I love hiking in the Catskill Mountains of New York State which are located in a surprisingly rural region about 100 miles north of New York City and just under 4 hours (by car) from Boston. The hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing are all excellent and there are many lakes, ponds, waterfalls, and creeks to jump into when the weather gets hot.
The Catskills are a lot like the White Mountains in New Hampshire in that there are many mountains concentrated in a fairly small area. However, the elevations of the 35 major peaks in the Catskills range from 3,500 ft – 4,000 ft, a bit lower than the 4,000 footers in the Whites. They are still challenging and in fact about half of them are trail-less and require bushwacking to climb, unlike most of the peaks in the White which have well beaten paths to their summits.
One of my favorite Catskill day hikes there is the ascent of Mt Wittenberg (3,780 ft.) Access is from the Woodland Valley State Campground and round trip distance is 6.8 miles (Click for Online Map). If you arrive early, make sure you wait until the ranger arrives to pay for parking: otherwise you risk a hefty fine.
Access is via the steep and challenging Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail following the red DEC markers. Upon attaining the summit, hikers are rewarded with one of the best scenic overlooks in the Catskills. The sweeping view includes the Devil’s Path to the north, Peakamoose and Table Mountains to the south, and the Ashokan Reservoir and Hudson Valley to the east.
Hardy hikers or backpackers can extend the trip to take in Cornell Mountain (3,860 ft) and Slide Mountain (4,180 ft), the highest peak in the Catskills at mile 4.8 along the path.
Spotting a car in the Catskills can be a bit of a challenge since the roads are poorly marked and their route numbers change at county boundaries. The best way to find your way around is using the Delorme New York Atlas and Gazetteer. In addition, the Catskill Mountain Guide is an invaluable resource for finding other great hikes in the region. The best maps of the area are published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.