Are you looking to go on a Kaaterskill Falls Hike?
As a New York native and an avid hiker, I've had the chance to explore numerous trails, but nothing has entirely captured my heart like the Kaaterskill Falls hike. Nestled in the eastern Catskill Mountains, the Kaaterskill Falls New York is a sight to behold, a two-tiered waterfall cascading beautifully over 231 feet.
The moderate 2.3-mile round-trip hike, with its well-marked trails and multiple viewpoints of the falls, offers an engaging experience for novice and seasoned hikers. I highly recommend it for anyone that is looking for a cool but moderate hike in the catskills.
Visiting Kaaterskill Falls NY/Haines Falls NY
You have a number of options when visiting Kaaterskill Falls with hikes ranging anywhere from 0.3 to 2.5 miles round trip. It is perfect to do in a morning or even afternoon.
Whether you choose the shorter or longer hikes, you will find a, a gradual elevation gain of 400 feet adds a touch of challenge, making the journey equally rewarding for beginners and seasoned hikers.
Along the trail, you'll encounter multiple viewpoints, each offering a unique perspective of the majestic waterfall. The sight of the falls, tumbling in two tiers down a towering 231 feet, creates a mesmerizing spectacle. The roar of the cascading water drowns out the world, leaving you and Mother Nature in a symphony of sights and sounds.
One of the key things to remember on this hike is safety. While the hike itself is relatively short there have been some of unfortunate incidents. Howeve you can stay safe by sticking to the designated, marked trails throughout your hike. Off-trail excursions can lead to dangerous situations, as the terrain around the waterfall is rugged and steep.
Hike Length and Difficulty
The Kaaterskill Falls hike spans a manageable 2.3-mile round trip, making it a suitable choice for hikers of various fitness levels and experience.
Despite its moderate length, the trail doesn't hold back on delivering a slight challenge, with a 400-foot elevation gain that adds an element of adventure to the journey. This makes the hike engaging for seasoned hikers looking for a quick yet rewarding excursion while still being approachable for beginners.
However, it's essential to note that the terrain can sometimes be unpredictable, and some sections can be steep. Therefore, proper hiking boots (these are the exact ones I have) and careful footing are crucial to ensure safety.
The trail is well-marked and maintained, providing a safer and more enjoyable hiking experience. The combination of its manageable distance and moderate difficulty ensures that the Kaaterskill Falls hike offers a rewarding journey for all hikers.
Kaaterskill Falls Parking
If you're driving to the trailhead, rest assured parking is conveniently available. There are two main parking lots near the trailhead on Laurel House Road.
The first one, the Laurel House Rd parking lot, is the closest to the trailhead and is equipped with restrooms. But bear in mind its proximity to the trailhead makes it a popular choice so that it can fill up quickly, especially during peak hiking season or weekends.
The second option is the Schutt Road parking area, a slightly larger lot located a short walk from the trailhead. It's a great option if you're visiting at a busy time and find the Laurel House Road lot full. Both parking lots are free and open from dusk till dawn.
Remember that parking regulations are strictly enforced in this area, so park in the designated spots only to avoid fines. Also, it's worth noting that parking along Route 23A is highly discouraged and could be dangerous due to the heavy traffic.
Illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed and even towed. This minor logistic consideration will ensure your Kaaterskill Falls hike starts and ends on a positive note.
Getting to Kaaterskill Falls
Reaching Kaaterskill Falls is straightforward, whether you drive or use public transportation. Set your GPS to the Laurel House lot if you plan to drive. From New York City, it's approximately a two-hour drive. The quickest route is via I-87 N, exiting at Saugerties to take route 23A west into the Catskills. Follow signs for Kaaterskill Falls/Haines Falls.
Public transportation is also an option. The Trailways bus service runs from Port Authority in New York City to Palenville, about five miles from the trailhead. From Palenville, you can consider a local taxi service or enjoy a beautiful, albeit lengthy, walk to the trailhead.
Accessing Kaaterskill Falls
There are several different ways to access Kaaterskill Falls. You can access the falls from Laurel House Road, Scutt Road, or the North-South Lake Campground.
From the parking lot on Laurel House Road, follow the marked trail (yellow trail), which will lead you directly to the upper viewing platform. This short, relatively flat path and easy trail is around 0.3 miles long and is equipped with handrails and stone steps, making it easily accessible for most hikers.
