About this Itinerary
The Catskill Scenic Trail lives up to its name as it winds through a broad farming valley and small towns in New York's Catskill Mountains. Vistas of rolling mountains frame the forests, rivers and bucolic countryside that surround this trail, and one can easily experience a sense of rural serenity while being conveniently close to large urban centers. The 26-mile Catskill Scenic Trail follows a primarily agricultural route from Bloomville to Roxbury, etching a thin west-east line through the Catskill mountain range in the southeastern corner of New York. On this rail-trail, a branch of the Delaware River is often in sight and there are plenty of opportunities for fishing and wading in the river's cool waters. With only a 400-foot change in grade, peaking at Stamford, the trail is popular with many other recreationalists, including hikers, runners and horseback riders, so be prepared to share the path.
The Catskill Scenic Trail traverses four communities that were once vital to the Catskill Mountain Branch of the Ulster and Delaware (U&D) Railroad which served the Catskills from 1872 and was eventually absorbed into the New York Central railroad in 1932. The trail can be accessed at several locations with designated parking areas at Stamford and Bloomville. We suggest doing the round-trip ride in one day, beginning and ending in Roxbury, where you will be well-placed to enjoy other unique offerings of the Catskills region.
For lodging, there are several B&Bs to choose from in Roxbury, as well as camping opportunities at the Stratton Falls Campground (a couple of miles south of downtown). Though the aesthetics may be a turn-off for some, we would feel remiss if we didn’t at least mention The Roxbury, a “boutique motel resort.” Their themed rooms and suites are so unexpected that they do manage to elicit that smile they claim to seek from their visitors. Let’s see if these suite names perk your interest: The Shagadellic, Genie’s Bottle and The Final Frontier.
Crosscountry trail bikes are available for rent at Plattekill Bike Park in Roxbury. They also offer delivery and pick-up at the Roxbury trailhead for an extra fee. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for the entire day.
The trail begins off of Main Street/State Highway 30 about a mile north of downtown Roxbury. Look for a small grassy parking area on the right side of the street after the second Hubbells Corner Road and just before reaching the intersection with Hard Scrabble Road. For the first 7 miles of the trail, heading north toward Grand Gorge, you parallel Highway 30 and the eastern branch of the Delaware River. Be prepared for some traffic noise and an occasional industrial building along the way.
At Ferris Road, the trail leaves the highway to begin a gentle westerly swing through a wooded stretch that eventually crosses and then parallels Highway 23 at the western outskirts of Grand Gorge. Some opt to avoid this first section of the trail as remaining embedded railroad ties can make the trail bumpy and bicycling more difficult.
For the remaining 6.5 miles to Stamford, the trail continues to run near the river and weaves in and out of pastoral and forested landscapes. You might see eagles and beavers, or cows and pigs. Keep an eye out for all eventualities, including dips in the trail; it can be soft and wet in places, depending on the recent weather.
Entering Stamford, the restored train station serves as an information center and houses the Catskill Revitalization Corporation, which owns and manages the Catskill Scenic Trail as well as the nearby Delaware and Ulster Scenic Railroad (a scenic train with rides between and Arkville and Roxbury). There is a parking area here and beginning your expedition to Bloomville from this point in Stamford is a good option for those with less time or who want to avoid the potential difficulties of the initial section of the trail.
Stamford sits at the base of 3,241-foot Mount Utsayantha. The mountain is named for a local American Indian maiden and the tragic legend at the heart of the story. Though not a large bustling village today, there are places to stop for lunch and sweets. Try T.P.’s Café (Railroad Avenue) and Mac-A-Doodles Ice Cream (Main Street), both right off the trail. Stretch your legs and roam the Main Street district’s arts galleries and shops. Make sure to look up in the air occasionally; hang gliders love Stamford.
The West Branch of the Delaware River runs right along the trail for most of the 3.5 miles between Hobart and Stamford; there are some pretty spots to relax with a book or enjoy a picnic. Consider heading in to Hobart via Cornell Avenue to stock up on refreshments or to discover why Hobart is known as the “Book Village of the Catskills.” (Hint: avid readers will want to allow plenty of time for this historical town.)
Also of interest may be the MURAL Gallery (Main Street) which has been exhibiting the art work of local artists since 1983. By now, you will have biked by or through enough farms (and hopefully around any farm animals) to realize the degree to which agriculture defines this region. Livestock, maple syrup producers, jams and jellies, u-pick blueberry farms, cheese houses and farm stands abound. If you are in Hobart on a late Friday afternoon during the summer season, stop at the local farmers market to taste some of this locally grown, made or crafted richness.
In South Kortright, 4 miles further, the trail passes through a farmyard. Be prepared—and use caution—when resident turkeys approach looking for a handout.
Continuing west, you cross a series of bridges back and forth over the river, and fishing access points are numerous. In 5 miles, you come to the trail's west end in the village of Bloomville. The Sheffield Farm Dairy plant, located in Bloomfield, contained the country's first milk pasteurization facility. The Ulster and Delaware railroad trains served the plant in the early 1900s. Some restoration work is currently underway on the dilapidated building. Bloomville is a small village that is not flowing over with amenities but the nearby Table on Ten (cross Highway 10 to River Street) could be the perfect place to rest and eat and prepare for your return ride to Roxbury. The menu is small but the quality of food makes up for the limited-fare. Open for breakfast and brunch, this café features local foods with an artist’s flare and actually offers accommodations as well, should you prefer to break up your biking venture into two days.
Round out your trip by exploring more of Roxbury on your second day. The township of Roxbury, consisting of the hamlet of Roxbury and Grand Gorge, happily retains its rural and historic charm. Reminders of days gone by, as a thriving community along the railroad, and as the birthplace of naturalist John Burroughs and railroad financier Jay Gould, still imbue the Roxbury hamlet with a flavor of the past.
The Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church (1892) dominates one end of the historic district while the Ulster and Delaware Railroad Depot and Mill Complex stands at another. The depot was originally constructed in 1872, though was used for other commercial ventures by the late 1950s after rail passenger service ended in 1954. The Roxbury Depot Museum is housed in this complex today. Roxbury itself is considered to be so rich in history that the entire hamlet is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places.
The town’s 11-acre Kirkside Park offers many opportunities for outdoor recreating. You might even time it right to see the local vintage baseball team, the Roxbury Nine, swinging in summer-time action. Groups of five or more can arrange for a guided walking tour of the hamlet by contacting the local Community Resources Office.
See more of the Catskills, but this time from the comfort of a train. Running Memorial Day through Columbus Day, the Delaware & Ulster Railroad offers two-hour round-trip weekend rides from Roxbury. Special rides are offered throughout the season and times/schedules change slightly, so visit their website for up-to-date information.