One of the most beautiful and fun drives to take in Upstate New York is the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Not only are the views of the Catskill Mountains spectacular on this route, there are also tons of really cool and fun places to stop along the way, which can easily turn this drive into the perfect weekend getaway. And because the Byway isn’t super long, it allows you to drive at a leisurely pace without feeling like you’re rushed to see everything.
Along the drive, you’ll get the chance to visit some awesome breweries, cideries and distilleries, dine at amazing farm-to-table restaurants, visit quirky attractions, stock up on produce at some lovely farm stands, take some really incredible hikes and visit waterfalls.
This post is all about the best stops to make while driving the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, and tips to help you plan your road trip. With that, let’s jump in!
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Where Is The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway?
The byway is located in Upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains region along Route 28, and follows Esopus Creek through much of the Catskills Park. The Byway also connects four towns (Andes, Middletown, Shandaken & Olive), some of which have their own unique villages to explore. And since the Byway is centrally located in the Catskills, you can easily take some side excursions to explore other areas of the region.
The Byway is also 2 hours or less from New York City, making this one of the best getaways from the city you can take if you’re looking to head out into nature.
Where Do You Start The Catskill Mountain Scenic Byway?
There are two entrance points to the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway: Andes, NY and Shokan, NY. For those coming from downstate, you’ll want to start your drive in Shokan on Route 28. For those coming from north of the Catskills, the Andes entrance is the best option (also on Route 28).
How Long Does It Take To Drive The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway?
The Byway is 52 miles long, and it takes about 1 hour to drive the whole thing (one-way) without any stops. You can easily make a day trip out of driving the Byway, or also turn it into a weekend trip to allow you time to do some hiking and relax.
To make driving the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway a day trip, I would budget the whole day for your drive, which will allow you to see all the towns, and even take a side excursion to some really awesome waterfalls.
Best Stops To Make On The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
Since most people will likely begin the drive from the southern part of New York, I’m going to work my way from south to north (Shokan to Andes). These stops will be listed in that order to help you easily plan your trip. If you plan to start in Andes, you’ll just reverse the order. All the stops listed here are directly on the Byway route, or just a few minutes off the route. For great stops to make that are worth a short detour, keep reading the section below.
1. Fruition Chocolate Works
One of the most fun places to stay while driving the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway is Fruition Chocolate Works in Boiceville. Not only are these small-batch chocolates a great snack to munch on during your drive (and to take home with you, of course!), it’s also a working chocolate factory, so you can see the chocolates being made and packaged in person.
There are so many awesome things to try here, including cups of hot chocolate (perfect for fall and winter visits), bars of chocolate, hot chocolate mixes and caramels. And you’ll have a hard time deciding what to get because it’s all amazing (so come prepared to make some tough choices!).
2. Bike The Ashokan Rail Trail
If you’re looking for a scenic bike ride during your road trip, you’ll want to head out onto the Ashokan Rail Trail. This bike trail is 11.5 miles, and takes you along the northern part of the Ashokan Reservoir. During the fall season, it’s especially beautiful with all the blazing color.
While the official start of the rail trail begins in Shokan, it can also be accessed from trailheads in Boiceville and West Hurley.
3. Have Breakfast Or Lunch At Bread Alone Bakery
Bread Alone Bakery is one of the cutest little stops you can make along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Located in Boiceville right off the Byway, you’ll immediately spot the black building and feel enticed to visit.
While the baked goods are amazing here, they also serve great breakfast and lunch foods like egg and cheese sandwiches, breakfast burritos, delicious and fresh salads and comfort favorites like grilled cheese.
They also make all their own organic breads on-site, and this is a great stop to pick up a loaf to bring home. If you visit on a nice day, plan to budget some time to enjoy your food outside at one of their picnic tables.
4. See The World’s Largest Kaleidoscope
One of the quirkiest stops you can make on the drive is swinging by the Emerson Resort in Mount Tremper to see the world’s largest kaleidoscope. And honestly, it’s kind of worth it.
Built inside a farm silo by artist Isaac Abrams, and his son Raphael, this 60-foot kaleidoscope will have you feeling like you’re actually standing inside one (spoiler alert, your visit is also set to music!). After your visit, you can head to the shop to pick up your own kaleidoscope to bring home as a souvenir. The whole thing is really something you have to experience for yourself, and at only $5 per adult, it’s definitely worth the stop.