For those seeking a more challenging route, the lower trail starts from the parking area on Route 23A. This trail is roughly 1.7 miles round trip and involves navigating stairs and steep inclines. Hikers are rewarded with an up-close view of thes magnificent Catskill falls after a brisk, invigorating trek.
If you're starting from the North-South Lake Campground, the trail to Kaaterskill Falls is a bit longer but offers a unique and scenic experience. The trailhead starts at the campground's South Lake Parking areas. (Look for the trail signs) Follow the blue-marked Escarpment Trail (blue trail), crossing the 115-foot bridge across Spruce Creek, leading you to Kaaterskill Falls.
This route is approximately 2.5 miles one way, making it the longest of the three access points, but it also offers the most diverse scenery. The trail meanders through towering trees, past tranquil lakes, and over streams, making it a nature lover's paradise.
While the trail is moderately complex due to its length and a few steep sections, the stunning views, wildlife sightings, and the breathtaking reveal of Kaaterskill Falls at the end make this route an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
Remember: the trail can be challenging for beginners, so wear appropriate hiking boots, carry plenty of water, and pace yourself.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike Guide From the Upper Trailhead (Upper Falls)
The hike to Kaaterskill Falls via the upper trailhead is a fantastic journey through the lush greenery of the Catskills. It's a short, easy walk from the parking lot on Laurel House Road to the viewing platform overlooking the top of the falls.
The platform offers an unobstructed view of the falls cascading down, with the verdant forest as a backdrop – a sight that's as breathtaking as it is humbling.
A newly built trail leads you down a series of steps from the upper platform. Be cautious, as these can be slippery when wet. The trek downward is steep, but rest spots allow you to catch your breath and soak in the views.
Upon reaching the bottom, the full grandeur of Kaaterskill Falls unveils itself. Feel the cool mist on your face from the powerful waterfall and enjoy the heartening sight of the creek flowing down the valley.
The trail continues along the base of the falls to a natural pool. This spot is perfect for a break, offering you the reward for your efforts – an up-close view of the majestic falls in its splendor.
While retracing your steps back to the trailhead, take a moment to appreciate the serenity of this natural sanctuary. The return journey is steep, so take your time and enjoy each step back towards the trailhead.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike Guide From the Lower Trailhead (Lower Falls)
The journey to Kaaterskill Falls from the lower trailhead is equally mesmerizing and provides a different perspective of the falls. The hike starts from the parking lot on Route 23A, following the Kaaterskill Rail Trail into the forest's heart.
Walking along the creek, you'll be immersed in the peaceful sounds of nature as the trail gently ascends through the dense, vibrant foliage.
As you progress, the sound of rushing water slowly grows louder, and soon, you'll catch your first glimpse of the majestic Kaaterskill Falls through the trees. The trail leads to the base of the falls, a truly awe-inspiring sight as you take in the towering cascade of water tumbling from above.
A pool at the base of the falls is a perfect spot to take a break and enjoy the cool, refreshing mist. Gazing up at the falls from the bottom offers a unique perspective and underscores the sheer scale of this natural wonder.
Respect the safety warnings and stay out of the water, as the rocks can be slippery and unpredictable.
The hike back to the parking lot is mostly downhill, making for an easy end to your adventure. As with the upper trailhead, remember to stay on the designated trails and respect the natural environment, ensuring Kaaterskill Falls remains a beautiful destination for generations of hikers to come.
Your journey through the lower trailhead promises a memorable Kaaterskill Falls hike experience that will likely have you longing for your next visit.
Visit the Kaaterskill Falls Viewing Platform
The Kaaterskill Falls viewing platform offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the magnificence of the falls in a safe and accessible manner.
Strategically located at the top of the falls, the platform provides an unobstructed, panoramic view of the water cascading down the two-tiered falls, surrounded by the forested beauty of the Catskills region. The platform is equipped with safety rails, ensuring a secure viewing experience for all visitors.
Through the seasons, the viewing platform delivers unique spectacles – the lush greenery in the summer, fiery fall foliage in autumn, the falls partially frozen in winter, and blooming flora in spring.
Despite the steady hum of the falls, the area maintains a serenity that allows for quiet contemplation and appreciation of nature's grandeur.
