Review: Western Catskills Getaway

In 2018, two entrepreneurs pitched an idea on Shark Tank but got no bites. The idea? Renting out tiny house cabins in wooded areas not too far away from large cities to city dwellers seeking a getaway in nature without the need to own camping equipment. The Sharks missed out because the idea took off, and getaway outposts, as the company calls them, have sprouted near several large cities, including two New York locations.

The Location

We visited Getaway’s Western Catskills outpost near -spoiler alert- Downsville, New York. Getaway purposefully does not provide you with an exact location until the day of your stay, wanting you to venture into the wild without preparing. However, Google Maps has you covered and some preparation would have been useful as I found out. Getaway claims the location is under two hours away from New York City, but that is a bit optimistic. It’s about two hours from the George Washington Bridge and just under two hours from the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge.

Getting There

We left our house at around 11am, heading north towards the New York Thruway. Once on the Thruway, the GPS routed us through the Woodbury exit to Route 17. That takes you right past the hugely popular Woodbury outlet mall. As tempting as it may be, this trip is about getting away, not shopping, so we keep going.

Snow in April

On our way, we are reminded how drastically the weather can change heading to the Catskills. While it was a balmy 72 degrees in the NYC area, it started to storm just past Middletown. Within 30 minutes, the temperature plunged to 34 degrees and rain turned into snow. It starts to look a lot like winter outside, in late April. It would have been nice to pull into a rest area and wait out the storm, but Route 17, despite looking like an interstate, has no rest areas on this route.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, we reach exit 94 and Roscoe, New York. Roscoe is a cute little town with a tiny downtown that boasts an unusual amount of little stores on just one street. It also has two gas stations – the last gas stations you will pass. We didn’t need gas but a restroom would have been nice. Alas, perhaps due to covid, all the bathrooms are “employees only.” I am starting to regret the large soda for lunch. We need to keep going.

Russel Brook Falls Scenic Detour

Route 206 would have taken us us almost all the way to the Outpost, but there is one scenic opportunity on the way we did not want to miss – visiting Russel Brook Falls in the Cherry Ridge Wild Forest. Shortly after leaving Roscoe we make a left onto Morton Hill Road until we make another left onto Russel Brook Road. Russel Brook Road is closed during winter and opens April 1. Even though it looks like a winter wonderland outside, it is April 21 after all, so I take the position that the road is open. Confident all wheel drive can make it through a bit of snow we head down and aren’t disappointed.

The area around Russel Brook Falls is a hidden gem. For the more adventurous, it features a free primitive campground that’s open year round. Of course, no one was camping during a snow storm, leaving the area completely deserted. From the parking area, the falls are just a short hike back up the road. You can’s see them from the road, but you can hear them so just follow your ears. The waterfall is about 100 feet to the side of the road down a ravine. Be careful not to slip and fall into the narrow gorge as you approach them.

Checking in at the Getaway Outpost

This is the turn for the Getaway
The Front Desk
The “Front Desk”

The Outpost is just a short drive from Russel Brook Falls. As soon as you reach Pepacton Reservoir, make a right and the Outpost is the next turn onto Miller Hollow Road. This dirt road would be easy to miss as there are no signs but GPS saved the day. Only once we are on Miller Hollow Road do we see a small sign telling us to make another right towards the outpost. It is now 3:30pm, 30 minutes past check-in time, and time to check in and check out the cabin.

Checking in could not be easier – because there is no check-in. In the late morning, you receive the key code to the electronic door lock and the name of your cabin. Throughout the day, you receive additional text messages when the cabin is being cleaned and when it is ready for check-in. There is no front desk. Instead, there is an Outpost map showing you the way to your cabin and a red phone to call for help if needed. We did not need to use the phone because the finding the cabin is straightforward. There is a one-way road that loops around the Outpost site and to all cabins.


Cellphone Lockbox

The Getaway is all about disconnecting. It’s a place where you leave work calls, emails, and social media behind. You do not have much of a choice as there is neither cell phone reception nor Wi-Fi. I chuckled a bit when I received a text from Getaway warning me that there would be no reception and at the same time telling me to text any time during my stay if I needed anything. Oddly, Getaway also sends you a checkout reminder text, which you obviously won’t get until you are well on your way home. However, you are not completely cut off from the world. For safety, every cabin has a good old fashioned corded telephone in case of an emergency.

