Hi friends, welcome back! Before diving into the holiday season on my blog, I’m heading back in time to my Fourth of July trip to the Catskills. When Jon and I were deciding what to do for the Fourth of July, we struggled to pick a location but wanted something easily drivable and relaxing. We eventually settled on the Catskills, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive north from NYC, for a weekend of hiking, grilling, and fresh air. There are quite a few towns to stay in when visiting the Catskills and we ended up in Phoenicia. I found a great cabin on Airbnb that looked like the perfect place to relax and it was near quite a few hikes. As the vacation drew nearer, I made a loose itinerary and booked us a spot on the Rail Explorers.
Jon and I left the city on a smoky Friday afternoon. We hit some traffic getting out of the city, but were eventually cruising as we made our way north. Phoenicia looked like an incredibly small town so we stopped in Kingston along the way to pick up groceries. We made it to our Airbnb, and it was exactly as pictured! The cottage was very cozy and the backyard was incredibly serene. The sound of the Espous Creek was hypnotic in the most relaxing way. This finally seemed like one of those vacations we didn’t need a vacation from.
We settled into the cottage and fired up the grill for some delicious burgers. I loved being able to eat outside listening to the creek and birds chirping. I’d say fresh air, but it was still pretty smoky outside from the Canadian wildfires.
The weather looked very rainy for the holiday weekend, so we planned our biggest hike for our first full day there. We picked Giant’s Ledge and Panther Mountain Trail, a 6.3 mile out & back trail. It’s rated as hard and covers 1,981 feet of elevation gain. We arrived at the trailhead around 8:45 and there were a few other cars in the lot. I was worried that because it was a Saturday of a holiday weekend it would be busy, but we beat the crowds. When we returned around 1pm there were quite a few cars parked along the street. The parking area also had a very clean porta-potty.
We started off on the trail excited to finally be hiking again. The trail started off pretty rocky, but we didn’t have any issues. I was happy that it was so shaded.
Throughout the ascent there would be tough stretches of incline and then it would flatten out so we could catch our breath.
We made it to Giant’s Ledge and I couldn’t believe no one was at the viewpoint. Usually viewpoints are so crowded, but maybe the smoke deterred people. I imagine that this view is just absolutely stunning in the fall when all the leaves are changing color.
There are a few different spots to see the views of the surrounding Catskill Mountains.
We kept ascending and were in a level with all pine trees and it smelled amazing! I felt like I was hiking out west at this point with the fog and pine.
We made it to the top of Panther Mountain and the viewpoint didn’t seem worth the effort to get up there. Jon and I both thought Giant’s Ledge had way better views and wouldn’t recommend going up unless you want the exercise. We had actually passed the viewpoint and started going down, but we figured this wasn’t right so we consulted the map and turned around. Thank goodness we checked or who knows how much farther we would’ve gone.
As we made our way back to the car, the trail got a tad busier. Coming down made me realize how steep some of the parts actually were. No wonder I was breaking a sweat so much! All in all, we hiked 7.39 miles in 4 hours and 11 minutes. We thought the trail was more moderate than hard but my knees were hurting coming down from all the rocks.
After the hike we stopped by the cottage to shower and then headed into town for some ice cream at the Ice Cream Station. The town of Phoenicia is two blocks long and was voted one of the coolest small towns. They have quite a few antique stores we browsed through, but we didn’t find anything that sparked joy.
The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing by the creek with a little happy hour.
We picked up pizza from Phoenicia Pizza 28 but oddly enough thought it tasted better the following day. Jon and I ended the night with a campfire and s’mores. Luckily none of the resident black bears decided to stop by while we were out there, but we were always on guard.
Despite the unexpected forest fire smoke, our trip was off to a great start! Stay tuned for part two 🙂