5. Shop At Tremper Hill Farms
If you’re looking to stop at a cute little farm stand with fresh produce, specialty foods and snacks, and even live plants for your garden, you’ll want to step on your breaks to get to Tremper Hills Farm Stand.
This stand is right on the Byway, and it’s the perfect place to stop for everything I mentioned above. And in the fall season, they’ll have tons of mums and pumpkins to pick up and bring home to decorate your front porch with. Things you’ll want to lookout for here are their jams, maple syrups, seasonal produce and baked goods.
6. Taste The Local Beer At Woodstock Brewery
Located in the unique town of Phoenicia just down the street from the Tremple Hill Farm Stand, you’ll be able to visit Woodstock Brewing right off the Byway. The brewery itself is backdropped by the surrounding mountains, and they have a really nice outdoor patio area with picnic tables to enjoy your brews outside.
During your visit, you’re able to order tasting flights or pints, and they also have a restaurant that serves up really great food (go for the tacos!).
7. Pick Up Some Souvenirs & Fudge At Nest Egg
Also in the town of Phoenicia, you’ll want to swing by Nest Egg, a really fun little country store that has a mix of souvenirs, home goods and fudge. To get here, you’ll have to veer off the Byway just for a couple of minutes, and head to Main Street.
Tip: Phoenicia is a really cool town to walk around, so plan some time to explore if you can. Also, some other great places to visit here are the famous Phoenicia Diner and Sweet Sue’s for breakfast or lunch (the pancakes here are delicious!).
8. Take A Scenic Gondola Ride
A quick 5-minute detour off the Byway will bring you to Belleayre Mountain Resort, which isn’t just for skiers (although, it’s a great place for that, too, if you’re planning a winter trip).
Starting in the beginning of July every year, the Catskill Thunder Gondola takes you up to the mountain’s summit, and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding views. This is another activity I highly recommend in the fall, as the foliage colors will make it even more amazing.
9. Take A Dip At Belleayre Beach
Not far from the Catskill Thunder Gondola, you’ll find Belleayre Beach, which is the perfect stop to make along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway in the warmer months. Here, you can go for a swim or sit on the sandy shore to admire the views. You can also rent boats or kayaks to head out onto the water.
There’s plenty of places to set-up a picnic as well, so I always like to suggest picking up a few goodies from one of the earlier stops like Tremper Hill Farms, and enjoy them here at the beach.
10. Admire The Queen Anne Houses In Fleischmanns
In the small little village of Fleischmanns, you’ll get to see some really impressive Queen Anne style homes. To see the prettiest ones, you’ll want to veer off the Byway to Main Street in town, and the slow down to admire the houses that line the street. Main Street runs parallel to the Byway, and once you’re done, you can easily connect back to Route 28 to continue with your drive.
11. Sample Local Spirits At Union Grove Distillery
Union Grove Distillery is a really fun and cozy stop to make along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, especially if you have an interest in discovering new spirits to try. They also serve cocktails (their cosmopolitan is actually pretty famous!), and have local beers and ciders available if you’re traveling with anyone that’s not into liquor.
During your visit, I suggest trying their Maple Spirit, which is especially lovely to sip on in the fall season.
Union Grove allows you to bring your own snacks to munch on while you sip on your drinks, so keep that in mind. They also offer tours of their distillery to learn about the manufacturing process, which is a cool experience.
12. Explore Downtown Margaretville
One of the bigger towns along the Byway is Margaretville, and this is a great place to park your car and just wander. You’ll find a really nice Main Street here with all kinds of great shops and restaurants, and you can easily spend an hour or two strolling through downtown.
Some places I recommend checking out while you’re strolling around Main Street in Margaretville are:
- Forever Wild Catskills Boutique
- Species By The Thousands Boutique
- Café Marguerite for coffee and french pastries
- Honeybee Herbs & Apothecary
13. Do A Cider Tasting At Wayside Cider
One of the last towns you’ll visit while driving the Byway (or the first if you’re coming from the northern part of the state), is Andes. This is a great little small town that has some really nice places to visit. One of the best destinations in Andes is Wayside Cider.
