The Catskills are a beautiful area in upstate New York. But they are no longer the vacation destination they once were. In the days of train travel, it was one of the most accessible regions for New Yorkers – but the advent of cheap flights has made more exotic destinations (like Florida and the Caribbean) accessible.
Today, the Catskills are full of old hotels and resort ruins, and are a favorite destination for New York backpackers. If one knows the trails and where to look, one can combine ruin hunting with hiking in the Catskills. The Catskills are great for hiking, with plenty of trails for all hikers. Although the Catskills can’t compete with the beaches of the Caribbean, it has a charm and history worth exploring.
Catskills Overlook Mountain Ruins
One of the places to look for ruins in the Catskills is Overlook Mountain. Hike the Overlook Spur Trail (it mostly runs along an old gravel road) to the summit. Along the way, see its ruins – an old hotel, a fire tower, and a plane crash (plus extraordinary views at the top).
The hotel was built during the Great Depression in 1933. At one time it was known to be the only hotel in the area at such a high elevation. Other hotels that stood there were devastated by fires in 1875 and 1923. Then the hotel was abandoned in the 1940s when the state acquired the land.
Alone and abandoned, the hotel suffered the same fate as the hotels that came before it, and it succumbed to a fire in the 1960s. The fire also destroyed its rooftop tower.
According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Overlook Mountain House was never fully completed and today resembles a castle. The decaying ruins sit at an elevation of 2,900 feet and are slowly being reclaimed by nature. It was called Overlook Mountain House.
The hotel is located about 2.5 km from the hike. Visitors are advised to view the ruins from the outside for safety reasons.
What to Know About Hiking the Overlook Spur Trail
Take the Overlook Spur Trail to see the hidden ruins on Overlook Mountain (as well as the beautiful sights in the area). The path is wide and easy to navigate – there are no switchbacks along it.
Hike for a day and grab a packed lunch to enjoy a picnic at the top. There is a tower at the top that visitors can climb – although it is also often locked.
The hike winds through some of the iconic ancient mountains of southern New York and the Hudson Valley region. The nearly 6,000 square miles of protected Catskills forests have long been a source of inspiration for painters and writers, as well as a weekend retreat from the big cities a few hours away.
The trail is approximately 8 miles round trip and is a popular spot for hikers, especially those looking to search for ruins in the Catskills.
- Elevation gain: About. 1400 feet or 426 meters
- Costs: None
- Length: 4.6 miles or 7.4 km (round trip)
- Trailhead address: 353 Meads Mountain Road, Woodstock, NY 12498
The summit of Overlook Mountain is known as one of the three most visited places in the Catskill Forest Preserve (the top two being Slide Mountain and North-South Lake).
The Summit Tower is open most weekends from Memorial Day through Columbus Day – as is the Summit Taxi (i.e. when staffed with volunteer interpreters).
Alternative family hikes
There are also a few shorter, easier trail loops – these may be a good option for those with young children. Meads Meadow Trail and Overloop Trail offer family hikes in the wild forest of Overlook Mountain. Trail access is from the Meads Meadow Trailhead on Macdaniel Rd or the Overlook Mountain Trailhead on Meads Mountain Rd.
- Family trail: Meads Meadow Trail and Overloop Trail
The Overlook Spur Trail itself climbs an old carriage road (it once facilitated the ascent of the 19th century Overlook Mountain House). It is a regular but gradual accent.