Kaaterskill Falls Hiking and Parking Guide
The Northern Catskills Mountain in Greene County of upper New York state holds one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the east coast. On Spruce Creek, a two-stage waterfall is found, known as the Kaaterskill Falls. The Kaaterskill Falls gets its name from the Kaaterskill Wild Forest where it’s located, so you might run into many people calling the waterfalls “Kaatskill.”
The waterfalls are a major attraction not just to New Yorkers, but out of state and country visitors, hikers, and nature lovers. They have been depicted in many poems, novels, and paintings. There is even a novel titled “Kaaterskill Falls” by Allegra Goodman (1998), set in the Catskill Mountains in New York.
Kaaterskill Falls Directions
The Kaaterskill waterfalls are located about half a mile of Route 23A in Hunter, NY in Kaaterskill Wild Forest.
There are multiple parking locations for visitors and hikers to park their cars and decide how they are going to hike up to Kaaterskill Falls. Choosing where to park really depends on available space when you arrive there and your preference of hiking up or down first.
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Park Down to Hike Up
There is a parking lot (Molly’s Parking Lot) right across the Bastion falls on Route 23A on the left side as one drives up the mountain. Space here is limited and walking down to the beginning of the Kaaterskill Trail along Route 23A is not the safest possibility. The road is narrow, and cars go fast, so you will have to walk along the edge of the road with passing cars.
Park Up to Hike Down
Another option is parking at Laurel House Rd parking lot. This is a new parking lot, made to ease the dangers of walking on Route 23A for those visiting the waterfalls. But this parking lot offers a lot of choices.
First off, the Kaaterskill Falls Viewing Platform is located just a short distance from the Laurel House Rd parking lot. It gives a magnificent view of the Kaaterskill waterfalls from above. If you do end up parking below, after visiting the waterfalls from below, make sure you walk to the upper platform to get another scenic view.
Second, the Kaaterskill Rail Trail starts right from the Laurel House Rd parking lot. It’s a 5-mile trail that shows you part of thе American railroad history.
The Lesser Known Parking lot
Scutt Road Parking lot is only a half-a-mile away from Laurel House Rd parking lot on N Lake Rd. I believe this is a better option for those that want to go to Inspiration Point (Blue Trail) first instead of the Kaaterskill Falls. Scutt Road Parking lot is also used for horseback riding.
Hiking Trails in the Kaaterskill Wild Preserve
Yellow Trail – Kaaterskill Falls Trail
Hiking from Lower Parking Lot (Route 23A) – 0.5 Miles
If you are coming from Bastion Falls (that’s that small waterfall you see on Route 23A), you will see a sign for the Kaaterskill Falls. This is where the Yellow Trail begins.
The walk to the lower platform of the waterfalls is easy. However, walking up the steps to reach the middle platform (the lower point of the second and highest drop), is not easy and not for everyone. The steps are very narrow, and space is limited especially with multiple people going up and down at the same time; not to mention the dogs.
If you do want to continue further, then I would suggest going right from the top of the steps, away from the waterfalls, and follow the yellow trail up the mountain. The trail will intersect with the Blue trail in about 0.4 miles (0.64 km). The hike is not hard, but the path is narrow and there are lots of rocks, so be careful it might be slippery.
Once you reach the Blue trail, turn left to go to the Upper Kaaterskill Falls Viewing Platform. There are signs to guide you to the platform, so don’t worry about getting lost. Hiking up to the viewing platform will worth the while. The view of the Kaaterskill Falls is absolutely magnificent and unforgettable.
Hiking from Upper Parking Lot (Laurel House Rd.) – 0.7 Miles
From the parking lot on Laurel House Rd, you will have to enter the forest following the path by the Information Board and Map. This is where the Yellow Trail begins from the top of the waterfalls. Follow the path down until you see a small bridge on your left and a sign for the Viewing Platform on your right.
This is a short walk of 2-3 minutes only (0.2 miles (0.32 km)), and it’s very easy to walk.
I would recommend taking a few minutes and walking to the viewing platform to see the Kaaterskill Falls from above. It’s a wonderful experience, and it gives you another perspective of the waterfalls and the surrounding nature.
When you are done, walk back to the intersection by the previously mentioned bridge. Spruce Creek passes underneath this bridge. As you get off the bridge, you will see a sign to the right for the Blue Trail and Kaaterskill Falls (Yellow Trail).
