The Catskills on Canvas

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The beauty of the Catskills has been inspiring art for centuries, but none so famous as the Hudson River School movement of the 19th century. The group of artists, like Thomas Cole who is regarded as the founder of the movement, are known for their landscape paintings of the Hudson River Valley, the Adirondack Mountains, the White Mountains and, of course, the Catskill Mountains.

The Hudson River School Art Trail offers fans of the movement the opportunity to step into their favorite painting with a guide to the sites that inspired the artists. The sites range from intense hikes to a (literal) walk in the park, making the experience accessible to anyone.

The trail was created by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site with the goal of giving people the opportunity to experience the region through the eyes of the United States’ first great landscape artists.

While the trail includes sites from all over eastern New York and part of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, people visiting the Catskills may be especially interested in the following locations.

Catskill Creek: The subject of many Thomas Cole paintings, this creek spans the northern Catskills before joining the Hudson River in Catskill. There are many places along this creek to visit, but one of the most famous views can be seen from Route 9W where it crosses the creek in Catskill.

Mohonk Mountain House: This resort in New Paltz houses several sites on the trail, including Mohonk Lake, Eagle Cliff and the Shawangunk Mountains. Sanford Robinson Gifford and Thomas Worthington Whittredge were especially keen on the views in this area, although Thomas Cole did start (but not finish) a painting of Mohonk Lake here. Visitors can purchase hiking passes for $35 per adult and $30 per child.

Kaaterskill Falls and Kaaterskill Clove: These sites, largely untouched since the time they were painted, were some of the most popular among the Hudson River School artists. Kaaterskill continues to be one of the biggest attractions in the region, being the state’s highest cascading waterfall. The safest way to access the views of the clove is via the Kaaterskill Falls viewing platform.

North-South Lake, Sunset Rock, and Catskill Mountain House: Located in Haines Falls, a Thomas Cole painting from this lake and present-day campground was one of his claims to fame in New York City. The view from Sunset Rock, accessed by a hike from the campgrounds, was the subject of paintings by Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey and Sanford Gifford. Several Hudson River School artists used to stay at the Catskill Mountain House at what is now North-South Lake, and they often painted the surrounding landscape while there. While the hotel was demolished in 1963, the site is still marked and accessible by a trail from the campgrounds. Visitors may be required to pay a day-use fee to access these locations.

Platte Clove: This preserve located in Hunter was the subject of Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand pieces, and it remains nearly untouched since their time. Being such an untamed natural area, the sites painted by the artists can be dangerous, and visitors should exercise caution when exploring the cliffs and ravines.

The trail website, hudsonriverschool.org, has more information about these sites including their Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations, directions to the specific views found in the paintings, and the historical and artistic significance of the locations.