Not only is the entire property gorgeous, it’s the kind of place that invites you to stay a while and enjoy the atmosphere. Their hard ciders are amazing, and they also offer delicious food including pizzas and other farm-to-table bites. If you visit at night, you’ll get to sit outside under their twinkle lights.
This is probably my favorite place on the whole Byway!
14. Sample More Local Beer At Weaver Hollow Brewery
Weaver Hollow Brewery has turned an old Creamery into an awesome tap room that’s open Fridays and Saturdays. If you happen to drive through on one of these days, I highly suggest you pop in for a drink.
What I especially love about Weaver Hollow is that they brew really unique flavors. Often times, they’re limited releases, but in the past, they’ve offered oolong tea, red velvet and wasabi, in addition to some traditional types. It’s such a fun experience to sample what they’ve created and bottled. If you’re curious what they’ve been brewing during your drive through, you can check out their Instagram page for updates.
Best Stops Near The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
While these stops aren’t on the actual Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, they’re very close. If you’ve got some extra time, these are some amazing places to check out during your drive if you’re up for adventuring off Route 28.
15. Ashokan Reservoir Promenade
If you’re not into biking, but the Ashokan Rail Trail from earlier in this post sounded appealing, I have good news for you. The Ashokan Reservoir Promenade is perfect for those wanting to walk along the reservoir, but don’t necessarily want to bike all 11 miles. This walk will still take you to some of the more scenic areas of the reservoir along 28A, which is just off the Byway, and is only 2.8 miles long.
To access the promenade, you can park at either of the two entrances (just type Ashokan Reservoir Promenade into Google Maps, and both options will come right up for you).
16. Marty’s Mercantile
If you drive the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway in the summer season, you’ll want to consider making a short detour to Marty’s Mercantile. This little sandwich shop is also part country store, and is such a fun and quaint and cozy little place to visit on your drive.
Not only are the sandwiches awesome, they sell all kinds of things like stationary, specialty foods and locally-made items made by New York artisans – all of which is merchandised in beautiful antique cabinets.
To get to Marty’s, it’s just a short drive from the Byway onto Route 28A (and it’s definitely worth it!).
Tip: Keep in mind that Marty’s is only open seasonally (typically spring through September).
17. Kaaterskill Falls
One of the best side excursions to take when driving along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway is Kaaterskill Falls. This two-tired waterfall is over 200 feet high, and is the highest cascading waterfall in New York State, and one of the most popular to visit.
To see Kaaterskill Falls, you have two options. The easy option for those hoping to just make a quick stop is to take a .3-mile walk from the parking area to the upper viewing platform. From there, you’ll get amazing views of the waterfall and the surrounding mountain vistas.
If you want to get up close to the falls, you’ll be taking a 1.6 mile out and back hike. This option is the most fun, but it’s also a bit more work. The hike isn’t challenging, but it’s definitely steep in parts, and most people should be able to tackle this trail.
Once you finish the hike, you’ll be rewarded with the ability to walk right up to the waterfall, and also go behind it for a really cool experience.
18. Hike The Escarpment-Waterfalls Loop Trail
This hike is one of the best in the area for scenic views and waterfalls, and includes Kaaterskill Falls, as well as Bastion Falls (which is no longer easily accessible on foot unless you hike).
This trail is about a 7.5-mile loop, and it’s mostly pretty easy with a few spots that require some rock scrambling. Most people should be able to tackle this one, too, and it’s the perfect half-day hike (especially in the fall).
One of the best towns to explore in the Catskills is Tannersville, and since it’s only about a 20-mile detour off the Byway, it makes it really easy to add to your itinerary.
Tannersville is home to one of the coolest Main Streets in New York State because it’s lined with brightly-colored historic homes. One of the best things to do here is to simply take in that scenery. But, of course, you’ll also find awesome shops and restaurants to explore along Main Street.
Some other great things to check out in Tannersville are:
- The Hudson-Chatham Winery Tasting Room
- Bear & Fox Provisions
- Tannersville Antiques and Arts Center (one of the best in the Catskills for antiques!)
