Kaaterskill Falls is one of the prettiest (if not THE prettiest) waterfall in the Catskills. It is one of those iconic places in the Catskills that should be on your list of must-dos in the Catskills. Kaaterskill Falls was one of the first places we visited in the Catskills (along with Hunter Mountain) when we first visited here. A great thing about Kaaterskill Falls, besides being beautiful, is that it is accessible to most people and requires very little hiking to see. Follow along this blog post to see how you can visit Kaaterskill Falls!
About Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls is a 260 foot tall waterfall with two separate drops. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State. Kaaterskill Falls has actually been pretty famous for several hundred years. It was a huge tourist destination in the 1800’s and 1900’s. Many famous artists painted Kaaterskill Falls, and the falls even appear in literature such as “Rip Van Winkle.” Today it is still just as popular, but preserved as part of the North Mountain Wild Forest.
How do you get to Kaaterskill Falls?
Kaaterskill Falls is located in the upper Catskills region of New York. The closest towns to Kaaterskill Falls are Haines Falls, Tannersville, and Hunter. Kaaterskill Falls is best accessed by car.
New York City to Kaaterskill Falls: 2 hours and 15 min, 123 miles
Where to Park at Kaaterskill Falls
Important to know about visiting Kaaterskill Falls is that it is very popular and can become VERY crowded. The parking lots are small for the amount of people trying to park in them. Also, the local authorities are very strict with parking and you will be ticketed (a large one) and towed if you are parked along the road in any areas you are not supposed to. We have seen lines of cars parked along the road, each with a very expensive ticket. They are not playing around with parking here, so definitely have a parking plan.
Laurel House Road Parking Lot
This is by far the closest parking lot to Kaaterskill Falls. Since it is the closest and most well known, it fills up quick. If you plan on parking here, especially in the summer, it is advisable to arrive EARLY in the morning. In the past, this parking lot was free to park in, but as of summer 2021, they were charging $20 to park in this lot. If you try to arrive here in the middle of the day during the summer, you will be waiting in line for a long time (maybe even hours) to park in the lot as most people stay the day. There are porter potty bathrooms at this parking lot. I don’t recommend this parking lot unless you are coming early in the day or you specifically need to park here.
Scutt Road Parking Lot
Less people know about this parking lot, but it still also gets very crowded. It also is farther from Kaaterskill Falls, but doesn’t add too much more distance to your hike. As far as I know this parking lot is still free (if you know differently though, please let me know!!). We were able to park here for free, but we did arrive early in the morning. I am unsure of the situation later in the day, but this is definitely a good second place to try if Laurel House Road Parking Lot is full when you arrive.
North-South Lake Parking Area
Parking at North-South Lake is another option, but at this point you are getting to be a bit far away from Kaaterskill Falls. It does cost to park at North-South Lake, but the cost depends on the time of year. If you decide to park here, you will have at least a 3-mile round trip hike to see the falls. If parking at North-South Lake Parking Area, take the Escarpment Trail to Kaaterskill Falls. There are bathrooms located at the North-South Lake Parking Area.
Haines Falls Railroad Station Parking Lot
In Haines Falls, you can park at the Railroad Station Parking Lot which is behind the Mountain Top Historical Society. Many people don’t know about this parking lot and don’t even consider it for visiting Kaaterskill Falls. If you park here, take the Kaaterskill Rail Trail, which is about 3.7 miles round trip (see below in the hiking section for more details). There have been reports of people from the Mountain Top Historical Society charging $20 to park here, but there is nothing official listed on their website about this in particular. We parked in this lot in September 2021 and when we arrived early in the morning we were not charged to park, but when we left in the middle of the day, there was a group of people charging the cars that entered the lot. It is unknown when or how much they are currently charging for parking. There are bathrooms at this parking lot.
How to Hike to Kaaterskill Falls
Lucky for you, there are sooo many ways to hike to Kaaterskill Falls. No matter if you are a super hiker that loves to pack the miles or someone that wants the walk very little, you can find that at Kaaterskill Falls.
The shortest way to get to Kaaterskill Falls: Kaaterskill Falls Overlook From Laurel House Road Parking Lot
This is by far the shortest and easiest way to see the falls. If you are unable to walk very far or have small kids, this may be the best option for you. However, do note that this is the most crowded way to view the falls! If you are seeking the falls in solitude, try early in the morning, especially if visiting in the summer months.
First park at the Laurel House Road Parking Lot. Please see the info above about parking in this parking lot! Once you park, it is about 0.3 miles from the Laurel House Road Parking lot to the Kaaterskill Falls Overlook. Follow all of the signs from the parking lot as the main trail leads to the overlook. The trail to the overlook is gravel and is slightly sloped. When you get to a junction where you can either cross a bridge or take a right, take the right in order to get to the overlook (going across the bridge will lead you to the trail that is almost 200 stairs to the bottom!) Follow the trail to the right which will take you to the falls overlook.
If you are visiting in the winter, be very careful as it is SUPER ICY as you get close to the overlook and we both totally busted ourselves even while being careful and wearing winter hiking boots.
From the Kaaterskill Falls Overlook you can see mostly the upper falls, as well as part of the Kaaterskill Canyon. You can soak in the views here before backtracking on the trail you took and return to your car. There are some trails around the top of the falls that allow you to see it from other views at the top besides the overlook point, but do be careful as many people have died by crossing the barriers and falling over the edge.
For those that want to see Kaaterskill Falls from the top and the bottom: Kaaterskill Falls (to the bottom) from Laurel House Trail
We recently tried this trail that goes to the bottom of the falls and were super impressed. From the bottom is definitely the best way to view the falls if you’re able. From the bottom, you can really see how tall and majestic these falls are. I couldn’t believe how different it looked from the bottom. Also at the bottom you are able to view the lower Kaaterskill Falls much better than you can see from the top at the overlook.
Park at Laurel House Road Parking Area (or Scutt Road Parking Lot, see above for more details), and follow the signage to Kaaterskill Falls. Roundtrip from Laurel House Road Parking Area to the bottom and back is around 1.6 miles. Follow the trail and when you get to the junction where you can turn right towards the overlook or cross the bridge, cross the bridge to get to the trail going to the bottom of the falls. Bear right after the bridge and follow the signage. At the first trail junction on this trail (after your have gone up some stairs), turn right again onto a trail that immediately starts going down. This trail will go down until you reach the bottom of falls (which is about 200 stairs!). There is an option to go to the bottom pool of the upper falls, which juts off the stairs on a muddy path to the right.
Continue on the stairs to the very bottom which ends after the pool of the lower falls. From here, you can see both the Upper and Lower Kaaterskill Falls altogether in one view. We sat here on some large rocks and let our feet soak in the cold water before heading back up the stairs and back to our car.
See the full trail on Alltrails.
For those that don’t mind walking a few miles, but prefer flat and easy: Kaaterskill Rail Trail to Kaaterskill Falls
This trail is a nice flat trail that allows to you see nature and brings you solitude on your way to the crowded Kaaterskill Falls without a ton of effort. The trail roundtrip to the Kaaterskill Falls Overlook is 3.7 miles. To hike this trail, park at the parking lot at the Haines Falls Railroad Station (see above for more details on parking here). Follow the straight and flat Kaaterskill Rail Trail for 1.5 miles until you reach the only trail junction, which is beside the Laurel House Road Parking Lot. Turn right and follow the trail as you would if you were just coming from the Laurel House Road Parking Lot (trail instructions from Laurel House Road Parking Lot above). After you have enjoyed the views, you can back track and return to the trailhead where you parked your car.
One thing I love about this trail is the solitude here. As has been said several times, Kaaterskill Falls can be quite crowded, especially in the summer. Very few people do the Kaaterskill Rail Trail in comparison, so it always feels so calm and relaxing to walk here. Also, it is completely flat, making it very easy, especially if you are wanting a light hike or have little kids with you.
See the full trail details on Alltrails.
The longest way to get to Kaaterskill Falls (well maybe not THE longest, but a very long way): North-South Lake Loop from Schutt Road
The North-South Lake Loop is the first trail we did to see Kaaterskill Falls. This hike is around 11 miles. If you are able to do this hike, it has so many nice things along trail and really showcases the beauty of this part of the Catskills. To start this trail, you will park at the parking lot on Schutt Road. As of 2021, it was free to park in this parking lot. I recommend taking this trail CLOCKWISE and so that you will see the North-South Lake part of the trail first and seeing the Kaaterskill Falls Last.
