Welcome to the ultimate guide to hiking to Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills. Kaaterskill Falls is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in New York, offering a magnificent display of natural beauty. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with all the information you need to plan your hike to Kaaterskill Falls, including trail options, parking details, safety precautions, and nearby attractions. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a nature enthusiast looking for an unforgettable adventure, this guide is for you.

Key Highlights

  1. Overview of Kaaterskill Falls
  2. Trail Options to Kaaterskill Falls
  3. Distance and Elevation
  4. Best Time to Hike Kaaterskill Falls
  5. Parking for Kaaterskill Falls
  6. Safety Precautions
  7. Nearby Attractions
  8. Tips for a Successful Hike
  9. Updates and Additional Information

1. Overview of Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls is a majestic waterfall located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. With a height of 260 feet, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The falls are divided into two tiers, offering a stunning display of cascading water. The beauty and grandeur of Kaaterskill Falls attract visitors from all over the world, making it one of the most popular hiking destinations in the area.

The Catskills, known for their scenic beauty and abundant natural resources, are home to several impressive waterfalls. However, Kaaterskill Falls stands out for its sheer size and captivating beauty. The falls are nestled within the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, which covers an area of 7,620 acres and offers a range of outdoor recreational activities.

2. Trail Options to Kaaterskill Falls

There are multiple trail options to reach Kaaterskill Falls, each offering a unique hiking experience. The three main trails to consider are the Laurel House Road Trail, the Scutt Road Trail, and the South Lake Trail. Let’s explore each trail in detail:

Laurel House Road Trail

The Laurel House Road Trail is the most popular and well-known route to Kaaterskill Falls. This trail starts from the Laurel House Road parking area and leads hikers directly to the falls. The trail is approximately 0.6 miles long, making it a relatively short hike. However, don’t be fooled by the distance, as the trail is steep and rocky, requiring moderate effort.

Kaaterskill Falls landing

As you hike along the Laurel House Road Trail, you will be rewarded with scenic views of Spruce Creek, which cascades down the hillside. The trail follows the energetic flow of the creek, creating a picturesque backdrop for your hike. Keep in mind that during late summer, the falls may slow to a trickle, so it’s best to visit during a different season or after heavy rainfall.

Scutt Road Trail

The Scutt Road Trail offers an alternative route to Kaaterskill Falls, providing a quieter and less crowded experience. This trail begins from the Scutt Road parking area and joins the Laurel House Road Trail, leading hikers to the falls. The total distance of this trail, including the section along the Laurel House Road, is approximately 1.74 miles.

The Scutt Road Trail offers a more gradual ascent compared to the Laurel House Road Trail, making it a suitable option for hikers looking for a slightly easier hike. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and immerse yourself in nature.

South Lake Trail

The South Lake Trail is another option for reaching Kaaterskill Falls, offering a longer and more challenging hike. This trail starts from the South Lake parking area and follows a scenic path through the forest, eventually joining the Laurel House Road Trail. The total distance of this trail, including the section along the Laurel House Road, is approximately 3.12 miles.

The South Lake Trail provides hikers with a more immersive experience in the Catskill wilderness. As you hike through the forest, you’ll encounter diverse flora and fauna, adding to the adventure. This trail is recommended for experienced hikers who are looking for a longer and more physically demanding hike.

Hike Kaaterskill Falls

3. Distance and Elevation Gain

When planning your hike to Kaaterskill Falls, it’s important to consider the distance and elevation gain of each trail. Understanding these factors will help you choose the trail that best suits your fitness level and time constraints.

The Laurel House Road Trail is the shortest route to the falls, with a distance of approximately 0.6 miles. This trail involves an elevation loss and gain of 98 feet from the Laurel House Road parking area to the viewing platform and back.

The Scutt Road Trail, including the section along the Laurel House Road, is approximately 1.74 miles long. It has a slightly higher elevation loss and gain of 241 feet from the parking area to the middle of Kaaterskill Falls and back.

