The Great Northern Catskills of Greene County are home to many treasures – from the stunning natural beauty of the landscape to the rich literary and artistic heritage immortalized by Thomas Cole and Washington Irving. Perhaps the crowning jewel is the highest cascading waterfall in New York State – Kaaterskill Falls. Dropping in two tiers over 260 feet, Kaaterskill Falls has been one of the region's most popular destinations for centuries.
Considered by Native Americans to be the resting place of the creator, a sacred place for the Mohican people who called the Catskills home, Kaaterskill Falls has captivated the hearts, pens and paintbrushes of poets, painters, filmmakers and photographers – becoming part of a larger, artistic folklore spreading from the Catskills to the rest of the world. In one of his most celebrated paintings Thomas Cole, founder of the famed Hudson River School of Art, placed a lone warrior watching over the falls, a testament to the wild beauty of the place. From Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, to Asher Durand's Kindred Spirits and William Cullen Bryant's romantic verse – all have felt the mesmerizing power of Kaaterskill Falls.
Experience your own spiritual awakening at the falls, located off of Route 23A in Haines Falls. The trail is short at 1.4 miles roundtrip, and hikers are strongly encouraged to stick to the marked path due to the treacherously slippery rocks located at the top of the falls.
Climb high enough to view the Hudson River Valley as it snakes below, and delight in the stunning beauty of one of New York's most majestic natural wonders – just one of the many Catskills outdoor activities to enjoy. Hikers should exercise caution when hiking to the waterfall as, over the years, unwary hikers have forged separate paths from the main, DEC-blazed trail. By following some simple safety tips, you and your group can enjoy the stunning beauty of the falls without the risk of injury.
The Kaaterskill Falls hiking trail is accessed via I-87 Exit 21. Located on Rt. 23A west of Palenville, you will find the trailhead about three miles west of the village. From a small parking area on the south side of Route 23A, the moderate, 1.4 miles round-trip trek winds up a well-traveled path offering views of nearby Bastian Falls.
An alternate Catskills hiking route leads to the top of the falls from Laurel House Lane via North Lake Road along Route 23A. New York State trail markers designate the Kaaterskill Falls as part of the Forest Preserve protected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Take precautions along the path as erosion and water can create slick conditions. As a general rule, use common sense and be aware of the loose rocks, dirt and water-slick stones.
Greene County is home to some of the best Catskills hiking trails in the region and offers opportunities for all ages and skill levels to get out and explore. Whether you are looking for a multi-day backpacking trip or a quick jaunt with the family to a nearby overlook, the Great Northern Catskills is a hiking paradise.