Where would you least expect to find the world’s largest kaleidoscope?
Mt. Tremper would be a good guess.
Look for the big red silo (56 feet tall, 38 feet across, it was once part of the Risely farm here), and step into what may be the most colorful experience on the Byway. Through the use of projected moving images, the world’s largest kaleidoscope at the Emerson resort complex replicates the traditional hand-held cylinder of rotating pieces of colored glass. Lie on the floor or stand against the wall, look up, and prepare to be dazzled.
Farming, quarrying and lumbering once held sway in these sister hamlets, where the Beaverkill meets the Esopus Creek. With the coming of the railroad in 1870, inns and hotels were established and farmhouses were converted to summer boarding houses to capture the tourist trade. The tradition of warm Catskill Mountain hospitality continues at the many lodging facilities doing business in this area today.
What else is special about Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Tremper?
- Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center. Orient yourself within the 700,000-acre Catskill Park and Forest Preserve and find out about the natural, recreational, cultural, agricultural and historical resources of the region. Walk the half-mile nature trail and explore the sculpture park.
- Mt. Tremper Station, the eastern terminus of the Catskill Mountain Railroad, which offers a 45-minute round trip along the scenic Esopus Creek weekends from August to October in 2016. Watch for bald eagles, great blue herons, deer and other wildlife as you rock and roll beneath namesake Mount Tremper to the north and Mount Pleasant and Romer Mountain to the south.
Visit Phoenicia’s page
Want to see what one of the coolest small towns in America’ looks like? Come to Phoenicia and feel the vibe.
Voted one of the top ten cool towns in the US in 2011 by readers of Budget Travel, Phoenicia is a hotbed of creativity – its shops, restaurants, inns and galleries reflect imagination and joie de vive.
Visit in the summertime when busloads of happy tubers are ferried by local liveries to and from launch sites to float down the twisty Esopus Creek. Come in spring to fish, or in autumn to marvel at the foliage in a drive up Route 212, aka the Stony Clove, a glorious arm of the Byway.
If you’re a music lover, you’ll find yourself in heaven during five special days in August, when the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice transforms the hamlet into a celebration of song of all sorts. World renowned performers of opera, jazz, ethnic, roots, sacred and many other musical styles make Phoenicia the summertime destination of choice.
What else is special about Phoenicia?
- Empire State Railway Museum. This former U&D depot contains photographs and exhibits of a time when Phoenicia was a busy railroad center, with east-west trains carrying passengers and freight, and a narrow gauge spur line taking tourists into the high peaks region of Greene County. The museum also hosts periodic concerts by established and rising musical stars.
- Parish Field. Site of the main stage of the Festival of the Voice, this mid-town park features a playground, basketball court and access to the Tanbark Trail, a hike that rewards experienced climbers with fabulous views of Phoenicia and surrounding mountains.
- Woodland Valley Campground. This State campground near the end of Woodland Valley Road is a jumping off point for a strenuous hike to Slide Mountain, highest in the Catskills. Enjoy the quiet and tranquility of a true forest sojourn.
- Chichester. A bit further up the Route 42 arm of the Byway is this historic community, founded in 1863 by the Chichester family as a factory town for the workers at their chair factory. The entire village was auctioned in 1939, but most of the original homes and buildings still stand.
Visit Allaben/Shandaken’s page
Allaben is a cluster of buildings and a great big hole in the ground.
Right next to the Byway, not far from the Shandaken Town Hall, water shoots down a concrete channel from an opening in the side of the mountain known as “The Portal.” A large brass plaque at the small parking area here explains that this is the outlet of the Shandaken Tunnel which brings water 18 miles beneath the mountain from the City’s Schoharie Reservoir and deposits it into the Esopus Creek, which carries it to the Ashokan Reservoir and from there to thirsty millions downstate.
