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Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls



Overview of this Hike:

Distance: 1.69 miles round trip for both trails to the top and bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. Top of Falls (0.33 miles) and Bottom of Falls (1.36 miles)
Time: 1-2 hours round trip (hiking time)
Elevation Loss: 50' loss from parking lot for top of Kaaterskill Falls - 330' grain from the bridge to the bottom of the Kaaterskill Falls
Side Trips: Layman's Monument
Best Time to Hike: Mid-day for the top of Kaaterskill Falls and end-of-day for bottom of Kaaterskill Falls.
Difficulty: Easy most of the hike - easy-to-moderate climb to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls.
VO Map No: #20 on top - #11 on bottom
Catskill Highest: not a peak
Highest Elevation: 2,360'
Digital Mapper: Topo Terrain Satellite DEC-Trail-Map (pdf) DEC-GIS-Map Greene-County-Property-GIS-Map
Safety: Waterfall Safety Guide
Technical Info: Kaaterskill Falls
Technical Info: Bastion Falls
Attractions: Spectacular views Kaaterskill Falls (167' to first drop and 64' to the second drop (231' total - highest two-step water falls in New York)
Attractions: Nice view of Bastion Falls
Attractions: Nice views of Kaaterskill Clove
Unattractions: Parking lot for the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls is packed and overflowing every weekend in the summer.
Unattractions: Most popular trail in the Catskill Mountains.
Unattractions: LOTS of people visit this trail
Dangers: Falling off the Kaaterskill Falls. Very serious problem, and there have been many deaths over the years.
Dangers: Slippery rocks and roots on trail to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls.
Dangers: Bushwacking above the 64' drop is dangerous. Most bushwack up the right side of the trail. Many people have been killed here.
Common Animals: Coyotes, bears, birds, Hawks, frogs, butterflies (whites & swallowtails), and deer.
Risky Animals: Rattlesnakes and Copperheads (low), Bears (low on the bottom section - Medium on upper trail)
Access Methods: Foot.



Maps, Profile, and GPS files

Catskill Mountains Escarpment Trail
Click here to download the GPS file in gdb format (Garmin Version 3) - #2
Click here to download the GPS file in text format - #2




Directions to Trail Head to the Bottom of Kaaterskill Falls from the NYS Thruway

  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 21 (Catskill).
  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road.
  • Go approximately 1/4 mile
  • Take a right onto Route 23 West
  • Go approximately 6.6 miles to Cairo, NY
  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 32. McDonalds Rest. on corner.
  • Go approximately 7.7 miles on Rt 32
  • Take a RIGHT onto Rt 23A
  • Go approximately 6-7 miles on Rt 23A .
  • After going around the Horseshoe turn (by Bastion Falls), park 1/4 mile past the Falls at Rip's Lookout.

  • Directions to Trail Head to the Top of Kaaterskill Falls from the NYS Thruway

  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 21 (Catskill).
  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road.
  • Go approximately 1/4 mile
  • Take a right onto Route 23 West
  • Go approximately 6.6 miles to Cairo, NY
  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 32. McDonalds Rest. on corner.
  • Go approximately 7.7 miles on Rt 32
  • Take a RIGHT onto Rt 23A
  • Go approximately 7-8 miles on Rt 23A .
  • Climb up the windy mountain road (Rt 23A). When you reach the top, you will then be in Haines Falls.
  • Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road.
  • Follow North Lake Road until you reach Laurel House Road on the RIGHT side of the road.
  • Take a RIGHT onto Laurel House Road.
  • Go to the end of Laurel House Road and park at the turn-around.
  • Note: If you want to cross Lake Creek at high water, you will need to go further down North Lake Road to Scutt Road to get to the other side of Lake Creek.


  • Mile Post Chart for Trail to the Top of Kaaterskill Falls

    Mile PostAltitudeNotes
    0.002,360Parking Lot on Laurel House Road.Take trail/road that has a metal gate blocking road/trail
    0.222,212'Walk down the trail until the trail ends at the top of Kaaterskill Falls.
    0.442,212'Return back to parking lot the same way you came.

    Mile Post Chart for Trail to the Bottom of Kaaterskill Falls

    Mile PostAltitudeNotes
    0.001,700Parking Lot on Route 23A (above and past Bastion Falls - past Horseshoe turn over bridge). Walk down Route 23a to bridge running over Spruce Creek (just below Bastion Falls). When you walk down Route 23a, stay on the other side of the guard rails to avoid being hit by a car. Respect car traffic.
    0.221,645After walking over bridge, Take a LEFT and walk up the right side of Spruce Creek.
    0.681,969'After walking 0.46 miles up the trail, you will come to the base of Kaaterskill Falls.
    1.361,700'Return back to Rip's Lookout on the same path.

    Hike to the TOP of Kaaterskill Falls

    Kaaterskill Falls
    At the parking lot, walk past the metal gates and walk 0.22 miles down the trail.