For those seeking a longer and more challenging hike, the South Lake Trail offers a distance of approximately 3.12 miles, including the section along the Laurel House Road. This trail involves a significant elevation loss and gain of 577 feet from the parking area to Bastion Falls and back.

Please note that these distances and elevation changes are approximate and may vary depending on your starting point and hiking speed. It’s essential to be prepared for the physical demands of the chosen trail and to pace yourself accordingly.

4. Best Time to Hike Kaaterskill Falls

The best time to hike Kaaterskill Falls depends on your preferences and the weather conditions. Each season offers a unique experience, and the falls can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, it’s important to consider some factors when deciding the ideal time for your hike.

Spring is a popular season to visit Kaaterskill Falls, as the surrounding landscapes come alive with vibrant colors and blooming flowers. The flow of the falls is usually strong during this time, thanks to the melting snow and increased rainfall. However, be prepared for muddy trails and the possibility of slippery conditions.

Summer is another great time to hike to Kaaterskill Falls, especially if you prefer warmer weather and longer daylight hours. The lush greenery and pleasant temperatures make for an enjoyable hiking experience. Keep in mind that the falls may experience reduced flow during drier periods, so it’s advisable to check the recent rainfall levels before your visit.

Fall, with its stunning foliage and cooler temperatures, offers a picturesque setting for hiking to Kaaterskill Falls. The surrounding forests transform into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, creating a breathtaking backdrop for your adventure. It’s important to note that the flow of the falls may vary during this season, depending on rainfall.

Winter hiking to Kaaterskill Falls can be a magical experience, but it’s essential to be prepared for icy and snowy conditions. The falls may freeze partially or completely, creating a unique and awe-inspiring sight. It’s crucial to wear appropriate winter gear and use caution while navigating the trails.

Regardless of the season, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before your hike and dress accordingly. Additionally, be aware of any trail closures or restrictions due to adverse weather conditions.

Hike Kaaterskill Falls

5. Parking at Kaaterskill Falls

Parking for Kaaterskill Falls can be a challenge, especially during peak seasons and weekends. It’s important to plan ahead and choose the appropriate parking location to ensure a smooth start to your hike.

The Molly Smith parking area on Route 23A in the Town of Hunter is currently closed to improve visitor safety. Additionally, the Town of Hunter has parking restrictions on Route 23A and Platte Clove Road. It is crucial to adhere to these restrictions and park only at designated DEC parking lots to avoid receiving a ticket or having your vehicle towed.

The recommended parking locations for hiking to Kaaterskill Falls are the Laurel-House Road, Scutt Road, or South Lake parking areas. These parking areas provide convenient access to the respective trails and are less crowded compared to other options. However, it’s important to note that even these parking areas can fill up quickly during peak times.

To ensure a successful hike, it’s advisable to arrive early in the day or consider hiking on weekdays when the trails are less crowded. If your preferred parking area is full, have back-up options in mind and be prepared to move on to an alternative location. It’s essential to respect parking regulations and be considerate of other hikers and visitors.

6. Safety Precautions

When embarking on a hike to Kaaterskill Falls, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and be aware of potential hazards. The falls have a history of accidents and fatalities, emphasizing the importance of following safety guidelines and staying on marked trails.

Over the years, there have been over 200 deaths at Kaaterskill Falls, many of which occurred due to hikers venturing off-trail or ignoring safety fencing and warning signs. It’s essential to understand that the safety features, such as fencing and signage, are in place to protect visitors and prevent accidents.

Hike Kaaterskill Falls

To ensure your safety and the safety of others, always stay on the marked trails and follow the designated paths. Avoid creating your own trails or veering off the established routes, as this can lead to dangerous situations. It’s crucial to respect the natural environment and refrain from any activities that may put yourself or others at risk.