Watch the water rush beneath Route 28 and into the Esopus. Flows fluctuate depending on operational needs of the city water system. But a few times a year, flows are high enough to attract white water kayakers to ride the frothy creek.
What else is special about this area?
- Trails. Trampers can find lovely state-maintained trails up Fox Hollow and Peck Hollow which are accessible from the Byway proper at Allaben. Note the bronze plaque on Fox Hollow Rd. just off the Byway commemorating noted barnstorming aviator Basil Rowe, who was born in the Hollow.
- Shandaken Dog Park and Agility Center. Located on NYS Route 42, a wild and scenic arm of the Byway, this pet-friendly amenity is part of the larger Glenbrook Park maintained by the Town of Shandaken.
Big Indian and Oliverea
Though these were once two distinct communities, the names Big Indian and Oliverea are most often connected today to describe the six-mile valley that links the Byway to the high peaks region of Ulster County. This stream-carved valley, which was decimated by 19th-century woodcutters and tanneries, is heavily wooded once more and serves as the jumping off point for many state-maintained hiking trails. It is a wild place, but travelers can also find creature comforts and fine food at welcoming resorts and lodging facilities.
Big Indian gets its name from a legendary seven-foot tall Native American named Winnisook who was shot by a rival suitor and took refuge in a hollow tree where he breathed his last. No one knows where the tree stood, but a locally-carved wooden statue of Winnisook stands at the entrance to Big Indian Park. Learn more about the Town of Shandaken at the information kiosk in the park while the kids let off some steam on the playground.
What else is special about Big Indian-Oliverea?
- Events! The park plays host to Easter egg hunts, vintage car shows, barbecues and an annual multi-tribe Native American pow-wow.
- Trees! The evergreens that decorate your living room at Christmas, the sugar maples that produce sweet sap for maple syrup, the hardwoods that go into the making of fine furniture – all support healthy seasonal and year-round locally-owned businesses in the valley.
Pine Hill and Highmount
Their names say it all – these neighboring hamlets claim the high ground of the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
Highmount, at elevation 2,014 feet, is ski country, home of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Since 1950, skiers have been enjoying the slopes and the awesome views at this state-run facility, known for its challenging upper trails as well as family-friendly lower terrain. Belleayre is also a visitor magnet in the summer, when the Belleayre Conservatory brings world class musical talent to the mountain.
Originally named Summit, Highmount is the dividing line between two counties (Ulster and Delaware), two towns (Shandaken and Middletown) and two distinct watersheds (the Esopus and the East Branch Delaware River). Its views, bracing atmosphere and proximity to the Ulster & Delaware Rail Road made this a favored summering spot for vacationers. The legendary Grand Hotel, with its 700-foot piazza, golf course, and other amenities, dominated the landscape, and attracted the rich and famous, many of whom established opulent homes nearby. Opera star Amelita Galli Curci, Shakepearean actress Julia Marlowe, and prominent New York City physician Alexander Skene were among them.
Pine Hill is tucked aside the Byway just east of Highmount. It was once known as the Saratoga of the Catskills because the Crystal Spring Water Company bottled pure spring water on a hillside overlooking the hamlet. A tourist mecca for half a century, the entire hamlet was recently named to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
What else is special about Pine Hill/Highmount?
- Several well-regarded restaurants — a reason to return over and over again!
- The Pine Hill Community Center. This is a thriving hub of multi-generational activity ranging from art workshops to film nights to Cabaradio, a home-grown live radio show that airs from the center four times a year.
- Morton Memorial Library. A classic stone edifice. Inside? Links to the modern world beyond and a busy schedule of activities for all ages and interests
- Town of Shandaken Museum. Housed in the 1925 School District No. 10, the museum, open most weekends, is a treasure trove of local history exhibits.
- Belleayre Beach. Rent boats and swim in the lake that is used for making snow at the ski center during the winter.
- Smith Park, at the intersection of Elm Street and Route 28. Playground, tennis and basketball courts along Birch Creek.