Kaaterskill Falls via Laurel House Road
based on 23 tracks & routes Catskill Park #19 hike out of 20 in
This is a easy out and back trail to Kaaterskill Falls in Catskill Park.
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Kaaterskill and Bastion Falls
Rating: Easy due to the short length, but steep and steady elevation lose (and gain) with hundreds of steps may make it harder for some people. The half mile between the Kaaterskill and Bastion Falls is an older section of trail with a much rougher tread compared to nice, new (and still well maintained) longer section of the trail at the top. What You’re Going to Like: This is a classic Catskills hike to one of America’s earliest “Eco” tourist destinations, made famous by Thomas Cole’s 1826 painting as well as many other Hudson River School artists’ renditions. Three historic hotels, Kaaterskill, Catskill House, and Laurel House supported early visitation. Ice age glaciers and melt water carved the stunning Bastion and Kaaterskill Falls along Spruce Creek. This was and still is the draw for crowds. In this roughly 3 mile down and back-up hike, where you will see four magnificent falls, Lower and Upper Bastion, and Lower and Upper Kaaterskill Falls. The hike takes you to views from the top and bottom of each falls. If there has been recent rain the creek and falls can be roaring. We were very lucky when we were there compared to photos we’ve seen on the Internet. The falls and creek were roaring. Many consider the combined Kaaterskill Falls as New York’s tallest falls, the first drop is 175 ft and the second drop is 85 ft – combined it is higher than Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes. All four falls along Spruce Creek are spectacular, and in the half mile section between the two groups of falls is the delightful and noisy Spruce Creek. This hike offers wonderful photography opportunities. Cautions: Two words of caution. Even though short and easy, the trail is steep with many hundreds of steps to help negotiate the 600 ft of elevation loss and gain. Second, older guidebooks have you start at the bottom on the small parking lot off highway 23A and walk for 0.3miles along the narrow no-shoulder road. NOT safe without a lot of vigilance. Also, the small parking lot fills quickly on busy days. In 2016 the state completed a trail between the upper trail down to the lower trail eliminating the need for this dangerous start. Now, start at the top from the trailhead on Laurel House RD. After an easy stroll, view the upper Katterskill Falls from above on the viewing platform, and then do the steep hike to the bottom along the newly completed and well-maintained trail. We didn’t know about the new trail between the upper and lower trails since our guidebook was dated. I won’t ever walk along Highway 23a for this hike again. Start at the top! Location and Trail Head: Laurel House RD just outside the North-South Lake Campground of Catskills State Park near Hunter NY: Lat: 42.19530, Lon:-74.06283; elevation 2050 ft. The Route: This is a well-signed hike and would be difficult to get lost even though there is a lot of trails that start converging in this area. From the trailhead, follow the yellow blazed Kaaterskill Falls trail for a bit more than a tenth for a mile. Turn right at the junction staying on yellow and to go another 2/10 of a mile and arrive at the Upper Kaaterskill viewing platform. Enjoy the view, get a good selfie, and return the way you came. But at the trail junction, go straight instead of turning left to return to the parking lot. Follow the yellow trail towards the Lower falls, cross the new pedestrian bridge over the creek until you come to another junction. Go right on the now blue and yellow blazed trail. In just another 1/10 you will come to the final junction where the yellow trail breaks off to the right. It is signed and says the lower falls is in 4/10 of a mile. The trail will grow steeper, and a bit rougher until the really steep part. Then the new, well-placed and even stairs begin. Very soon you will be to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. Give your knees a rest by taking the time to do the short side trails to the punch bowl of the upper falls, and to the bottom of the lower Kaaterskill Falls. After that, the trail levels out a bit, but is a bit rougher as it follows Spruce creek for a half a mile. Take in the sights and sounds of Spruce Creek with its numerous riffles and small cascades. You’ll start to hear upper Bastion Falls, then crest the lip and look down on it. There is a very short and slightly steep section to get to the bottom where there is room to wonder around the pool. Continue less than a hundred yard further, drop a bit more, and you will be at the bottom of Lower Bastion Falls, my favorite of the four. Turn around when ready, and begin the climb up.