Upper falls from the overlook

Kaaterskill Falls hike in the Catskills (upper trailhead)

This is the upper section of 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 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.

You can read about the lower section here.

Road sign for Kaaterskill Falls trailhead parking
Road sign for Kaaterskill Falls trailhead parking Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
First things first. It’s fairly simple, stay on the marked, well graded and gravel path.

Reason to stay on the trail
Reason to stay on the trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
You’ll see herd paths and cross paths, ignore them. Also, don’t be a victim and climb the 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.

Kaaterskills Falls Upper trail sign
Kaaterskills Falls danger sign Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Remember it’s a dangerous place (even if you follow the restrictions) you can read about the incidents here, here, and here. Oh and HERE.

In any case, the view from the 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.

Steep steps on the Kaaterskill Falls Trail
Steep steps on the Kaaterskill Falls Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

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%.”

Trailhead information and register
Trailhead information and register Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
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.

Kaaterskills Falls upper trail parking area
Kaaterskill Falls upper trail parking area Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
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.

Hikers with Dog
Hikers with Dog Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
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 is probably dry most of the time.

Departing the trailhead into the White Pines
Departing the trailhead into the White Pines Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
You’ll switch back down hill 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.

Trial sign to the Escarpment and Lower Falls
Trial sign to the Escarpment and Lower Falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Bridge going to the Escarpment Trail and lower falls
Bridge going to the Escarpment Trail and lower falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
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.

Hikers along Spruce Creek above the falls
DANGER: Hikers along Spruce Creek above the falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Continue on to the overlook.

Sign from junction to the overlook
Sign from junction to the overlook Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Follow the trail for another downhill for another 0.1-miles to the overlook.

Viewing platform at upper Kaaterskills Falls
Viewing platform at upper Kaaterskill Falls with Kaaterskill High Peak Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The view from the overlook is outstanding.

Upper falls from the overlook
Upper falls from the overlook Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
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.

From here simply retrace your steps the 0.3-miles back to the parking area, head down to the lower falls, or jump onto the Escarpment Trail for some more great hiking.

Happy hiking!

Kaaterskill Wild Forest
Contact Information:DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Email: r4.ump@dec.ny.gov
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.