Catskills mountains vacation guide

Mike surprised me this year with a relaxing birthday trip to the Catskill Mountains (what a great idea!). Located in the southeastern section of Upstate New York, this tranquil mountain region is the perfect escape from New York City’s crowds, congestion, and pollution. Mike booked 3 nights at Emerson Resort and Spa, a beautiful property located in Mt. Tremper, New York.

Emerson Spa and Resort - Mt. Tremper, NY

The drive from Boston was approximately 4 hours, making it a quick getaway for those looking to escape the crowds and congestion for a weekend of R&R. The scenery intensified in beauty as we got closer to New York. Some of the leaves already started changing color, which made the drive even more beautiful. I imagine this drive would be spectacular at the peak of fall foliage season. The weather forecast for the week was perfect: lower 70’s and sunny.

The start of fall foliage season in Upstate, NY

Fall foliage in Tannersville, NY

Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper, New York

Emerson Resort features 2 different types of accommodations: Inn rooms, which feature more of a classic, artsy vibe and The Lodge, which features a more rustic, log cabin ambiance. The Inn is attached to the main building, which houses the lobby, spa, restaurants, and The Emerson shops.

Emerson Resort and Spa - main building

The beautiful Koi Pond

Koi pond at Emerson Resort in Mt. Tremper NY

Beautiful landscaping & Buddha artwork outside the Emerson

Buddha statues outside the Emerson Resort in the Catskills

Among the walls, you will find the paintings & photographs of local artists

Art work at the Emerson Resort in NY

Solar panels (Emerson is a green property)

Solar panels at Emerson Resort and Spa

If you are staying at The Lodge, you will have to walk along a short path to get to the main building. However, with views this spectacular, who can complain!? Check out the spectacular Catskill mountains in the background.

Walking path at the Emerson Spa and Resort in Mt. Tremper, NY

Emerson Resort: The Lodge Luxury Cabin Rentals

Mike booked us a luxury suite at The Lodge. We both enjoyed the log cabin atmosphere and felt that a rustic theme fit perfectly with the serenity and beauty of the area. Sitting outside the patio listening to the creek was perfect. Looking around the entire Emerson property, it seems that the Black Bear Lodge cabin has better views of the creek than the Inn rooms.

The Black Bear Cabin at The Lodge

Black Bear - The Lodge at Emerson in the Catskills

Surrounded by the woods, The Lodge is the perfect choice for nature lovers. The back of the building faces Esopus Creek. Our 2 story cabin themed rental, featured a deck with amazing views of the creek (make sure to specify that you want creek views when making a reservation) This was the perfect setting; exactly what we were looking for: quiet, relaxation, and scenic views.

The large deck of our cabin rental

Balcony of the Black Bear Lodge at Emerson Resort in the Catskills

Views of Esopus Creek from the deck

Views of Esopus creek from The Lodge at Emerson Resort in the Catskills

In the morning we took a stroll down the path to take additional pictures of the creek

Sun rising over Esopus creek at The Lodge at Emerson Resort in the Catskills
Sun rising up at The Lodge at Emerson Resort in the Catskills
Beautiful creek and mountain views at Emerson Resort in the Catskills

The beautifully decorated cabin featured great amenities such as a gas fireplace, and 2 bathrooms including one with an oversized jacuzzi tub. We were very pleased with the entire place. We especially loved the design – all log cabin themed from the lamps to the bedsheets to the room decor.

A quick photo tour of the cabin…

Bedroom at The Lodge at Emerson in the Catskills
Jacuzzi at the Lodge at Emerson in the Catskills
Gas fireplace at The Lodge at Emerson Resort in the Catskills

Dining at The Emerson

There are 3 restaurants on the property: The Phoenix (serving breakfast only), the Catamount (serving dinner only) and the Country Store Cafe (serving quick meals and snacks). We had the chance to test out all 3 during our stay. Update: As of 2022, there is only one dining option (Woodnotes Cafe in the former Catamount space)

The Phoenix Restaurant at Emerson Spa and Resort in the Catskills

We had breakfast each morning at The Phoenix, located just a short walk away in the main Inn building. Several times, staff was nice enough to pick us up in the golf cart and escort us to the restaurant. Food was very good. The French Toast is delicious. They also offer an excellent 2 egg, hash brown, and toast special, perfectly cooked and nicely presented. Check out the full Phoenix Breakfast Menu.

Delicious French toast at The Phoenix inside Emerson Resort
Great breakfast at the Phoenix inside Emerson Resort

The Catamount is conveniently located between The Inn and The Lodge. We dined twice at the Catamount, once inside in the rustic themed dining room, and another time outside on the patio. This restaurant features a causal, cozy atmosphere.

