A couple years ago, when great Airbnbs were much harder to come by–and by the way, they still can be–Denny and I discovered Red Cottage Inc., a boutique rental agency that specializes in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. We were really excited, and understandably so if you’ve ever spent hours and hours surfing through rental websites. Finding Red Cottage and its curated list of rental homes was a gem in the rough, making the search for great properties to feature on Escape Brooklyn much easier for us. Each of their 30-something rentals in the region are totally unique–perhaps because so many owned by creative types like artists, designers and writers. Plus, every house seems to have a drool-worthy feature, whether it be minutes from a great hike, a fireplace, hot tub, or a fantastic view. Our favorite Red Cottage rental, Wildcat Mountain Cabin, has all of those things.
If some of the photos look familiar, it’s because this was our second time staying at Wildcat Mountain Cabin. The first time was two years ago, during the polar vortex, where we surprised our followers (and ourselves) by posting photos from a hot tub during subzero temperatures. (For the record, it was blissful.) During our first visit, we gushed over the fantastic view, but also the intoxicating smell from Wildcat Cabin’s huge wood stove. It was a winter weekend from heaven. Our second stay here basically repeated the first–cooking, hot tubbing, curling up by the fire, taking a bath in the bedroom, sleep, repeat.
The two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin is located in Claryville, 125 miles from the heart of New York City. The living room–actually, the entire house itself–is everything a cabin in the mountains should be: pine floors, walls, and ceilings, massive exposed beams, cozy furniture, furs, maps and art hanging from the walls. The East side of the cabin is made almost entirely of windows and sliding doors, allowing views over a nearby mountain, where the sun rises and fills the house with light every morning. Personally, I was so enchanted by the sunrise that I set my alarm for a half hour before, made a fire in the wood stove, then watched the show from under a big blanket on the couch. It’s spectacular. (And as soon as it’s done, it’s back to sleep in front of the fire!) Whether you’re watching the sunrise from the couch, stargazing from the hot tub, taking an outdoor shower, or hanging out at the fire pit, you can’t help but feel connected to nature here.
What to Do Around Wildcat Mountain Cabin: Hike to a Fire Tower, Find a Swimming Hole, Explore Buttermilk Falls
There are two really outstanding hikes in the immediate area of varying difficulty. The first, Red Hill Fire Tower, is relatively easy. This 2.5 hour round-trip hike affords some of the views in the Catskills, thanks to the fire tower at the top, allowing a 360º overlook. It’s just fifteen minutes down the road from Wildcat Mountain Cabin, making this the much more casual option for a hike. The second is much more intense, but worth it–Slide Mountain, whose trailhead is about twenty minutes from the cabin, is the highest peak in the Catskills. It’s a 4.5 hour hike, with a nearly 2,000 foot elevation gain from the parking lot, for a grand total of 4,180 feet. The hike shouldn’t be done on a whim, but the views from the top are stunning–just come prepared! (On that note, for any hikes during winter you’ll need microspikes or other appropriate footwear. Don’t expect to do either of these hikes, even the easy one, in sneakers during the winter.)
During warmer months, be sure to check out a waterfall or swimming hole in the area. Thirty minutes away in Big Indian, Peekamoose Blue Hole is consistently listed in top ten lists for swimming holes in the United States. The water is simultaneously crystal clear and freezing–luring you in to its depths, if only briefly. Also about thirty minutes away, Buttermilk Falls is a beautiful 46-foot waterfall on the side of scenic Route 42, and is worth visiting just to take a few photos, but you can also walk around it. (Read this Watershed Post article on the ten best waterfalls in the Catskills for more information, including directions.) By the way, if you end up at either of these spots for an afternoon, you should check out Peekamoose, arguably the most popular restaurant in the Catskills. The restaurant is owned by a couple of NYC ex-pats who moved to the mountains to be closer to where the farms where their food comes from. The menu changes seasonally and is always delicious; reservations are recommended.
Last, the Frost Valley YMCA is just down the road from Wildcat Mountain Cabin and has a great facility; it’s also the biggest Y in the state. On the scenic drive through their property on Denning Road, you’ll want to pull over again and again for views over the East Branch Neversink River, century-old barns and perfect log cabins. Check out their website for a calendar of activities like fly fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. For even more ideas, check out Red Cottage’s area profile for Claryville and Grahamsville.
Where to Eat and Drink around Wildcat Mountain Cabin
As always, with cabins, we recommend stocking up on groceries and enjoying a kitchen that is no doubt 3 times the size of your own. The house has a full kitchen, with every utensil and staple ingredient you could need; it also has a gas grill. On your way upstate, you can stop at the mega-sized Hannaford in Middletown to stock up; then hit the liquor store just down the street for a bottle of bourbon or wine at Vineyard Wines & Liquor Shop. If you forget anything, Eureka Market is a fantastic gourmet market just 15 minutes down the road from the cabin, but it might not have everything you need for a whole weekend. Instead, we like to stop in for lunch at their cafe then get supplemental ingredients, or just stock up on their selection of upstate-made jams, pastas, cheese, etc. They also have a great selection of wine and beer.
If it’s outdoor market season, make sure to stop by one of the many farm stands or farmers markets in the area. The closest farmers market is in Liberty, but check Sullivan County Farmers Markets for a schedule of events throughout the region. Many farms in the area have farm stands where you can pick up fresh eggs, fruits, veggies and even baked goods; see Pure Catskills for a list of those, but also just keep your eyes peeled for roadside goodies. Our favorite in the area is Neversink Farm, closeby in Claryville, whose products are completely organic on a small 1.5 acre farm.
As far as dining out goes, this part of Sullivan County is still very much bucolic, with not much going on. (The area also recently lifted its 80 year ban on alcohol, which made it difficult for restaurants to open and survive.) That said, there’s a couple places that are worth the drive. A thirty minute trip will take you into Livingston Manor for the Arnold House, which has a fantastic little tavern open for lunch and dinner. For a fresh sandwich or salad, try out Main Street Farm and in warm months, sit on their back patio which overlooks a creek. Also in town is the amazing Catskill Brewery, where we love the Floodwatch IPA. One town further up will take you to Roscoe, the birthplace of fly-fishing. This “drinking town with a hunting problem”–or so say the tees at Prohibition Distillery in town–has no less than 6 hunting and fishing shops, and is also home to a brewery, fantastic handmade pasta, and lots and lots of fishing.