape make for some of the best scenic drives near NYC.
Catskills Scenic Drives
Get behind the wheel to experience for yourself some of the best scenic drives in upstate New York! While getting lost is often the beginning of a great story, the following routes are road tested, driver approved, and provide a starting point and direction from which anything is possible.
Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
Wind your way through the heart of the Catskill Mountains along the Catskill Mountain Scenic Byway. This 52 mile long road trip follows NY-28 from Phoenicia to Andes (with extensions along NY-214 and NY-42) through Slide Mountain Wilderness, Indian Head Wilderness, Big Indian Wilderness, Shandaken Wild Forest, and Hunter-west Kill Wilderness. This unique Catskills experience offers mountain scenery, waterways, rolling farmland, and more. Make a stop in the historic hamlet of Pine Hill, home to Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, or take a detour on the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway. The views along the Catskill Mountain Scenic Byway have inspired artists, writers, and tourists for decades – discover why!
Journey through the heart of some of the tallest mountains in the Catskills. Surrounded by dense forest with gentle changes in elevation, this is one loop you’ll find yourself coming back to over and over again. An emerald paradise in summer, this is also a route you should add to your Catskills fall foliage list.
Old Route 28 to 212: Phoenicia to Woodstock
Explore the charms of Phoenicia. Grab some grub at the hip Phoenicia Diner, then mosey on down to the artistic haven of Woodstock. Along the way, stop in Mount Tremper to visit the Catskill Interpretive Center and catch live music at The Pines. Download a free Route 28 Audio Driving Guide at drive28.com to learn about the local history, landscape, food, and attractions as you drive.
Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway
Travel through the Shawangunk Mountains, one of the Northeast’s most popular rock climbing destinations. Noted by the Nature Conservancy as one of “Earth’s Last Great Places,” the Shawangunks span 94,000 acres and include Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Mohonk Preserve. In addition to rugged cliffs, this route also offers miles of hiking and biking trails, historic sites, and boutique shopping. Starting in New Paltz, this scenic route traverses 82 miles and connects with numerous other New York State routes – 208, 52, 209, 44, 55, 209 and 213 – to create the perfect web of adventure!
Route 55: Neversink to Liberty
Begin your day in the charming town of Liberty, and travel 12 miles northeast on Route 55 along the deep blue waters of the Neversink Reservoir to the town of Neversink. This town’s claim to fame flows directly through it. The Neversink River is thought to be the birthplace of American fly fishing, so pack your reel and tackle box and enjoy the ride.
The Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway
Wind your way through the Northern Catskill Mountains on the picturesque roads that brought centuries of artists, authors, and visitors to this romantic landscape. Discover the stunning vistas and verdant valleys that inspired the birth of the Hudson River School of Art and Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. Enjoy plentiful natural wonders, such as Kaaterskill Falls, the highest cascading waterfall in New York State, or visit Hunter Mountain, which offers an array of family-friendly adventure activities, including the longest, highest, and fastest zip line canopy tour in North America!
Route 214 – 23A – 32 - 20
This breathtaking route through the Catskills has been painted and written about countless times. As you gradually climb the surrounding mountains, you’ll pass cascading waterfalls, flowing streams, and fertile countryside before heading back into the forest. Whether you take to the road on two wheels or four, this scenic drive is sure to inspire.
The Durham Valley Scenic Byway
As you travel through the valleys of the Great Northern Catskills, be sure to stop at the Five State Lookout for a glimpse at the Hudson River Valley, Berkshires, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and the Adirondacks. An interconnected network of historic roadways, this route traverses the Durham Valley on routes 20, 10, and 208. Make the most of these miles by booking a farm stay at Hull-O Farms, exploring the historic district of Cornwallville, casting a line in Catskill Creek, or biking the trails of the Great Northern Catskills.
Route 97 Upper Delaware Byway
Parallel the Upper Delaware River at the base of dramatic cliffs as it carves out the southern border of Sullivan County. The perfect lazy day drive, this route features multiple outcrops along the road perfect for pulling over, getting out, and enjoying the views. Beginning in Hancock and ending in Port Jervis, this drive will take you through many of the region’s quaintest towns. Narrowsburgh, approximately the mid-point of your journey, boasts numerous art galleries and theater offerings, as well as great food! Stop by The Heron, voted “Best in Region,” to refuel for the remainder of your drive.
Route 30 covers far more than just the Catskills. Beginning in Hancock, this road continues north all the way into the Adirondacks. The portion that traverses the Catskills takes you along the shores of one of the largest reservoirs in the Catskill Park, over rolling farmland, and past vibrant wild forests. It also makes stops in Colchester, Andes, Middletown, Roxbury, Grand Gorge, and many other villages and hamlets of the region. Scenic drives through the Catskills are the perfect way for first-time visitors to get a lay of the land, and for returning visitors or locals to rediscover one of their favorite destinations. Stay overnight or camp out to make the trip even more memorable. Close to NYC, New Paltz, and surrounded by charming Catskills villages, these driving routes do more than take you where you need to go – they get you where you’ve always dreamed of going!
Catskills Covered Bridges
During a scenic drive through the Catskills, you're likely to come across one of the region's numerous historic covered bridges from the 1800s. While the reasoning for why these bridges were covered is up for debate, their charm and the intrigue they generate can't be disputed.
From the Fitches Bridge in East Delhi and the Downsville Bridge in Downsville, to the 103-foot-long bridge in Livingston Manor Covered Bridge Park near the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, explore these unique and historic features of the Catskills landscape, most of which are over 100 years old.