- Mountaintop Arboretum
- A cute little shop called SUNDRY.
20. Round Barn Farmer’s Market
One of the best farmer’s markets in the Catskills is the Pakatakan Farmers Market, which is held at the historic Round Barn in Halcottsville. Seeing the giant round barn is enough reason to stop by, but if you visit May-November, you’ll also get to peruse all the amazing vendors at the farmer’s market. And the best part? It’s only a 10-minute detour off the Byway.
One of the best things to do here is to pack a picnic blanket, buy a few snacks, and sit on the lawn to enjoy the atmosphere. But you’ll find more than food here. Plenty of local artisans will also be selling their handmade products like soaps, jewelry, quilts, home goods and lots more.
21. Have Your Apples Pressed Into Fresh Cider At Hubbell Farm
Did you stop for fresh apples during your drive on the Byway? Then you’ll definitely want to make a quick detour over to Hubbell Farm. On Saturdays in October, they will press your apples and turn them into cider for you, making this one of the more memorable experiences you can have in the Catskills.
Some things to note about this experience:
- If you don’t need to have any apples pressed, they’re likely still doing apple pressing demonstrations on Saturdays, and they invite anyone to come watch.
- Cider pressing is by appointment only on Saturdays, and you need to call or e-mail them to schedule. Their Facebook page is regularly updated with options and contact info. As long as there’s an appointment scheduled for a cider pressing, anyone can swing by to watch!
- They can also provide containers to take your cider with you for a small fee.
- If you don’t visit during apple season, no worries – they often have a small stand out front with fresh produce you can buy.
Best Hotels To Stay In On The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
There are three main towns I recommend looking into for overnight stays on this drive: Tannersville, Margaretville and Andes. Tannersville and Margaretville have the most options for hotels and rentals, and Andes is just such a charming and adorable town that’s definitely worth staying in. Here are some suggestions on places to stay.
Best Places To Stay In Tannersville
Even though Tannersville isn’t directly on Route 28 along the Byway, it’s a really great destination for an overnight or weekend stay in the area. In Tannersville, you’ll find lots of restaurant options, cute hotels, cabin rentals and things to do.
One option to consider is booking a vacation rental, which is perfect for a weekend stay. This cozy cabin is only a 3-minute drive to downtown and features an outdoor hot tub, a very cozy firepit with Adirondack chairs, and an instagram-worthy interior.
For an upscale hotel stay, you’ll want to head to Hotel Mountain Brook in Tannersville. The entire hotel feels like something from a magazine, and offers complimentary breakfast, amazingly decorated rooms, views of the sunset from their lawn, firepits outside, an on-site bar and lounge, and is even pet-friendly.
For a budget option in Tannersville, the Sun View Motel is a great choice. Rooms are clean and comfortable, and you’re able to walk to shops and restaurants. This is the perfect place to stay if you’re needing a basic accommodation that’s cozy and convenient.
Best Places To Stay In Margaretville
A great option in Margaretville is this cute log cabin rental. Perfectly balancing cozy and modern, this cabin comes with your own private sauna on the deck and over 6 acres all to yourself, but is only a few minutes into town.
Best Places To Stay In Andes
If you’re looking to stay in a smaller town that still has restaurant options, I think Andes is the perfect option for you. The Andes Hotel is a really cute place to stay, and the biggest appeal is that it has its own restaurant that serves up amazing food, so you definitely won’t go hungry!
Best Time Of The Year To Drive The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
The best time of year, and the most popular for this drive, is the fall. The foliage colors will make the drive even more magical than it already is, and the scenic overlooks and rolling mountain views will be spectacular.
That said, this drive is really great all-season, even in the winter! As long as there’s not a dangerous blizzard, a winter drive on the Byway is a lot of fun, and also makes for a really cozy and romantic day trip or weekend getaway.
In the summer, all the farmer’s markets and stands will be in full swing, making this a really great time to visit as well.
That’s A Wrap On The Best Stops On The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
There you have it! Now that you know all the best places to stop, you’re ready to plan your own road trip along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. For such a short amount of time, you get big payoff with this drive regardless of the season. From cute towns, stunning mountain views, unique stops, farm stands and amazing food, there’s a little something for everyone. Happy driving!