Go to the right and take the Blue trail, which will lead you the Yellow trail. The hike is very easy and only a short distance. There will be another intersection just as short while. This will intersect the Blue and Yellow trails. The Yellow trail will be on the right, and the Blue trail for Inspiration point will continue straight on.
Take the Yellow trail to the right to go the Kaaterskill Falls. Be careful and take precaution. Even though this trail is easy (0.4 miles (0.64 km)) to hike, the path is narrow and rock at places. If it’s wet, it’s probably slippery. You will hear the waterfalls as you are getting closer. As you approach them, there are stairs that will lead you to the lower platform (the second drop or lower drop), or you can go straight to see the higher drop.
After taking in all that beauty and want to hike some more, you can go back to the Blue trail to go to Inspiration Point passing along the way the Layman Monument and Sunset Rock.
Blue Trail – Escarpment Trail (Layman Monument and Inspiration Point)
Hiking from Lower Parking Lot (Route 23A) – 2 Miles to Inspiration Point
If you ended up hiking up the Yellow Trail to see the Kaaterskill Falls, possibly even went to the Upper viewing platform, and want to continue on to see the Layman Monument, Sunset Rock, or Inspiration Point, then you will have to turn right on the Blue Trail as they intersect.
The path down to Layman Monument is very wide, but rocky and the certain parts do get flooded after rain or snow. The hike here is very easy, and it offers a lot of beautiful scenery and viewpoints (0.4 miles (0.64 km)). Another 0.7 miles (1.13 km) are needed to reach Inspiration Point passing along Sunset Rock.
Hiking from Upper Parking Lot (Laurel House Rd.) – 1.3 Miles to Inspiration Point
As mentioned previously when hiking from Laurel House Rd. parking lot toward the Kaaterskill Falls, you will begin on the Yellow trail. That will lead you to go over a small bridge to cross over the Spruce Creek, which will lead you to the beginning of the Blue Trail.
From here you can hop on the Blue trail and travel as far as you like. Most people go to Inspiration Point while stopping at Layman Monument and Sunset Rock on the way.
Kaaterskill Rail Trail – 1.5 Miles
The Kaaterskill Rail Trail starts at the Laurel House Rd parking lot and goes down to the Mountain Top Historical Society. You can actually see and stop at the Mountain Top Historical Society on the way to the Laurel House parking lot when you get off Route 23A and onto North Lake Road.
It’s a pretty cool trail that takes you over railroad tracks and back in time to the American Railroad industry in the 19th century.
Camping at Kaaterskill Falls
Camping is not allowed around the Kaaterskill Falls trail or surrounding trails in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. However, there is a campground called North/South Lake Campground not too far from Laurel House Rd parking lot on N Lake Rd.
As the name states, there are two lakes at the campground, North Lake and South Lake.
Pets at Kaaterskill Falls
Dogs are allowed at the Kaaterskill Falls and in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. I even brought my boxer, Paker, on this hike, and he loved every minute of it.
Word of caution, be careful going up and down the stairs by the waterfalls. They are wet, narrow, and slippery. If your dog is hyper or barks at everything, beware there is constant traffic of people and other dogs as the Kaaterskill Falls are a very popular weekend attraction.
Lastly, it’s a carry-in carry-out wild forest, so pick up after your best friend. Don’t litter.
Deaths at Kaaterskill Falls
When hiking at the Kaaterskill Falls, be careful. There have been many deaths around the Kaaterskill waterfalls due to the hard and slippery terrain. At least two deaths in 2014 and two more 2016 have been reported.
The Department of Environmental Conservation of NY State received $800,000 2017 for improvements in the area, including safety. Yet, there is a newly reported slip-and-fall in 2018 of a hiker. The hiker, who decided to ignore the warning signs, fell off a steep slope after diverting from the hiking trail and his group. Even with the quick response from the state rangers and medical help, the hiker did not make it.
Even though the proper authorities are taking precautions to make the trails as safe as possible, it’s up to the visitors and hikers to use the best judgment for each and own personal safety as well as of others.
Follow the warning signs, don’t steer off the hiking paths, and be safe while hiking at the Kaaterskill Falls.
Get the Kaaterskill Waterfalls Hiking and Kaaterskill Wild Forest Maps
Before heading out, grab the Kaaterskill Falls hiking map below and our free hiking checklist: