Kaaterskill Falls Hike with Kids
Now that we are living back in the Northeast US, and we have a new love for hiking, we are in search of all the best hikes in New York. And we are especially on the lookout for hikes that offer something special and are do-able for kids. New York is full of amazing sights, and a lot of people love to hike the Hudson Valley, and Catskill State Park as well. A very popular place to hike in the Catskills has one of the best New York State waterfalls. Kaaterskill Falls, NY, is a multi-tiered waterfall located in the town of Hunter. This is one of the busiest waterfall hikes in all of the Catskills because of its jaw-dropping beauty! There are other hiking trails with waterfalls in Upstate New York, but the Kaaterskill Falls hike is exceptionally memorable.
Where Is Kaaterskill Falls?
Kaaterskill Falls is located in Hunter, New York right smack in the middle of the Catskill Mountain Range. This area is very popular year-round for skiing, hiking, and vacationing. It is also a well-known area for people who live in New York City to escape to for some a fix of nature. The Catskills are a great place in New York to unwind and relax, read more: Unplug & Reconnect in the Catskills. I actually grew up under an hour from the Catskill Park and was totally unaware of its beauty, and definitely didn’t realize it contained one of the best waterfalls in NY. When I heard of a waterfall growing up, I immediately thought of the one and only Niagara Falls. Little did I realize New York is, in fact, full of incredible waterfalls all over the state!
Getting to the falls is fairly simple and it is also a beautiful drive through the mountains as you look to park for the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead. As you drive into a parking lot, be sure to drive carefully because the roads are full of hikers walking alongside the road. In the area, there are also a number of hotel accommodations, and campgrounds if you are coming from too far for a day trip. If you aren’t from the area, you could easily make a weekend or longer trip out of the area. There is even a brand new indoor waterpark in the Catskills.
The Hike to Kaaterskill Falls
There are quite a few options for trails to hike to the falls, however, after some research, we decided to go with the best trail to Kaaterskills Falls. We chose to take the trail to the falls that started at Laurel House Road (as seen on the map below). We used the map location below to park our car, and from there you have access to multiple trails. There are a few Kaaterskill Falls trails, but the one from this location (Laurel House Road) is the easiest to do, which we appreciated since we were with the kids.
Let me say it again, this is an insanely popular hike, especially on the weekends in the summer. If you have experienced a hike like this before you know what that means. The muddy spots are even muddier, there are people walking close behind you, or slowing you down in front of you. It is not as quiet as you may expect, and there are lots of people in your photos that aren’t in your hiking party. That being said, this hike is still totally worth it, just had to warn you of the crowds!
Once you park there are even volunteers helping answer questions and helping people figure out where to go to see the cascade waterfall from the top and the bottom. A very short and easy walk from the parking lot there is a very safe viewing platform, where you can look down onto the Kaaterskill Falls. If you aren’t up for walking down a steep, almost 500 feet in elevation (don’t forget you have to come back up) then you can stick to the platform and call it a day. But we had a 4-year-old with us and had no issues going down and back up the trail to the lower falls.
The trail to Kaaterskill Falls from Laurel House Road starts off mostly dry, but there are a few areas of mud, but nothing impossible to navigate around. I would check the All-Trails Kaaterskill Falls info for a hike update if you want current trail conditions. Once you start on the trail to the lower-falls you will notice it is all downhill, which I don’t know about you, but I hate starting a hike downhill because then I just dread the return lol. The trail is a mostly great condition, considering all of the traffic, but I would still be sure to wear sneakers at the minimum. We saw so many people walking down in flipflops or other non-supportive shoes, and they were totally holding up others on the trail. Once you get to the lower area, you can bear left to the bottom of the stairs to see the falls from the very bottom, or bear right to see the tall falls up close. We made sure to get a good view from both, but if you wanted to only see the tall falls, you could bear right and skip a ton of stairs to the very bottom.
The base of either falls has lots of places to sit in the shade and enjoy a packed lunch, which is what we did. There were also some people enjoying the water at the bottom falls, but none at the top falls. The area at the upper falls is extremely dangerous and is a well-known area for injuries. There were two park rangers stationed at the falls watching people, which is a great thing but almost made me more nervous! If you are feeling up for it you can also climb up and behind the falls. If you look closely in my photo you can see people climbing up there and seeing the falls from a totally different angle. We chose not to because the rocks were wet and slippery up there, as well as fairly steep. We will have to try that part when the kids are older.
Check out these cool old pictures of the Laurel House from a long time ago: Laurel House.