Catamount Restaurant at the Emerson Resort
Cool elk antlers at The Catamount at the Emerson Resort

The patio featured amazing views of the creek. Dining while listening to the creek made for a memorable, relaxing dinner. Dinner both nights was pretty good; I enjoyed the Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese, and the Tomato, Black Bean & Avocado Quesadillas. Check out a Sample Catamount Dinner Menu.

Outdoor dining patio at the Catamont at Emerson Resort
Creek views from The Catamount at Emerson Resort
Turkey wrap at The Catamount at Emerson Resort
Mac and cheese at The Catamount at Emerson Resort

The Country Store Cafe features a selection of quick snacks such as salads, sandwiches, and soups. They also brew Starbucks coffee, and guests receive a complimentary cup each day. They have a fantastic specialty candy counter, similar to Godiva. We couldn’t help coming back each day for another decadent truffle (dozens of different flavors are available). Local honeys, jams, pastas, specialty teas, coffees, and more are available for purchase within the store. Free WI-Fi, a comfortable sitting area, and an outdoor patio are available.

Emerson Country Store in the Catskills mountains
World's largest Kaleidoscope at Emerson Shops in the Catskills

The World’s Largest Kaleidoscope

Emerson Shops (connected to the Inn) features a selection of specialty shops. One of the highlights is The Kaleidostore, a store dedicated to the Kaleidoscope. Also home to the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope, a 10 minute show, which is offered at no extra cost for Emerson guests ($5 for general visitors). This was a unique experience; you lay down on the floor as you are treated to a visually appealing presentation on the largest Kaleidoscope.

Emerson Spa in the Catskills mountains

Emerson Spa

The biggest highlight for me at this hotel was the award winning Emerson Spa. This beautiful Asian themed spa features beautiful decor and design details. The fitness center came in handy each morning (I still attempt to squeeze in a little bit of exercise on vacation!).

Fitness center at the Emerson Spa and Resort in the Catskills

The workout room was bigger than what you typically find a hotel, complete with a decent sized free weight & cardio selection. The locker rooms feature both a steam room and sauna, which we enjoyed using now that the cooler weather has arrived. The entire spa area, including locker rooms was immaculately clean and well maintained. Check out the full Emerson Spa Services Menu.

Jacuzzi at Emerson Spa in the Catskill mountains

The outdoor jacuzzi on the deck provides decent views of the creek. The fall weather was perfect for relaxing in a hot tub. My only complaint was the limited hours (closed at 7pm which seemed a bit early to me).  There are lounger chairs located around the hot tub for those looking for some relaxation.

The fitness center, steam room, jacuzzi, and sauna are all complimentary for all hotel guests and for those receiving a spa treatment. Before your treatment, you can unwind in the Relaxation room. Fresh fruit, a selection of teas, and lemon water are available.

Relaxation room at the Emerson Spa in the Catskills

I usually always pick a Swedish or Deep Tissue massage. This time, I wanted to try something new, so I went for an unusual pick: The Indian Head Massage. This 60 minute massage included a pressure point massage to the head, neck, and shoulders (perfect for those on the computer a lot like me!). I also really enjoyed the arm, hand, and wrist massage).

The warm oil applied to my shoulders and neck felt so good, and the oil applied to my scalp doubled as a deep conditioning treatment (my therapist told me to leave it on for 24 hours). It felt weird walking around with oily hair all day, however, I benefited the next day with shiny, more manageable hair (thanks to the sesame oil-coconut oil combination).

The Emerson Spa and Resort is located at 5340 Rt. 28 Mt. Tremper, New York

Lunch in Phoenica

There are several nice towns within a 15 mile drive from the resort. Phoenica was rated one of the Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America. The quaint downtown area features a decent variety of restaurants, despite the town’s small population (just around 300).

Brio's Pizzeria in Phoenica, NY

We tried out lunch at Brio’s Pizzeria and Restaurant on a whim as we arrived a bit too early for check in at the Emerson. I ordered the Black Bean Burrito and Mike had a specialty Grilled Cheese sandwich. We were both satisfied with our meals. The comfortable setting and pleasant waitress added to our satisfaction. Check out the full Brio’s menu.

Grilled cheese at Brio's in Phoenica, NY
Black bean burrito at Brio's in Phoenica, NY

Dinner in Woodstock

Another great town, Woodstock, is well known for the Woodstock Festival and its’ thriving art and music community. For dinner one night, we visited a fantastic restaurant called The Bear Cafe. The upscale mountain theme was perfect; it fit right in with both our cabin rental and the feel of the area. I loved the large windows with views of the stream; definitely the highlight of this restaurant. Luckily, we arrived just in time for the last window seat.