The Outpost

We stayed at the Cabin Madona, located on the inner side of the Outpost circle road. Looking at the site map, I was a bit worried the cabin would not be as private as I hoped but Getaway did a great job positioning all cabins (except for one – Pedro) so that the signature picture window does not face another cabin or the road. While you could see other cabins from the small side windows, with the shades of those windows drawn, it felt like we were in the middle of the woods alone. At night, I could barely make out a porch light in the distance. The cabins on the outer perimeter would have been even more private as they are facing the deep forest. The best part is that no one could see in through the main window. I left the main shade open all night and still felt very private. All cabins are like that, except for one – Pedro. Oddly, you can see inside that cabin heading down the main Outpost road.

The Cabin

The cabins come fully equipped with comfy bedding, kitchenettes with plates, posts, and flatware, as well as a bathroom with a flushing toilet and hot water shower with shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner. It also has a small selection of books, playing cards, a radio, a rechargeable camping lantern, and a free smores kit. Firewood is located outside in a plastic bin for $6.50 plus $2 for a kindling log.

I tried to build a fire to cook on bit did not have much luck in the snow. I saw our neighbors in the distance make a similar failed attempt at building a fire. With the temperature now dipping below freezing, I decided to retire inside the cabin and use the kitchenette instead. I immediately appreciated how cozy and warm the cabin was. This is not your ordinary drafty cabin in the woods. It is well-insulated, even the large signature window. I spent the rest of the night up against the main window, watching the snow fall, feeling no chill at all. At night, it felt like sleeping outside but with the warmth and comforts of a nice hotel bed. Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?

What to Bring

The Getaway concept wants you to be spontaneous and pack light. Indeed, the cabins only come with coat hooks and a tiny storage cubby. I felt relieved I did not have to pack any camping gear and could just jump in the car with a small backpack. In hindsight, I should have prepared a little bit as there were a few things I wish I had taken along on the trip.

First, bring a nice book. With no TV or internet, the cabin is the ideal place to sit back with a book free of distractions, especially when the weather is bad. The bed even has cute reading lights.

Second, bring snacks and food. Getaway offers a snack package for purchase, but it is expensive and not customizable. Being in nature makes you hungry and the dining areas nearby are extremely limited. I would also bring some tea bags for tea, unless you want to pay $2.50r per tea bag at the cabin. (c’mon Getaway, it’s a bit tacky to charge for tea – most cheap hotels offer free tea and coffee).

Third, bring some slip-on outdoor shoes. The inside of the cabin is carpeted, so you are supposed to take off your shoes. But the cabin also blends the outside and the inside, making you want to step out often to enjoy your outdoor living space.

Finally, download an offline map of the area before you go and research places of interest. I know this goes against Getaway’s idea of putting your cell phone away in a lockbox for the duration of your stay, but we felt a bit lost without a map. Of course, you could also bring a standalone GPS unit if you have one, or even a paper map. The cabin comes with a very rough map that shows you the general location of some sights, but not how to get there. The area has many back roads that often lead to a dead end.

Overall Verdict

Being out in nature relieves stress and fights depression. However, packing camping supplies isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and staying at a hotel room places you right back into a crowded space. I loved how Getaway allows you to stay mostly secluded in nature while enjoying all the comforts of a hotel. But unlike a hotel room, I enjoyed the cabin even during a storm. In a way, the storm made it feel cozier. When I told friends I would be staying at a cabin in the woods, they pictured something far less pleasant. I could not find anything comparable, save for renting someone else’s cabin on sites like Airbnb where you never quite know what you get. But Getaway cabins sell out quickly and the Outpost was nearly fully booked despite the weather. I am sure the Sharks are kicking themselves for not backing this project. If you have a car or can rent one, this is definitely something to try.

1 thought on “Review: Western Catskills Getaway

Comments are closed.