Accessible via a short walk from the upper trailhead parking lot, the viewing platform is a must-visit spot on the Kaaterskill Falls hike, ideal for photo opportunities or to pause and take in the awe-inspiring vista. I recommend arriving early as the platform is very popular.
Staying Safe While Hiking Kaaterskill Falls Trails
Ensuring your safety while hiking Kaaterskill Falls is important. As with all outdoor activities, preparation is key.
Firstly, it is crucial to wear proper hiking gear. Sturdy footwear with a good grip is essential to navigating rough and slippery trails. Dressing in layers is advised, as the weather can change quickly in the Catskills.
Carry a trail map and familiarize yourself with the route before hiking. It's also wise to check the weather forecast and avoid the trail in inclement conditions. Trails can be particularly treacherous after rain, with an increased risk of slippery surfaces and falling rocks.
Stay on the marked trails to avoid straying into dangerous or off-limits areas. Adhere to all safety signs and warnings, especially those regarding swimming. While the pools at the base of the falls may look inviting, swimming is strictly prohibited due to the strong undercurrents and hidden rocks.
Hydrate frequently and carry high-energy snacks to maintain your energy levels. Remember, you are in a natural habitat, so respect wildlife from a safe distance and never feed the animals.
Lastly, ensure you leave no trace of your visit. Carry any trash with you to dispose of properly. Preserving the pristine condition of the falls is everyone's responsibility. Following these safety tips, you can enjoy a memorable and safe Kaaterskill Falls hike.
Best Time to Hike Kaaterskill Falls
The allure of the Kaaterskill Falls hike is enchanting throughout the year, with each season offering its unique charms. However, if you're looking for the ideal time to undertake this adventure, late spring through early fall is generally considered the best period.
Spring brings a vibrant rebirth of the surrounding flora, with flowers blooming and trees regaining their lush greenery. It is also when you will see fewer crowds.
On the other hand, the fall is renowned for its breathtaking display of autumnal colors, painting the trees in red, orange, and gold hues. These seasons also see the falls at their most powerful, fed by snowmelt in the spring and rainfall in the autumn.
Summer hikes provide a warm, inviting atmosphere, and the cool mist from the falls offers a refreshing respite. The trail can be crowded during this time, but the camaraderie of fellow hikers adds to the overall experience. During the late summer, the water flow is at its lowest, so something to keep in mind.
Winter hikes present their unique challenges and rewards. The falls, partially frozen in a stunning display of icy artistry, are a sight to behold. However, the trails can be slippery and require careful navigation, so it's only recommended for experienced hikers.
I've only visited Kaaterskill Falls in the fall when the area is bursting with color; however, no matter the time of year, Kaaterskill Falls hiking is an unforgettable journey through nature's splendor. Preparing adequately for the season and weather conditions is key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable hike.
What to Pack for Kaaterskill Falls Hike?
A successful Kaaterskill Falls hike starts with packing the right gear and supplies. Here are some essentials to ensure a safe and comfortable journey:
- Hiking Boots: Proper footwear is crucial. Leave the flip-flops at home. You want to wear sturdy shoes. Opt for sturdy hiking boots like these with good grip to navigate the rocky terrain and slippery surfaces.
- Waterproof Clothing: It is strongly encouraged to dress in layers and consider waterproof clothing. (These are my favorite pants). Weather in the Catskills can be unpredictable, and being prepared for rain will make your hike more comfortable.
- Water and Snacks: Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout the hike. High-energy snacks like trail mix or energy bars can keep you going on the longer stretches of the trail.
- Map: A map of the trail will be vital in helping you navigate through the route. While the trail is well marked, having a map can provide additional peace of mind.
- First Aid Kit: A basic kit containing bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary personal medication is a good idea. Accidents can happen, and it's better to be prepared.
- Backpack: You'll need a good-quality backpack to carry your essentials. Ensure it's comfortable to wear and waterproof.
- Camera or Smartphone: Remember your camera (I love this one for our hiking adventures) or smartphone. Kaaterskill Falls offers stunning photo opportunities you will want to take advantage of.
Remember, packing light is essential, but so is being prepared. Take the time to pack wisely for your Kaaterskill Falls hike, and you'll have a memorable adventure!
Where to Stay near Kaaterskill Falls
Staying nearby is a fantastic option for hikers looking to maximize their experience at Kaaterskill Falls. The area around the Catskills offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different tastes and budgets.
