5 Family and kid-friendly Hikes in the Catskills

At the Roaring Brook trail head
Average read time 6 min

What makes a hike great for young families? In our experience, it’s the small things. No, really, small things. Bugs, cool plants, frogs, caves, water, and some views. More leisurely, the better.

Small children don’t care about peak bagging. They’re into simple fun.

One of the best things you can do for your young hiker is to let them hike. Pick hikes that your child can walk on their own, at least part of the way. Carry them when you must. However, the more they walk, the more they will explore. With this exploration, they will learn how to hike and have fun.

That’s your goal with your young family members. Fun.

We have handpicked five hikes with varying degrees of difficulty and all about 1.5 to 2 miles round trip with lots of stuff to engage your kid. Two of them could make nice winter snowshoe trips. One was included as a young person’s first backcountry camping destination to a lean-to.

Tip: Bring stuff in the car to entertain younger hikers as some of these trailheads are a bit remote AND have a post-hike tradition; ours is ice cream.

Recommended reading: Hiking & Backpacking Traditions That We Love

Roaring Brook and Pecoy Notch Trail to Dibbles Quarry

At Dibbles Quarry
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking At Dibbles Quarry

The hike to Dibbles Quarry is fun but is the most difficult of the 5 hikes as it climbs 400 feet.

You may have to carry the little ones on some of the short climbs, but there is much to see along the way. The big payoff is the quarry and the view.

Along the way, you’ll cross a couple of streams, find a small “cave” on your right (you’ll need to look for it). There are some impressive cliffs to view on Sugar Loaf Mountain’s Ridge before you reach the quarry.

Just above the quarry is a designated campsite. It would be a great first “backcountry” camping experience for a young hiker.

Young Chris camping at Dibbles Quarry in the Catskills
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Young Chris camping at Dibbles Quarry in the Catskills

Tip: If you camp here, find the small ledge just downhill from the campsite above the quarry to have breakfast as the sun rises over the Hudson Valley. It’s sure to inspire any hiker at any age!

The real prize is the view from the quarry. An amazing view as if one has climbed to a high summit!

Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking View of Roundtop and Kaaterskill High Peak from Dibbles Quarry

2.0 miles round trip (involves climbing)
Best: Spring, Summer, Fall

Roaring Kill Trailhead, Green County NY (Google Maps)

Indian Head Wilderness Recreation Map (DEC)

Peck Road to the Elm Ridge Lean-to

From the designated sites behind the Elm Ridge Lean-to
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking From the designated sites behind the Elm Ridge Lean-to

The Elm Ridge Lean-to is a favorite destination for camping and makes a great “basecamp” for young hikers climbing Windham High Peak. You can camp in the lean-to or your tent at the designated area behind it. Either way, the Elm Ridge area is a lovely setting as a place to camp.

This can be a great place for a first overnight camping experience.

From Peck Road, this is an easy hike that will please most families. With two routes to choose from, you can go very easy or get a more wilderness feel on a new Cranberry Bog Trail. The Elm Ridge Trail is most direct and more straightforward. You can break at the lean-to for lunch or a snack at about one mile from the trailhead. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers riding the trails on the upper section of Elm Ridge.

2.0 miles round trip
Best: Spring, Summer, Fall
Okay: Winter

Peck Road Trailhead, Green County (Google Maps)

Elm Ridge Recreation Map (DEC site)

Diamond Notch Falls

Diamond Notch Falls in the Catskills
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Diamond Notch Falls

This is a favorite destination for many hikers and one of the most pretty falls in these mountains.

At about a 1-mile level walk from the trailhead, it attracts people for all sorts of reasons. We have seen kids swimming, backpackers stopping on their way through to other places, painters and photographers, and young families. But one thing they all have in common is – they are having fun. Just a word of caution, the area around the falls can be very slippery, and in winter, the creek ices over, but you can fall through.

1.5-mile round trip
Best: Spring, Summer, Fall
Okay: Winter

Related post: Diamond Notch Falls a Great Family Hike

Diamond Notch Trailhead, Spruceton RD, Green County (Google Maps)

Hunter – West Kill Wilderness Recreation Map (DEC site)

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Mine Kill Falls

Above Mine Kill Falls
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Above Mine Kill Falls in the Fall

The falls are simply awesome.

Although not with-in the blueline of the Catskill Park, the hike is definitely in Catskill territory. On an observation deck, you can view the falls from the top or hike down to the base. You can hike from Mine Kill State Park to the falls or take a drive over to the park after, and go for a swim in the pool, picnic, or play a round of disc golf!

Tip: No charge for admission to the park or pool.

1.5-mile round trip (involves climbing)
Best: Spring, Summer, Fall

Related post: Mine Kill State Park and Mine Kill Falls

Trailhead, State Route 30, Schoharie County (Google Maps)

Mine Kill State Park Hiking Map (Falls trail at bottom of map)

Pratt Rock (AKA: New York’s Mount Rushmore)

View from the top of en:Pratt Rock in Prattsville, New York.
Austin Donisan – via Wikimedia Commons View from the top of Pratt Rock in Prattsville, New York.

In the small hamlet of Prattsville, there is a gem of a hike.

The hike up Pratt Rock is short but steep. However, the rock carvings by Zadock Pratt and his life will surely keep any kid interested. The view from the upper reaches of the trail is excellent. Trivia: Pratt Rock Park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not once called it “New York’s Mt. Rushmore.”

1.5-mile (involves climbing)
Best: Spring, Summer, Fall

Related post: Pratt Rock a Catskill Family-friendly Hike

Trailhead for Pratt Rock, Prattsville, Green County

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