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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Kaaterskill Falls (summer) Hike - Catskills, New York

The first time we hiked Kaaterskill Falls was late March.  Snow fell on the higher elevations overnight and when we walked to the trailhead, there was a perfect white coating of snow on the ground.  We had microspikes and beanies, layers and gloves as we made our way along the trail and up to the top of the icey falls.  It was also just a few weeks into knowing Adam, less than a month when I casually suggested I had a weekend booked at a dog-friendly tiny house in the Catskills and if you wanted to come, you know, it could be fun (or weird, who knew). 

Turns out, it was an amazing idea and four months later, we were back at the same trailhead with the same happy dogs, this time in shorts and a t-shirt and lots of sunscreen.  We followed the same trail, this time blanketed in shades of lush greens and ashy browns.  The frozen waterfall was now a slow stream in the heat of July and the mist off the falls in the early morning heat was bliss.  

Kaaterskill falls is a popular hike any time of year, and in summer it can be a mob season.  But if you go early enough (before 8am on a Sunday), you can have solitude, sunshine, and the amazing misty spray all to yourself.  As we sat there at the bottom of the falls, reminiscing on that March trip, comparing and contrasting the "Then and Now" of the falls in the season, we made a sort of pact.  A pact to make it out to this waterfall at least once a year, best to be experienced at least once in all four of the seasons.  

Kaaterskill Falls July - Observation Deck

Kaaterskill Falls March - Observation Deck

This hike is a perfect trek in all four seasons due to its easily accessible nature and short distance.  The hike clocks in at 3-miles round trip to the top of the falls and back (much shorter if you just go to the base and back).  It is family-friendly, dog-friendly, and offers some amazing views of the waterfall and the valley below.  A wonderland in the winter, an oasis in the summer, and I can't wait to report back on this pretty little spot in the fall.  

Kaaterskill Falls July -View from the Observation Deck

Kaaterskill Falls March - View from the Observation Deck

Parking:  Parking for Kaaterskill (from the base) is off Route 23 about 1/4 mile past the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead (at the base of Bastion Falls).  Space here is limited and parking here requires walking down busy Route 23A (no sidewalk, barely any shoulder) to the beginning of the Kaaterskill Trail.  The road is winding, very narrow and the speed limit is a mere suggestion to speeding tourists.

Trail: From the trailhead off Route 23A (at the base of Bastion Falls at the hairpin turn in the road), follow the yellow trail along Spruce Creek to the base of Kaaterskill Falls.  At the base of the falls, continue up the stairs and keep following the yellow trail until you reach the upper area.  From here, you will cross the bridge and follow the signs for the Observation Platform.  From here, you have a great view of the falls from above Trail Map.

** There are several other ways to get to the falls.  You can park at Laurel House Road and hike down to the base of the falls (or just 0.2 miles to the viewing platform) and then continue down. 

Distance: 3 miles RT (from the parking lot, walking down 23A, to the base of the falls, up to the observation platform, and back). 

Elevation: 933'

Dog-friendly: Yes! On-leash

Get There Early:  This is a very popular spot in the Catskills - if you don't like crowds, get there early.  

Danger: There have been a number of deaths at the falls due to hikers and photo enthusiasts getting too close to the falls for a photo.  As the falls have increased in popularity so has the number of hikers who have visited the falls.  The short trail length also opens up the trail to a lot of different user groups.  While the exposed areas are roped off, some people feel that the rules to do not apply to them.  Throw in steep cliffs with slick mossy areas and you can see how accidents can happen here.  Stay within the trail bounds and respect mother nature. 

Kaaterskill Falls July- Observation Deck

Kaaterskill Falls March - Observation Dec

Kaaterskill Falls July

Kaaterskill Falls March

Bridge to Kaaterskill Falls Observation Deck (July)

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