Kaaterskill Falls Hiking Trail: Everything You Need to Know

I’ve been on the Kaaterskill Falls hiking trail dozens of times and explored it from several angles.

In this post, I want to share all the different ways you can enjoy this beautiful area in the Catskills and what else you can do there too and if you’re planning to go here for the first time, you’re really going to enjoy it.

Depending on what your level of hiking experience is and/or what you’re looking to do (regular overlook walks or incredible hiking adventures), this post will help you do just that.

kaaterskill falls hiking trail

Here’s some basic information about Kaaterskill Falls:

kaaterskill falls middle area 08

Where is it?

In the Catskill Mountains. It’s also one of the largest waterfalls in New York State.

Is it dangerous to hike to Kaaterskill Falls?

Most of the trails are safe. There are some dangerous options out there, but the main ones known to the public are pretty safe overall.

Is swimming allowed at Kaaterskill Falls?

Yes. There’s a swimming hole underneath the waterfall.

When is the best time to visit Kaaterskill Falls?

kaaterskill falls spring compared to fall views 06

Honestly, year round is fine. The only time it would be “dangerous” might be in winter when it’s icy and snowy everywhere. The main trail might be difficult to hike unless you have good hiking shoes (I recommend the Merrell Moab or the Salomon Speedcross shoes).

I’ve visited this place year round and felt the best time was in the fall during the color changes.

How long is the Kaaterskill Falls hiking trail?

It depends on which trail you take.

  • The shortest one is at the top of the falls, which starts at the parking lot and takes you to an overlook (1/4 mile).
  • The second is from the parking lot on route 23A to the base of the falls (about 3/4 miles).

Are dogs allowed on the trail?

Yes.

Here are some basics to know about the Kaaterskill Falls hiking trail:

1) Firstly, there’s actually several hiking trails to it.

Again, there’s 2 main ones and they are arguably the most popular (for the public).

The first one (easiest) begins at the parking lot by Laurel House Road. This will take you to the top of the waterfall and 2 options:

  • The Kaaterskill Falls viewing platform.
  • And there’s also a side path nearby that takes you to the very top of the falls (No guardrails, so be careful).

Either way, the path here is easy to follow, but it does zig zag a bit.

The second one (moderate) begins on road 23A (very scenic by the way), and has 2 parking lots near the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead (yellow trail). This will take you to a bridge, and behind it is where the trail begins, up to the base of the falls.

There’s also another beautiful waterfall you’ll see right by the bridge called Bastion Falls. This is a more rugged trail that takes about 3/4 miles to reach the base of the falls (it’s also the one I like most).

The first part of that trail is pretty steep, but then it levels out and gradually inclines from there.

Other than these 2 trails, here’s another one:

The yellow trail (option 2) actually takes you to the base of Kaaterskill Falls, then over the top and around it. It will lead you to North South Lake if you continue going on it.

kaaterskill falls hiking trail map

2) There’s 3 levels to Kaaterskill Falls:

kaaterskill falls hiking trail levels explained

  • You have the lower level falls (base).
  • Then you have the upper falls (middle).
  • Then you have the top of the falls (top).

Each of these points on the waterfall can be hiked to.

3) I recommend the Spruce Creek hike (parallel to the Kaaterskill Falls hiking trail):

kaaterskill falls hike along spruce river 01

As you take the yellow trail to Kaaterskill Falls (or down from it), there is going to be a river/stream running by it. This is called Spruce Creek. I normally hike up to the waterfall on the trail, but hike back down while hopping over rocks on that stream.

It’s very fun for me personally and it gets you close to some pretty beautiful sights. You won’t get lost because it’s literally parallel to the trail.

I only recommend doing this (it’s not a trail) if you enjoy parkour type activities and are experienced at it. It can be dangerous so I wouldn’t do it without proper footwear or when it’s icy or rainy outside.

4) There’s also a “cave” type area under middle falls:

kaaterskill falls hike under waterfall cave area 04

This is a cool location underneath Kaaterskill Falls you can explore.

To reach it, you have to first reach the middle falls, hike up to the top of it, and then you’ll see a “trail” underneath it.

The views under there are amazing and while it does get a bit tight there and requires kneeling, it’s still a fun activity to add to your trip to this falls.

Other hikes I recommend exploring near Kaaterskill Falls:

1) The closest one is Boulder Rock, and it is by North South Lake. In fact, that whole area has numerous hikes you can explore, all ranging in different levels of skill.

2) There’s also a “rail trail” from the upper area of the falls, by the parking lot.

3) Across the mountain of Kaaterskill Falls is another beautiful hiking area which you can find trails on within the AllTrails app.

4) There’s also plenty of hikes (and swimming holes) located off road 23A which you take to reach Kaaterskill Falls.

5) Another major hike to consider nearby would be Devils Path (very difficult trail).

6) There’s also parts of the Long Path hiking trail near this region too.

Waterfalls to explore near Kaaterskill Falls:

1) The first major one is Bastion Falls (again it’s right by road 23A which takes you to the main trail up to Kaaterskill Falls).

2) The second one is about a 20 minute drive from it, which is called Plattekill Falls (absolutely stunning too by the way).

3) There is also Buttermilk Falls which is about a 30 minute drive from there, and it’ll take you to the very popular Peekamoose Blue Hole in the Catskills.

4) Here is a list of other waterfalls in the Catskills to check out.

But overall, if you have only one day to explore this area, definitely make Kaaterskill Falls your main visit and if you have some extra time, explore North South Lake nearby and/or the Plattekill Falls area (highly scenic spot and scenic drive).

The hike itself is not difficult to figure out and all you really have to do is just plug in one of the spots into your GPS, and then follow where all the people are going. Other than that, if you wish to do more and see more, definitely refer to the articles I linked here and the info I shared, because as good as Kaaterskill Falls is, it’s just a small sample of the beauty you’ll discover in the Catskill region.

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