This is the upper section of the Kaaterskill Falls trail in what could be done as one awesome hike to the lower trailhead now that the NYSDEC has updated the trail system (2016) in this area. It is some of the best trail work in New York if not the whole universe – haha.
However, for the purposes of this description, I will only review the trail from the upper parking area to the Kaaterskill Falls overlook platform. It may be the hike with the highest return on investment in NY. The trailhead is at the end of Laurel House Road.
First things first. It’s fairly simple, stay on the marked, well-graded gravel path.
You’ll see herd paths and cross paths, ignore them. Also, don’t be a victim and climb over the rails or take a side path to “get a better” whatever from the top of the falls. It could be the LAST thing you do.
In any case, the view from the Kaaterskill Falls observation deck is all you need, it’s wonderful. If you want more, walk the rest of the way down on the marked trail to the lower trail section on the steep stone steps pictured below.
To the upper falls from Laurel-House Road
The trail to the upper falls is well-graded and gravel. It is definitely accessible by hiking standards. In fact, not too many trailhead parking areas have handicapped spaces, this one does.
The NYSDEC website statement on accessibility for the trail states the following: “The Kaaterskill Falls trail [g1] from the Laurel-House Road parking area to the observation deck is .3 miles of 7% grade with 541 feet greater than 8% (the slope of a standard ramp). The trail is firm crushed stone 60 inches wide with a typical cross slope of 1.25% and 376 feet greater than 2%.”
The other thing you’ll notice about the parking area is that it is huge and has a handicap accessible and non-handicap porta potty.
Besides being nice, what this tells you is that this hike is an attention grabber and you’ll share this place with lots of people and their pets.
The trail leaves the parking area and enters a short but pretty section of white pine. It is only 0.3-miles from the trailhead to the overlook. The path is well-drained and graded so it is probably dry most of the time.
You’ll switchback downhill and at 0.2-miles reach a junction with a bridge that leads 0.1-miles to the Escarpment Trail to the North-South Lake Area or 0.5-miles to the lower falls.
Not long after that, you’ll reach a side path (L) that leads to Spruce Creek. There is no view here and the path near the fence heads back upstream to the bridge. Please don’t enter the stream to head to the falls here.
Continue on to the overlook.
Follow the trail for another downhill for another 0.1-miles to the overlook.
The view from the overlook is outstanding. Looking up and across the valley, you can spy Roundtop, a Catskill 67 peak, which sits just west of Kaaterskill High Peak.
The upper falls crashing down to your left and the scene of higher peaks on the right. The depth into the gorge is awesome. If you’re lucky enough to be alone, spend as much time here as you can and simply “soak” in the experience as in the video below.
|Kaaterskill Wild Forest|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Backcountry Emergency: (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): 518-408-5850 or dial 911
|Location:||Towns of Hunter and Catskill in Greene County and the town on Saugerties in Ulster County|
|Map:||View Kaaterskill Wild Forest Map - PDF (3.0 MB)|
|Amenities:||Lodging and dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies may be found in the communities of Hunter, Tannersville, and Pallenville.|