Just like the saying goes, you learn something new every day. Did you know that many people in the Hudson Valley claim that the famous Catskill mountain range doesn't actually have any mountains?

Unless you're a rock-obsessed geologist, chances are you're just as surprised as I was when I first heard the news. While tourists (and locals) love to hike, climb, and explore the legendary Catskills, there's a big reason why calling them "mountains" might be incorrect. Here's why.

Many people say that the Catskill Mountains aren't mountains at all... but why?
Many people say that the Catskill Mountains aren't mountains at all... but why? (Google)
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Are New York's Catskill Mountains Not Technically Mountains?

The Catskills are just as ingrained into Hudson Valley culture as the residents who live there. From hosting countless historic resorts to being the fictional resting place of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, the peaks and valleys in Ulster and Greene counties are legendary. But why wouldn't they be mountains?

Mountains, like the Appalachian range in New York, are formed when two tectonic plates collide
Mountains, like the Appalachian range in New York, are formed when two tectonic plates collide (
TectonicsObservatory via YouTube)
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How Mountains Are Formed

"True" mountain ranges, like the Appalachians, are formed when tectonic plates collide, with the debris of the collision forming huge piles of rocks, AKA mountains, high above the earth's surface (above). Generally, the strata (layers of sedimentary rocks) found in mountain ranges are vertical because of these collisions, but the strata in the Catskills are horizontal. Here's why.

Why the Catskill Mountains May Not Be Mountains

Instead of tectonic plates violently meeting, the Catskills started with the rising of an inland sea floor. While peaks of mountains are generally formed from the crumbling tectonic plates, the Catskills were most likely carved in relief, with wind and water wearing down certain areas of the seabed, leaving what looks like mountaintops today... So are the Catskills mountains or not?

Instead of tectonic plates colliding, scientists believe the Catskills were formed instead by wind and water carving into a massive plateau
Instead of tectonic plates colliding, scientists believe the Catskills were formed instead by wind and water carving into a massive plateau (Google)
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Are the Catskill Mountains in New York Really a Dissected Plateau?

If you want to be technical (and many people do) the Catskills can be classified as a dissected plateau. Some scientists, however, have pushed back, saying that the definition isn't accurate. Since a plateau has a "large part of its total surface at or near the summit level", and since most "parts" of the Catskills are not at the summit but rather in its wide valleys, some geologists insist they can still be called mountains.

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Mountains or not, the Catskills, along with New York's other famous ranges, have some phenomenal trails to explore. Check out some of the most challenging routes here, and keep scrolling to see some easier (but just as beautiful) options.

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