In the heart of the Catskills is an incredible 260-foot waterfall that is well worth the short trek to see. While there are many waterfalls to be found in upstate New York, we show you why we consider hiking Kaaterskill Falls as a must do activity!
The waterfall can be accessed from both the top (option one below) or the bottom (option two below). Our recommendation is option one, primarily to avoid the treacherous walk along a windy highway required for the lower access point.
The Kaaterskill Waterfall is located in Greene, New York. It took us just under 2 hours to drive from Manhattan. The closest town is Hunter, NY, which is about 45 mins away. However, Beacon, NY is only an hour away, making it an ideal stop if you’re visiting either area of upstate NY.
To get to the upper access parking lot, type “Kaaterskill Viewing Platform” into Google and you will get directions right to it. Do NOT type in “Kaaterskill trailhead” as this will take you to the lower falls access point. The trail head you want is at the end of Laurel House Road.
Once you get to the trailhead there is a large gravel parking lot with portages-potties. This hike can get crowded, so we recommend getting here early or you may not have a parking spot. We arrived around noon on a Sunday, and were only able to grab the last spot available!
If the parking lot is full, do NOT park on the side of the road as you may be towed. Instead, head back up Laurel House Road and turn right, in a short distance you will reach another parking lot (this can be located by typing these coordinates into Google). This will lead to a slightly longer hike into the falls, but is still worth the trek. As a last resort, it’s worth hanging around to wait for a spot to open up (if you have the time!).
The second option is to access the waterfall from “The Lower Falls”. However, as mentioned above, we don’t recommend this. Although it offers a shorter (but still steep) route to the falls, unfortunately, the parking lot is about 300 yards up the road from the trailhead, requiring a walk along the narrow highway shoulder to access. Especially in poor weather conditions, this is not the safest way to access the falls!
Hiking Kaaterskill Falls
The hike itself is pretty straightforward, with a well defined trail and directional signs at every trail junction. The hike is unique in that you begin by descending and finish by climbing! From the upper access parking lot, the hike is a ~2 mile roundtrip. As a word of caution, the trail has a long history of deaths along it, mostly from people going off trail. We cannot stress this enough — do not go off trail! When you get down to the falls, the rocks surrounding the trail become slippery and the off-trail terrain leaves little room for mistakes or poor judgment calls. With this being said, the trail itself is well-used and includes stairs and railings for the steeper sections, making this a doable hike for families.
The Kaaterskill Falls Viewing Platform
About 0.3 miles into the hike there is an option to go to the viewing platform, which we recommend! From here you can see the incredible grandeur of the waterfall from above. In the fall, you are greeted with the beautiful colors of the leaves as well.
By far the most challenging part of the hike is the 0.4 miles section of trail entering and leaving the waterfall. This section requires 375 feet of elevation change via stairs made from rocks and boulders. The footings can become quite slippery so wear appropriate footwear. While hiking boots are not necessary for most sections of hike, we still recommend them for handling these stairs as well as exploring the base of the waterfall.
Once you’ve explored around the base of the waterfall, all you have to do is head back to the parking lot! Overall, this is a great hike that is easily accessible by all. This hike is well-loved so be prepared to share the pathway with several groups. We visited November 29, 2020 and the trail was open. With all hikes, be environmentally conscious by bringing out what you brought in (i.e., food, garbage, etc.). With the popularity of this hike, we also recommend hiking with a mask to protect everyone on the trail. We hope you enjoy the natural beauty of the Catskills as much as we did!