Take a Hike and Visit the Waterfalls at Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Forest Preserve

Photo: Donna Duarte-Ladd

Take a Hike and Visit the Waterfalls at Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Forest Preserve

We need to get out more. This is what COVID has taught many of us. While we all carefully adhere to social distancing guidelines — road trips, especially ones a few short hours out of the city, have been a theme for many this fall season. This time we visited Kaaterskill Falls!

While the forest has an abundance of scenic trails, there are two areas where you can view the falls. The two trails that lead to the falls are vastly different — walking wise. While one leads to the viewing platform, the other leads to below the falls; I have been told the latter is gorgeous; however, this route has a more challenging climb down and a set of arduous stairs. This is why we focused on walking the easy path that leads to the popular Kaaterskill Falls Waterfall viewing platform because, well, kids.

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Where to Park

Presently while the Falls are open to the public, there is a community that surrounds this popular destination. Hunter’s town needs visitors to keep residents in mind, and while it may be tempting to park illegally — don’t — as any illegal parking will result in towing. Taking this into account, we arrived early. There were two parking lots open at the park when we arrived. Parking spaces get full quickly. There are private parking lots away from the grounds, but while not terribly far from the forest, not an ideal or particularly safe walk with kids. Luckily we found a spot at the Scutt Road parking area. And while parking is a challenge, once you visit the falls you will be in awe of this beautiful forest. So, yes, it’s worth it.

The Trail

We followed the blue-marked Escarpment trail south; the markers are easy to see and follow, and when you have kids, they serve as an incentive to get to the next marker, hey — whatever works! Since we were early, we had most of the trail to ourselves with the occasional passerby or passerby with a cute dog; there were many dogs. There is so much to take in, and the beauty of nature is surreal. At about half a mile, we crossed the Spruce Brook bridge that leads to the viewing platform. While I would hardly deem this an arduous walk, this is not a trail where you can bring a stroller. If you are at the babywearing stage, definitely bring a carrier. While we saw many young children, we were careful about where the 4-year-old could not venture to, so he was not allowed on the viewing platform.

You can check out more trails here.

Photo: Donna Duarte-Ladd

The Viewing Platform

Cue the Holiday card photo and take one or two for the gram, as this lookout point is a phenomenal picturesque view of nature. Despite being a city kid who complains about walking these days, even my oldest son was in awe of the views. The view area is small; however, everyone patiently waited their turn to move to the front; fellow hikers were respectful of social distancing and how long they stayed at the front of the viewing platform. Most everyone we saw wore a mask.


Photo: Donna Duarte-Ladd

The Waterfall and Water hole

The waterfall is gorgeous, and while I walked part of the way with my oldest to get a more birds-eye view, we did not venture down the waterfall as we just sat on a rock and enjoyed the beauty from a distance. I can only imagine how popular this swimming spot must get in the summer. And while it seems to be a busy attraction especially to see fall foliage —  we plan to visit again in the winter as we heard from some locals that the frozen waterfalls are gorgeous, the area is less crowded and the views are still spectacular.

Good to Know

  • While our visit was not crowded, by the time we headed back late morning to the parking lot there was a line of cars waiting to park and it was starting to get pretty crowded. So get there early if you do not want to deal with congestion
  • Both parking lots had porta-potties
  • While we took the easier trail, wearing sturdy shoes is definitely a must