The Best Small Towns in the Catskills for Hiking, Boutique Hotels, and Breweries in Travel + Leisure

Look, things change. We didn’t need a pandemic to tell us that the Catskills, too, have evolved with the times. Harried city dwellers rushing to the Borscht Belt over the last two years have accelerated the region’s renaissance. And it was already on the precipice of a revival.

Nonetheless, that old truism that the more things change, the more they stay the same never rings louder than in the storied Cats. Take locals of Fallsburg, for instance, who still aren’t over the recent shuttering of Frankie & Johnny’s Nardi’s Italian Restaurant after four decades of heaping comfort food platters. While there’s nothing we can do to quell the blow, we can tell you that there’s just something about the air up here, the slant of the morning light, even the echoes of tennis balls reverberating in the cradle of cordilleras, that make all these transformations work. All of that has stayed the same in these hallowed hills.

Yes, there’s a dizzying slate of incredible new restaurants, hotels, and experiences in these parts (and we’ll happily point you in the right direction). But at the end of the day, what makes the towns below worth journeying to are the very gulps of mountainous ether and endless green landscapes that have been here for time immemorial. Here, the very best small towns in the Catskills to visit this year.

Margaretville

Another idyllic stroll on Main Street awaits, this time in Delaware County. Pop into apothecary Species by the Thousands for a candle, aromatherapy oils, or jewelry, before continuing your apothecary tour onto Honeybee Herbs where you’ll want to stock up on jars of their herbal tea blends, raw honey, and a motley assortment of tinctures. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, try quintessential mountain town haunt Binnekill Tavern, coffee and pastry haunt Café Marguerite (the smoked salmon on an everything croissant is always a good idea), family-owned Trattoria Locale for delectable Italian fare, and recently opened, health-focused eatery Lucky Sparrow Kitchen. Pro tip: Place a family-style catering order to bring on a day of hiking at nearby spots like Dry Brook Ridge Trail, Kelly Hollow Loop, or Huckleberry Loop.

When it’s time to seek salvation for your sapped calf muscles, book your stay at Belle Ayre House, an inviting and meticulously restored three-bedroom farmhouse; Groovy Chalet for easy access to hiking trails and skiing; the Homestead Farm Resort (est. 1819); or Hanah Mountain Resort & Country Club, if you seek a more traditional hotel experience. If you can, reserve a workshop or retreat at the Blue Deer Center, a nonprofit that creates programs around ancestral wisdom and healing principles, before your time in Margaretville is complete.

Photo: Courtesy of The Roxbury at Stratton Falls

 

Roxbury

First stop: The Watershed, “Roxbury’s front porch,” which has visitors covered from morning coffee to last-call cocktails. Properly caffeinated, head to Plattekill Mountain for some skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, or a scenic chairlift ride in this beautiful pocket of the Western Catskills. Located in Delaware County, Roxbury also boasts historic Kirkside Park, a one-time estate turned into an 11-acre public park and an ideal spot for a seasonal picnic. When it’s time for sustenance, head to recently opened The Fierce Grizzly, which doles out elevated continental cuisine in a former tin shop.

For your home away from home, Bellfire in the Catskills on Bellfire Farm offers an off-grid tented experience or a tiny home with a six-foot skylight and 11-foot windows in the living area. There are also rooms to rent in the farmhouse. More stellar lodging options include The Roxbury Motel and The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, both offering themed rooms with whimsical design.

Read more of The Best Small Towns in the Catskills for Hiking, Boutique Hotels, and Breweries in Travel + Leisure here.