    As soon as you go past the metal gates, you will see Rail Road tracks #1. If you follow the Tracks on the right, it will take you all the way to Twilight Park. Unfortunately, NYS land only goes half way to Twilight Park. It is overgrown just at the beginning of the trail. These rail road tracks run right next to the rim of Kaaterskill Clove and Kaaterskill Falls. Years ago, it had a fantastic view of the falls, but today the trees have overgrown the view point from 100 years ago. There are still rail road ties on these tracks.

    After walking part way down the road, it will turn slightly to the right. On the left, you will see a small trail that goes to the Left. The trail on the left will follow the old Laural House Road. You want to go RIGHT, and stay on the carriage road.

    If you look carefully on the left you will see the foundation of the old Laural House. There are now a lot of trees where the hotel used to be. The DEC burned the hotel to the ground back in 1967.

    You will also see several small trails on the right (just before you get to the Falls). They trails basically lead to nowhere. They actually lead to the side-walls of the valley which have an angle of about 70-90 degrees. These trails were formed by people looking for a way to walk around the rim. These trails will not achieve this goal. In fact, many people have fallen to their death by trying to follow them. This un-marked trail is very dangerous! If you want to walk around the rim, just follow Rail Road Tracks #1 just past the metal gates.
    North and South Lake
    Once you arrive at the top of Kaaterskill Falls, you will see several large rocks at the top of the Falls. You have arrived.

    Please note: Do NOT stand in the water near the top of Kaaterskill Falls. The rocks are VERY slippery. Many people have slipped, and have been sweeped over the Falls to their death. The first drop of Kaaterskill Falls is 167 feet and the second drop is 64 feet, for a total of 231 feet. Over the past 100 years, only one person has survived a fall off the upper Kaaterskill Falls. People generally do not survive falls into water over 100 feet. It is a miracle that one person survived the fall of 167 feet of the upper Kaaterskill Falls. During the dryness of the summer, the Falls only has a trickle, and people can walk across Lake Creek to the other side. But, if it has rained a couple inches, the creek is NOT passable. I cannot stress the importance of being careful. Kaaterskill Falls has claimed the lives of a great number of people.

    On the return trip, you can take a side-trip, by following the trail up Lake Creek. This way will be 0.33 miles instead of 0.22 miles.

    Hike to the BOTTOM of Kaaterskill Falls

    Kaaterskill Falls
    The picture on the LEFT is the main parking lot used for hiking to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. During the summer, this parking lot is packed full. After the parking lot is full people start parking along the side of the road for 1 mile up from this point, and 1 mile down from this point. During a summer weekend, there are often 100-to-200 cars parked at and near this point for hiking up to Kaaterskill Falls. As long as your car is completely off the road, you will not have a problem. If it is hanging into the road, expect someone to hit your car. Or, have it towed by the police. You cannot park by the bridge. The police just love to ticket people who park there.

    At the parking lot, walk across the street. Get on the OTHER side of the guard rail. Do NOT walk in the street. This is not New York City! In the country, people do not walk in the road, and drivers are not expecting people in the road. If you want to walk in the road, expect to get hit by a car or truck. There is plenty of room to walk behind the guard rails.

    Walk down the road 0.22 miles to Bastion falls.
    kaaterskill falls
    Once you arrive at the bridge by Bastion falls, you will leave the road and start on the dirt trail. The picture on the LEFT is a picture of Bastion Falls.

    You will see a sign that states that Kaaterskill Falls are 1/2 mile away. Leave the road and start walking up the trail. You will come to a DEC Registration Box 100 feet away from the road. Registering helps bring money to this trail for maintenance and work. The busy trails, get the most money.

    The trail can be wet and muddy during rainy periods.
    kaaterskill falls
    After 0.46 miles up the trail, you will come to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. When it has rained 4-5 inches several days prior to your visit, you will see the same view on the LEFT. When it hasn't rained, the falls are just a trickle.

    There is a closed trail on the right side of Kaaterskill Falls (looking up at the falls) that will take you to the top of the Falls. I strongly recommend that you do NOT take this trail. The reason it was closed was because it is very dangerous. Very experienced hikers will not take the trail. Every year someone falls off of the trail. Falling off this trail often results in death. There is a very long list of people who have been killed at Kaaterskill Falls.

    Some people do get up to the basin at the bottom of the upper falls. Some people have seen old pictures of ladies in long dresses walking behind the upper Kaaterskill falls. They then feel it is safe to walk behind the Kaaterskill Falls. These pictures are 100 years old. What the old pictures do not show is that they had wooden walkways behind the Kaaterskill Falls. There were also wooden stairs to the top of Kaaterskill Falls. This made it safe and easy to walk in those areas. Those wooden walkways and stairs are now gone, which now makes it very dangerous.
    Links and References:
    CatskillMountain.com Forum - Ask questions or tell us about your experience with this hike
    Catskill Mountaineer Technical Information on Kaaterskill Falls
    New York State DEC North/South Lake
    Catskill Mountaineer - Laural House

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