- Catskill Lodge B&B: This historic B&B in Windham offers cozy, comfortable rooms and a hearty breakfast to start your hiking day right. Its proximity to the trailhead makes it an excellent choice for hikers. Click here for rates and availability.
- Scribner's Catskill Lodge: For those seeking a touch of luxury, Scribner's offers chic, modern rooms with stunning views of the Catskills. After a long hike, unwind at their on-site restaurant or the outdoor fire pit. Click here for rates and availabliity.
- The Graham & Co.: A trendy option in Phoenicia, this boutique hotel mixes rustic charm with modern conveniences. Guests can enjoy amenities like a pool, bikes for guest use, and an outdoor movie screen. Click here for rates and availability.
- Camping in North-South Lake Campground: For outdoor enthusiasts, camping in the North-South Lake Campground puts you in the heart of nature. The well-maintained campground offers easy access to several hiking trails, including Kaaterskill Falls. Click here for rates and availabliity.
Whether you're in a hotel room watching the sunset over the mountains or cozied up in a tent under the stars, staying near Kaaterskill Falls allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the Catskills.
Best Photos Spots at Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls is a photographer's paradise with majestic falls, verdant surroundings, and captivating wildlife. There are several great opportunities to take beautiful pictures of the great waterfall. Here are some of the best spots to capture stunning shots:
- The Base of the Falls: A classic shot, the base of the falls allows you to capture the full scope of the water cascading down from above. Try shooting at a slower shutter speed to get that silky water effect. This is our favorite spot for capturing the beautiful waterfalls.
- The Top of the Falls: A slightly more strenuous hike will reward you with an enchanting perspective of the water tumbling down to the basin below and the panoramic view of the Catskills. One of the best views followed by Giant Ledge.
- Bastion Falls: Located just at the beginning of the Kaaterskill Falls trail, Bastion Falls is a mesmerizing multi-tiered waterfall that offers captivating photo ops.
- Inspiration Point: A short detour from the main trail will lead you to Inspiration Point. This lookout offers a breathtaking view of the Kaaterskill Clove and is particularly beautiful in autumn.
- From the Viewing Platform: Erected for safety and conservation purposes, the viewing platform also provides an unobstructed view of the falls and is an excellent spot for a landscape shot.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike: FAQs
Before embarking on the exhilarating Kaaterskill Falls hike, it's natural to have a few questions about the journey. The following ‘Frequently Asked Questions' section addresses some common queries and provides the necessary information to ensure an enjoyable and safe hiking experience.
How long is the hike to Kaaterskill Falls?
The hike to Kaaterskill Falls is approximately 2.6 miles round trip, starting and ending at the lower trailhead. It typically takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how long you spend at the waterfall.
How difficult a hike is Kaaterskill Falls?
Kaaterskill Falls hike is considered moderate in difficulty. It has some steep sections and rocky terrain, making it a bit challenging, but it's well-trodden and suitable for most people with a basic fitness level.
Is Kaaterskill Falls still closed?
No, Kaaterskill Falls is currently open year-round to the public. However, checking for any local updates or temporary closures due to weather conditions or trail maintenance is advised before planning your visit.
Is Kaaterskill Falls safe for kids?
Yes, Kaaterskill Falls can be safe for kids, but due to some steep and rocky sections, it is recommended that children are always supervised. The trail may not be suitable for very young children or those unfamiliar with hiking. It is always advised to exercise extreme caution at all times.
Is Kaaterskill Falls Dog Friendly?
Yes, Kaaterskill Falls is dog-friendly. However, it's essential to keep your furry friend on a leash at all times for their safety and the safety of other hikers.
Are there bathrooms at Kaaterskill Falls?
Yes, there are bathrooms available at the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead. However, no facilities are on the trail once you start the hike, so plan accordingly.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike: Final Thoughts
Embarking on the Kaaterskill Falls hike is an unforgettable experience – a perfect blend of outdoor adventure, breathtaking scenery, and a touch of Catskills' magic. It's one of my favorite things in and around the Hudson Valley. This trail offers something for everyone, be it the thrill of the rugged terrain, the tranquility of the cascading falls, or the myriad photo opportunities that immortalize this natural wonder.
As you plan your visit, remember to respect the environment, stay safe, and enjoy the beautiful journey. I hope this guide proves helpful for your adventure. If you loved this post and want more content like this, check out my post on best hikes in the Hudson Valley.