Steam views at The Bear Cafe in Woodstock, NY
Window views at Woodstock's Bear Cafe in Upstate NY

The Bear Cafe features plenty of organic and vegetarian options, which is excellent for me. When I saw Pumpkin Ravioli on the menu, I immediately made my choice. Pumpkin ravioli is my favorite dish of all time; unfortunately, it is not very easy to find. This delicious organic dish featured portabella mushrooms, pearl onions, butternut squash, and homemade pumpkin ravioli topped with a delicious creamy sauce.

Pumpkin ravioli at The Bear Cafe in Woodstock, NY

The sauce was perfect – not too heavy, not too light. Mike also ordered the ravioli and felt the same way. I also ordered the Bear Cafe Salad, which featured mixed dark greens, shaved Parmesan, herbs, shallots, olive oil, and lemon. The combination of ingredients led to a fantastic tasting salad! Even the bread (served with olive oil for dipping) was fantastic. I would definitely dine at The Bear Cafe again – great food, service, and amazing views would bring me back in a heartbeat. Check out the full Bear Cafe Menu.

The Bear Cafe salad in Woodstock, NY

Recommended Catskill Activities

Listed below are a few recommended activities within a reasonable drive of the resort. Any nature lover should take some time to enjoy a few of the wonderful hiking trails, waterfall, or natural sights in this gorgeous region of New York!

Hiking to Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls in Upstate New York

One of the highlights of our upstate New York trip was our hike at Kaaterskill Falls, the highest 2 level waterfall in New York. The falls can only be reached via hiking a short 0.5 mile hike. There is a gradual up climb, however, this hike should be suitable for all levels. We got a energizing, but not difficult workout in, which is exactly what we needed on this relaxation trip.

Kaaterskill Falls trail in upstate NY
Kaaterskill Falls - the tallest waterfall in New York

I was a bit nervous about spotting a Black Bear on the trail, however, there were enough people around to keep any wildlife away. Bears have been spotted in the area, however, they are more common by the upper falls. (always bring bear spray and make noise while on any trail, just in case!).

Hiking trail views at Kaaterskill Falls in Upstate NY
Hiking path views at Kaaterskill Falls in Upstate NY

Be careful not to venture off the path; several hikers have died trying to take their picture by the upper falls. The trail was not overly crowded; overall, a peaceful, relaxing walk through nature. The falls are stronger after a large rainfall, therefore, planning your trip during the spring months would be the ideal time.

There is a parking lot located on Route 23A. From here, you will follow the signs and walk along the road until you reach the trail. Be careful as a lot of accidents take place here each year! Bastion Falls, another smaller, yet still scenic waterfall, greets you as you begin the trail.

A few views of Bation Falls

Bastion Falls in upstate NY
Bastion Falls in Upstate NY

The Ashokan Reservoir

Ashokan Reservoir in Upstate NY

Ashokan Reservoir, located in Ulster County, provides drinking water for New York City. There is a 1.5 mile paved path around the reservoir, which provides amazing views of the Catskill Mountains. We decided to take the 10 minute journey from Emerson one afternoon to take in the beautiful mountain views.

We spotted a deer on the drive over

Deer on road - upstate NY

A few views of the reservoir & surrounding mountains

Ashokan Reservoir water and mountain views
Scenic views of the Ashokan Reservoir in Upstate NY

Walkway over the Hudson

Walkway over the Hudson in New York

The Walkway over the Hudson, which opened in 2009, is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. The path is 1.28 miles each way, making it acceptable for any fitness level. We saw walkers, joggers, and bikers along the path. History buffs will love the plaques along the way detailing the bridge building process.

Beautiful river and bridge views from the walkway

Scenic bridge views while Walking across the Hudson in New York
Beautiful Hudson River views via Walkway Over the Hudson

Photographers will appreciate the many opportunities for landscape photos, particularly of the surrounding Catskill mountains and Hudson River. This walkway is frequently voted as one of the best places in New York for fall foliage. Unfortunately we were just a few weeks too early! Nevertheless, we still enjoyed our peaceful walk. The bridge is open everyday from 7:00am until dusk. Restrooms, picnic tables, and food are available at the start. Free street parking is available at 87 Haviland Rd. Highland, NY.

A great trip in the Catskills

Overall, Mike and I loved our trip to the Catskill Mountains. There is so much more to see and do in the area that we are planning a return trip sometime this fall or winter. We would love to take a scenic train rides (closed on weekdays). Ulster County is also home to the Sleepy Hollow Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride, which has been featured on the Travel Channel as one of the top Halloween attractions.

As a note, please check with the resort, spa, local restaurants, and any other attractions for current hours/pricing which is subject to change at any time.