The Catskills still have snow on the ground for the kick off to winter and for the holidays this week. Throughout the region anywhere from a foot to two feet of snow can still be found, from low elevations to high, with many but not all trailhead parking lots plowed. Some seasonal roads are not maintained, read ahead for information on those. Be prepared to turn around and hike at a different location if a trail you visit is not yet plowed. Heavy rain is predicted for Thursday and Friday this week. Please continue to follow New York State and CDC regulations when traveling.
Trail Conditions: While many trails will have packed down snow, it’s a good idea for hikers to stay prepared with both snowshoes and microspikes. Heavy rain coming through the Catskills this week will freeze overnight, especially at higher elevations, making the need for microspikes or another foot traction device all the more important. Gaiters and trekking poles are also very helpful pieces of gear for traction and safety. Waterproof and warm gear will be essential for hiking over the next few days, and extra dry layers of things like noncotton tops and bottoms, as well as gloves. A nice extra when hiking during the winter is a thermos of a hot beverage to enjoy on breaks and to stay warm.Sunrises this weekend will be at 7:18 am, sunsets will be at 4:34 pm.
Information on Winter Layers and Gear: Stay prepared with these items if you spend time outdoors during the winter!
*Base layer (noncotton layer) that goes directly against skin. Consider bringing an extra base layer if one gets wet. This will help to prevent hypothermia.
*Mid-layer (noncotton) that goes on top of the base layer, this includes fleece jackets, warm wool sweaters, and insulated jackets made of polyester or down.
*Outer layer (waterproof and wind resistant ideal) that can be worn on top of the other layers to provide wind and water protection.
*Traction devices like microspikes and snowshoes.
*Warm winter accessories like 1 or 2 pairs of gloves (an extra pair is a great thing to have if the first one gets wet), a warm hat, a neck warmer like a scarf or buff.
*Gaiters are super helpful when hiking in snow to keep your feet warm and dry. These are waterproof coverings that attach to your boots and generally go up to your calves.
*Headlamp with extra batteries is an essential any time of year, but especially in winter with less daylight. Hiking at night can happen even unexpectedly, and it’s great to stay prepared with a bright headlamp.
For more winter safety information, please visit the DEC’s website here.
Weekend Weather Forecast (reporting for Mt. Tremper, NY): Friday for Christmas Day, rain likely before 4pm, then a slight chance of snow showers. Rain could be heavy at times. A high near 50. Southwest wind 7 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation 60%. Friday night, partly cloudy with a low around 16. Saturday, mostly sunny with a high near 29. Saturday night, mostly clear with a low around 20. Sunday, sunny with a high near 36. Sunday night, partly cloudy with a low around 25. (Source: National Weather Service, NOAA)
Hunting Season: Hunting for deer and bear is closed for the 2020 season. For hikers, stay smart and prepared by wearing bright colors such as orange, or a bright blue color throughout the winter. For a full summary of the 2020-2021 hunting season’s start and end dates, please visit the NYSDEC’s website here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/huntsummary2020.pdf
Trail Register Information: (the books found inside metal boxes at the start of all hiking trails): The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation encourages all visitors to continue to sign in and out at trail registers. These provide important information on trail usage and hiker safety. It is suggested to choose one person in your group to fill in the register for everyone, consider bringing your own pen or pencil, and bring hand sanitizer to use before and after touching the trail register.
Temporary Closures: The following destinations are closed in the Catskills. For any information or clarification, please feel free to call (845) 688-3369 or email firstname.lastname@example.org:
– The building of the Catskills Visitor Center in Mt. Tremper, NY is currently closed, however a window service on the side porch is available for visitor information from 10-3, every day except Wednesday. Staff is answering phone calls at 845-688-3369. Visitor Center trails are open.
– Seasonal access roads across the Catskills are now closed and unmaintained for the winter months. These include but are not limited to:
*Platte Clove Road – Indian Head Wilderness (Town of Hunter) Closed through April 15
*Roaring Kill Road – Indian Head Wilderness (Town of Hunter)
*Russell Brook Road – Delaware Wild Forest (Town of Colchester)
*Mary Smith Road – Delaware Wild Forest (Town of Colchester)
*Ploutz Road – Dry Brook Wild Forest (Town of Middletown)
– DEC has temporarily stopped issuing permits for backcountry camping for groups of 10 or more (link to: the DEC’s website). As of June 11, the DEC resumed issuing permits for groups of fewer than 10 people who would like to stay for more than three nights at one location on state lands. DEC is also temporarily restricting lean-to use to members of a single household at a time.
Peekamoose Blue Hole: No permits are required at this time. DEC permits are required to visit this site on weekends and holidays from May 15 – September 13. Permits are available as late as one day in advance, but more no more than seven days in advance. Permits can be acquired from the Reserve America website at: https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com
Hiking Tips to Prepare for Winter:
– Trails can get more slick, slippery and unpredictable during the winter months due to ice, snow, and wet surfaces. Bring traction devices for your feet, and trekking poles for your hands to aid in safe travel.
– Due to snow, think about bringing things like waterproof hiking boots, gaiters, and trekking poles. Follow best Leave No Trace practices by walking through the midline of mud and snow on trails instead of walking around these areas.
– Temperatures are getting lower, especially overnight temperatures. Bringing a full clothing layering system with you in your pack is essential for day hikes or overnight hikes! This includes noncotton layers, warm hat and gloves, and a “puffy” – an insulated jacket that’s easy to take on and off throughout your hike.
As always, bring a mask, even on the trails. While hiking with the people you live with, wearing a mask is not mandatory. However, while on summits, trailheads, points of interest, and even passing others please wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Especially in areas such as parking lots and trailheads, there has been a reduction in people actively wearing masks. The continued use of masks in these areas is incredibly important for the general the health and safety of all in the Catskills.
Graham and Doubletop Mountain Access: From theCatskill 3500 Club. “IMPORTANT NEWS ON DOUBLETOP AND GRAHAM – Both mountains will be closed to all hikers from November 8th to December 26th for private use during hunting season. For permission to hike on Graham or Doubletop, call Bill, the caretaker, at his office number: (845) 586-4099. He will be responding during Monday-Friday business hours. This is a landline, so texts will not work. He will no longer be replying to the cell number originally listed, even if it is a text. Follow the guidance for your region and only ask for permission to hike if travel is appropriate. Please be respectful of these protocols so that we do not lose access to these mountains.”
Recreate Responsibly: An informative new set of guidelines put together by several outdoor organizations. The Catskill Center recommends following the Recreate Responsibly principles and taking precautions before, during, and after your outing to decrease your chance of exposure to COVID-19.
Carry It In, Carry It Out: The Catskill Park is a carry it in, carry it out park—please be sure to hike out all of your trash and dispose of it properly!
Weather: Be aware of and prepared for changing weather conditions in the Catskills. Stay current with the National Weather Service Weather Forecast. The NY Mesonet has stations in and just outside of Catskills that provide real time weather data and forecasts. Hudson Valley Weather provides detailed forecasts for the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.
In An Emergency: Report backcountry emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers and forest fires to the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-408-5850 or call 911.
The Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center (CVC) hosts a weather station in the MesoWest Network. Check the current weather conditions. The Center is located at 5096 Route 28 in Mt Tremper, NY. The Visitor Center building is currently closed, however trails remain open. Please remember to socially distance when visiting the CVC’s trails by giving other visitors 6 feet minimum distance and wearing a mask when you meet others.