Additionally, it’s advisable to hike with a companion or in a group, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area or hiking alone. Inform someone about your hiking plans and expected return time. Carry a map, compass, and any necessary safety equipment, such as a first aid kit and flashlight.

Keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains, so it’s important to be prepared for unexpected changes. Dress in layers, wear sturdy hiking boots, and bring adequate food and water to stay hydrated throughout your hike.

By following these safety precautions and being mindful of your surroundings, you can enjoy a safe and memorable hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

7. Nearby Attractions

n addition to the magnificent Kaaterskill Falls, the surrounding area offers several other attractions worth exploring. Here are a few nearby points of interest that you can visit during your trip to Kaaterskill Falls:

Bastion Falls

As you embark on your hike to Kaaterskill Falls, you’ll pass by a smaller yet beautiful waterfall called Bastion Falls. This picturesque waterfall flows past the trailhead and is easily visible from the road. Take a moment to appreciate its charm and capture some photos before continuing on your journey to the main attraction.

Hike Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Clove

Kaaterskill Clove is a scenic gorge located near Kaaterskill Falls. This natural wonder offers breathtaking views of towering cliffs, lush forests, and meandering streams. Take some time to explore the area and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Clove. Hiking trails in the vicinity provide opportunities for further exploration and discovery.

Other Points of Interest in the Catskills

The Catskills region is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. If you have more time to spare, consider visiting other attractions in the area. Explore the charming towns and villages, go hiking or camping in the Catskill Park, or indulge in the local cuisine and cultural offerings. The Catskills have something for everyone, making it a perfect destination for a memorable getaway.

8. Tips for a Successful Hike

To ensure a successful and enjoyable hike to Kaaterskill Falls, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  1. Wear appropriate hiking gear, including sturdy hiking boots, comfortable clothing, and layers to accommodate changing weather conditions.
  2. Carry a backpack with essential items such as water, snacks, a map, a compass, a first aid kit, and a flashlight.
  3. Familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles and practice responsible hiking by minimizing your impact on the environment.
  4. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout your hike.
  5. Pace yourself and take breaks when needed to rest and admire the surroundings.
  6. Respect wildlife and observe them from a safe distance. Do not feed or approach animals.
  7. Follow all safety guidelines and stay on marked trails. Do not venture off-trail or ignore safety fencing and signage.
  8. Be mindful of other hikers and maintain proper trail etiquette by yielding to uphill hikers and avoiding excessive noise.
  9. Check the weather forecast before your hike and be prepared for changing conditions.
  10. Inform someone about your hiking plans and expected return time for added safety.

By following these tips, you can have a safe and memorable hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

9. Updates and Additional Information

As of the time of writing, the Molly Smith parking area for Kaaterskill Falls is closed, and the preferred approach is to use the upper trailhead documented in the Kaaterskill Falls II trail guide. This trail guide provides detailed information on reaching the parking area that is still accessible and offers a more enjoyable hiking experience.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently working with Otak, Inc. to draft a Visitor Use Management plan for the Kaaterskill Clove area. This plan aims to address the increasing visitor numbers and ensure the preservation of the natural resources in the area. Public feedback and involvement are encouraged to shape the future management of the Kaaterskill Wild Forest.

For the latest updates and information on the planning process, visit the DEC website and stay informed about any changes or developments that may affect your hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

10. Conclusion

Hiking to Kaaterskill Falls is an unforgettable experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Catskills. With its towering height and captivating allure, Kaaterskill Falls offers a mesmerizing display of cascading water and picturesque surroundings. By choosing the right trail, being prepared, and adhering to safety guidelines, you can have a safe and enjoyable adventure to one of New York’s most iconic waterfalls.

Remember to respect the environment, stay on the marked trails, and follow Leave No Trace principles to ensure the preservation of this natural treasure for future generations. Enjoy the journey, take in the breathtaking views, and create lasting memories on your hike to Kaaterskill Falls.