To start the trail, you will cross the main road (Route 18). Eventually you will reach a cliff ledge which you will follow for a while. There are several unmarked view points along the cliff edge here including Newman’s Ledge and Lookout Point. My favorite view point of the trail is Sunset Rock. To see Sunset Rock, there is a little trail spur that will take you out to the rock. There should be signage at the junction. Sunset Rock faces inland and you can see North-South Lake and the surrounding hills. Also, as the name says, you can see a pretty sunset from here since the point faces west. Backtrack to the main trail and continue clockwise on the loop.
You will eventually reach North-South Lake and you can take a break here if you wish. The access to North-South Lake is about half-way through the loop and there should be bathrooms and picnic area here. When you’re ready, continue on the trail. You will pass the Catskill Mountain House, Boulder Rock View Point and some other unmarked viewpoints. There are several information placards around the Catskill Mountain House area, explaining how the Catskill Mountain House was a prestigious place that presidents and important people stayed at in the 19th century. The last part of the trail before Kaaterskill Falls will take you on the Escarpment Trail which has beautiful views of the Kaaterskill Canyon along the way. Interestingly, here you will find another viewpoint called Sunset Rock (with a completely different view), and Inspiration Point. These are the last viewpoint before you reach Kaaterskill Falls.
You have finally reached the grand finale of your hike (the waterfall)! If you are tired and your feet hurt, you can cross the bridge and follow the signage to view the waterfall from the falls overlook. However, if you’re up for a little more adventure, you can follow the trail to the bottom of the falls (described above). Rest your feet in the pool at the bottom of the falls (or the creek at the top if you choose to not go to the bottom), before heading back to your car.
As this trail combines a variety of different trails, be sure to check out Alltrails for the full trail map! Alltrails has this trail listed as Kaaterskill Falls, South Mountain, and North Point Loop.
Commonly asked questions about Kaaterskill Falls
How long of hike is Kaaterskill Falls?
The shortest route is 0.3 miles one way to the overlook. The trail to the bottom of the falls is 0.8 miles one way and has almost 200 stairs. Other routes can be as long as 12 miles.
Is Kaaterskill Falls a hard hike?
The trail to the overlook is not hard and would be considered easy by most people. The trail to the overlook is 0.3 miles on a wide gravel trail. The hike to the bottom of falls is a little more difficult due to the almost 200 stairs that can be slippery.
Is there a fee for Kaaterskill Falls?
It is completely free to visit Kaaterskill Falls, but you may have to pay for parking depending on where you park. See the section “Where to Park at Kaaterskill Falls” for more information about paying for parking.
Can you see Kaaterskill Falls without hiking?
Unfortunately, you must do at least a little bit of hiking to see Kaaterskill Falls. However, the shortest way see Kaaterskill Falls is a very short 0.3 miles on a wide gravel path.
What town is Kaaterskill Falls in?
Kaaterskill Falls is closest to the town of Haines Falls, New York.
Do you need a permit for Kaaterskill Falls?
You do not need a permit to visit Kaaterskill Falls.
Are there bears at Kaaterskill Falls?
There are black bears in the Catskill area of New York, however, it is unlikely that you will see bears at Kaaterskill Falls. Black bears tend to avoid people when possible and since Kaaterskill Falls is often crowded, they likely do not frequent the area. That being said, if you are hanging out near Kaaterskill Falls for the day and have food with you, always remember to Leave No Trace and bring any remnants of food with you.
Stuff to do nearby Kaaterskill Falls
There is so much to do around Kaaterskill Falls besides the falls! The towns of Tannersville and Hunter both have many fun things to do (and delicious foods to try). Check out my blog posts on Tannersville and Hunter for more detailed information, but here is a quick recap:
Walk along the main street of Tannersville and check out all of the cute shops and restaurants. My favorite place along the main street of Tannersville is Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Café. This is a delicious restaurant (with so much cheese!) that is super unique and eclectic.
Hunter is a ski town right beside Hunter Mountain Ski resort. While there are many places to stop here too, I am absolutely in love with the Founders Café that has coffee, breakfast, and baked goods. Their homemade focaccia (in all different varieties) is AMAZING.
Anyways, be sure to check out both of these adorable towns (and check out my blog post about Tannersville and Hunter for more info!).
Do you have any questions about Kaaterskill Falls? I hope you are able to visit Kaaterskill Falls and experience this amazing place!
Thanks for reading!