For those in love with outdoor mountain fun, this mellow oasis in the Cats makes a superb base camp.
Nestled at the western edge of the Catskill Park, protected from the comparatively hectic Hudson Valley by High Peaks and deep woods, you’ll find Margaretville. Named for Colonial settler Robert Livingston’s granddaughter, it’s the center—geographically and otherwise—of the sprawling, sparsely settled town of Middletown, with a small hospital and supermarket and a pharmacy.
Beyond these useful basics, Margaretville has developed a microculture all its own: quirky, artsy, yet plainspoken and down-to-earth, all extremely useful qualities for thriving in the outback. Up here, the tensions of urban living can melt away and slip from your shoulders like snow falling softly from a pine branch.
You’ll find a lot to explore; the art of living up here requires making your own fun, and Margaretville’s creative types—from artists to chefs to shopkeepers—are expert and hospitable. And for those in love with outdoor mountain fun, this mellow oasis in the Cats makes a superb base camp: It’s just 10 miles to Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, and 13 miles to Plattekill. Don’t feel like bringing a car? Take the Metro North train to the Trailways bus via an easy connection from Poughkeepsie to New Paltz, or just grab the Trailways from Hoboken; once you arrive in Margaretville, you’ll find everything you need within easy walking distance.
PLATTEKILL MOUNTAIN Skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing are just minutes away. Just over the mountain on Route 30, you’ll find Plattekill—the last indie family-run ski mountain in the Cats—famed for its laid-back authentic vibes and combination of big mountain terrain and small mountain charm. You and your crew can even rent the entire mountain for a day.
469 Plattekill Road, Roxbury
THE DRY BROOK RIDGE WILD FOREST, 8,900 acres laced with trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, is accessed from a trailhead within the village. There’s no admission fee, and backcountry camping is welcomed; all they ask is that you be safe and leave no trace. Find a map of the forest on the DEC’s website
THE EAST BRANCH OF THE DELAWARE RIVER, nationally renowned for freshwater fishing and a lovely paddle or float in warmer months, runs right through the village.
SPECIES BY THE THOUSANDS You’ll find aromatherapy, candles, jewelry, and gifts at Species by The Thousands, a craft studio founded in Brooklyn back in 2006 by artist Erica Bradbury. The handmade work, inspired by “natural, spiritual and outsider worlds,” is beloved around the globe; only in Margaretville can you visit the source and see the magic Bradbury conjures from these hills in its natural habitat. 798 Main Street, Margaretville speciesbythethousands.com
WILDFLOWERS FLORIST Wildflowers offers gifts, antiques, and highly creative floral design for any occasion or just because. The shop was founded back in 1995 by Richard Simms, an MFA who majored in Fashion Design at FIT, studied ikebana (flower arranging) in Japan, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Caribbean, and brings an exquisite sensibility to each floral artwork. 746 Main Street, Margaretville 845-586-2444, wildflowers-design.com
FOOTHILLS SHOE Forget your hiking boots? Fear not. Foothills Shoe, the “Sole of the Catskills,” has your new favorite pair. Customers are regularly astonished by the shop’s wide, well-chosen selection, reasonable prices, and friendly, efficient service. They’ve got everything here from sandals to subzero, all of it top-quality. 785 Main St, Margaretville 845-217-7282, foothillsshoe.com
HOME GOODS OF MARGARETVILLE For decades, Home Goods of Margaretville kept the village and its visitors supplied with kitchen essentials, gadgets, linens, and gifts at a level you’d not expect in a village of a few hundred. Since 2014, it’s been owned by Margaretville natives Jess and Jake Olenych, who reclaimed the 12-foot ceilings and exposed brick at the onetime Peoples National Bank and moved across the street just in time for the pandemic, emerging as both a topflight home goods store and a community food center where local farmers, bakeries, and artisanal producers bring their finest offerings. 784 Main Street, Margaretville, NY 845-586-4177, hgom.net
CAFE MARGUERITE When you’re way too hungry to cook after choosing your goodies, stop in at Cafe Marguerite, where you’ll find delicious coffee, delightful chocolate, and delectable pastries along with heartier fare like Asian sausage on a bun or smoked salmon on an “everything” croissant. They’re famed for their flawless custom cakes. And check their calendar for the next Taco Takeover, when Cafe Marguerite turns into Cafe Margarita! 746 Main Street, Margaretville 718-484-2121, cafemarguerite.com
ARKVILLE BREAD AND BREAKFAST The Arkville Bread and Breakfast, open daily from 7am-2pm, is yet another Catskills original of extraordinary excellence, situated in a retired railway caboose. Chef/owner Jack Zamor cooks a wonderful whirl of hearty breakfasts and savory lunches, presenting generous portions of creative dishes at reasonable prices. Visit Twisted Sister Yoga next door before or after. 43285 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 845-586-1122, facebook.com/arkvillecaboose/
CATSKILL RECREATION CENTER Want to take a dip? No, not in the East Branch of the Delaware, which is too cold for all but the bravest even in midsummer. Head down the road a mile to Arkville, to the Catskill Recreation Center, where you can reserve pool time and a session in their state-of-the-art 2,000-square-foot gym. The facility is a nonprofit, a gift to the community from a Livingston descendant, and you’ll find the vibes upbeat, inclusive, and welcoming. 651 County Highway 38, Arkville 845-586-6250, catskillrecreationcenter.org
UNION GROVE DISTILLERY You may want to grab an extra Reuben or Philly cheese steak to go, because you need to bring your own eats to Union Grove Distillery to wash down with a craft cocktail. The distillery is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Brian and Penny Mulder. They craft singularly delicious potions from hyperlocal ingredients and serve up tastings at a copper-topped bar beside a roaring fireplace; there’s a piano, and visits from musicians and food trucks are often on the calendar. 43311 State Highway 28, Arkville 845-586-6300, uniongrovedistillery.com
Less than a half hour from Margaretville, these Catskills lodgings go above and beyond to make you at home away from home.
EMERSON RESORT AND SPA Want a resort vibe and all the amenities that come with it? The Emerson Resort and Spa located in Mount Tremper (yes, it’s named for Ralph Waldo Emerson) has a signature restaurant, an award-winning spa, shops to browse, and the world’s largest kaleidoscope. 5340 Route 28, Mount Tremper 845-688-2828, emersonresort.com
THE GRAHAM & CO. Want maximum chill? The Graham & Co. in Phoenicia is a low-key, 20-room boutique hotel located within walking distance of the hamlet’s Main Street. It’s got a nostalgic feel, Tivoli radios in every room, bikes to borrow, and a firepit for evening stargazing. 80 State Route 214, Phoenicia 845-688-7871, thegrahamandco.com
Learn more from the folks at Delaware County Tourism at GreatWesternCatskills.com