Many people travel to the Catskills and land in well-known areas - near top-rated resorts, ski lodges, or lakefront inns. A bit off the beaten path is Phoenicia, a small hamlet built for the outdoor enthusiast or dog lover.
The neighborhood, in the town of Shandaken, is tucked along Esopus Creek - which flows south into the Ashokan Reservoir - and borders over 47,000 acres of wilderness.
Just 20 minutes up the road from Woodstock, Phoenicia has little cell service and lots of trees. For an adventurous group, it’s the perfect weekend expedition.
Nestled beside the Slide Mountain Wilderness area with 35 miles of trails there are several beautiful sights that fall foliage and open winter views will enhance. Hiking and camping are available year-round and most trails are dog friendly.
The wilderness area is named for its most popular hiking trails on Slide Mountain. There are two trails to its 4,180 foot summit, making it the tallest mountain in the Catskills. The 9.75-mile loop, Burroughs Range Trail, is considered challenging, with 3,620 feet of elevation gain, the trail traverses three peaks: Wittenberg, Cornell, and Slide mountains. A more direct route to Slide starts at Oliverea Road South parking area for a total of 5.4 miles round trip. Hikers will follow the Phoenicia East Branch Trail to its juncture with Burroughs Range. Slide Mountain is a popular hike and is a required hike for membership in the Catskill 3500 Club.
For those looking for seclusion, Giant Ledge is a must. The ledges have two ascending trails, both moderately difficult.
Fox Hollow Trail, accessed from Woodland Valley campground, is approximately 6.8 miles round trip. Another trail, that starts at Oliverea Road South parking area, is 3.2 miles in and out. Both routes meet the Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain trail. The trail is rock-lined, some strategically placed as stepping stones in steep areas. Those rocks can make the hike difficult in spots and scaling is called for. However, the path is considered great for snowshoeing, along certain portions, as it is open year-round.
Dogs are welcome off-leash making it a fun experience for four-legged friends. Fresh water is available from a spring just off the trail about halfway up - marked by signs.
At the top of Giant Ledge, narrow paths weave around the summit leading to several secluded views. On a crisp winter’s day, hikers may find themselves in a snow globe featuring a rock cliff that lines the edge of the mountain and a view of the rolling Catskill Mountains. Its complete seclusion with hidden overlooks makes it one of the most unique hikes in New York.
A local hiker - while at the summit - said the views are some of the best in the area. “This hike is better than Slide,” he said. Social media has put this gem on the map for weekend travelers, the hiker explained, which is why weekdays are the best time to use the trail.
In the winter, he added, the leafless views are spectacular.
While vistas are expanded in the winter, the feeling of seclusion remains with trail-adjacent evergreens.
Camping is permitted at the summit of Giant Ledge. There are 24 primitive campsites and three lean-tos in Slide Mountain Wilderness area. Campers are permitted to pitch a tent in any location as long as it’s 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water.
If looking for a place to stay with more accommodations the Phoenicia Black Bear Campground has RV and tent sites along Esopus Creek. The campground is pet friendly.
Those searching for a more restful environment after the day’s happenings can visit the Phoenician Belle Bed & Breakfast. The establishment features breakfast following a stay in one of their restored Victorian-style rooms. Another local hotel is The Graham & Co. at the foot of Hunter Mountain with some trail heads nearby. The lodging is resort-like offering a swimming pool, hammocks, a badminton court, a fire pit, picnic areas, and bikes to explore with.
Phoenicia makes for a great day trip. The Phoenicia Diner is a local favorite serving breakfast all day from Thursday to Tuesday. If doing some shopping on Main Street, Sweet Sue’s Phoenicia is another breakfast spot right in the heart of Phoenicia. For dog lovers, Brio’s and Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina are the places to go. Their outdoor areas welcome dogs. Visitors should not be fooled; the two eateries are actually one. Food and drinks can be ordered at Brio’s, a number is given, and the food delivered to the table. Dining is very casual and family-friendly.
Phoenicia’s lack of traditional hotels and commercial attractions make it a fantastic place to escape and explore nature.