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Kaaterskill Wild Forest

hikingprimitive campinghorseback ridingcross-country skiingsnow shoeingsnowmobilingtrappinghuntingaccessible facilitiesparking icon key

kaaterskill wild forest locator map

The 7,620-acre Kaaterskill Wild Forest, located in the Catskill Forest Preserve is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, due to the abundance of hiking and other recreational trails available, as well as the iconic Kaaterskill Falls. The terrain within Kaaterskill Wild Forest varies significantly in topography with sprawling mountains, dramatic cliffs, scenic waterfalls, and deep valleys. The area is occupied by deciduous and boreal forest species as well as an abundance of other plants and wildlife.

Featured Activities

Learn about recent public safety and access improvements at the falls

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls Access

From the Laurel-House Road parking area: .3 miles to the observation platform overlooking Kaaterskill falls. This firm gravel trail has minimal elevation change with a typical grade of 7%, and provides outstanding views of the falls and valley below (see accessibility information below). A .7-mile hike from the parking area leads from the gravel trail to a more naturalized section of trail, descending a moderately steep slope down to the lower pools at the base of the falls. Proper footwear is encouraged.

From the Scutt Road parking area: Follow the blue-marked Escarpment trail south. At .5 miles, continue on the blue-marked trail (please sign in and out at the register). Crossing the Spruce Brook bridge leads to the viewing platform, continuing along the Escarpment trail leads to the junction with the yellow-marked Lower Falls trail.

From the South Lake parking lot (North South Lake Campground): Walk south along South Lake Road for approximately 200 meters to the yellow-marked South-Lake access road on the right. Follow this trail to the next trail junction, and continue on the blue-marked Escarpment trail toward the Spruce Creek bridge or the Lower Falls trail.

Watch a video of safety improvements at Kaaterskill Falls.

Long Path
The Long Path is a backpacking trail that extends through the Catskill Forest Preserve. The trail traverses the Kaaterskill Wild Forest and connects to the adjacent Indian Head Wilderness to the south and Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness to the north. In the northern section of the Kaaterskill Wild Forest the path follows the Harding Road Trail and the Escarpment Trail. It continues to follow the Escarpment Trail into the Windham- Blackhead Range Wilderness.

Kaaterskill High Peak Trail (6.5 miles; elevation gain: 911 feet, elevation loss: -904 feet)
This snowmobile trail encircles Roundtop Mountain and Kaaterskill High Peak. It also connects with the southern portion of the Long Path. This trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders in the warm months. From the south the trail is accessed from the Steenburg Road parking area off of Platte Clove Road. Follow the Long Path (blue markers) north. Take a left at mile 3.4 and connect to the Kaaterskill High Peak Trail. The trail curves west, and wraps around Kaaterskill Peak and Roundtop Mountain. Note, reaching the actual summit of Kaaterskill High Peak require using an unmarked herd path that DEC does not maintain.

view from huckleberry point
View from Huckleberry Point

Huckleberry Point Trail (2.4 miles, elevation gain: 644 feet)
The trailhead is accessed from the Steenburg Road Parking Area off of Platte Clove Road. From the parking area head north following the blue markers up the Long Path. At the 1-mile mark go right (east) on the Huckleberry Point Trail. Follow the Huckleberry Point Trail's yellow markers 1.4 miles for rewarding views of the Hudson Valley, Overlook Mountain and peaks in the Indian Head Wilderness to the southwest.

Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail (4.9 miles)
This horse trail runs north to south along the eastern border of Kaaterskill Wild Forest. This trail is open to hiking as well and is marked with red trail markers. It connects the Long Path with the Mountain House Turnpike wear Rip Van Winkle Historic House site is found.

Poet's Ledge (3.6 miles, elevation gain 1,661 feet)
Access the trailhead from the Harding Road Parking Area located off of NYS Route 23A. From the parking area follow NYS Route 23A west to Malden Ave, follow the trail past the barriers. From the parking area the trail follows the Long Path for the first 3.0 miles. At mile 3.0 take a right and travel 0.5 mile north to Poets Ledge.

Buttermilk Falls (also 4.8 miles)
Buttermilk Falls is a scenic waterfall located on the Long Path. Falls can be reached from the south (4.8 miles) starting from the Steenburg Road Parking Area off of Platte Clove Road or the east (also 4.8 miles) starting from the Harding Road Parking Area located off of NYS Route 23A in Palenville.

two people walking dogs in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest

Escarpment Trail (9.8 miles in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, 23.9 miles total)
The Escarpment Trail is a 23.9-mile section of trail that runs from the Schutt Road Parking Area in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest north along the northeast corner of the Catskill Mountains through the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, Windham Blackhead Range Wilderness, and Elm Ridge Wild Forest, ending at the Route 23 Parking Area in the Elm Ridge Wild Forest.

From Schutt Road Parking Area cross the road and follow the blue trail markers. At mile 0.5 the trail intersects with the Schutt Road Trail. To continue on the Escarpment Trail follow the blue markers. At mile 1.2, the reaches Layman's Monument, a tribute to an early 20th century fallen firefighter, and turns sharply east. At mile 1.65, the trail intersects a yellow blazed trail that would lead to the Schutt Road Trail. Continue on the Escarpment Trail to mile 1.75 to reach Sunset Rock and mile 1.9 for Inspiration Rock, both with scenic vistas of the Kaaterskill Clove and Kaaterskill High Peak.

At mile 2.7 the trail joins the Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail briefly, then meets Long Path and turns left and ascends, northward toward South Mountain. At mile 3.15 there is a junction with the Schutt Road Trail on the left (west). The Escarpment Trail turns east. At mile 3.8 there is a red marked trail that bypasses Boulder Rock. Following the Escarpment Trail, Boulder Rock is at mile 4.0. The site of the former Catskill Mountain House is at mile 4.5.

At mile 4.75 there is the Parking area at North South Lake Campground. Follow blue discs. At mile 5.25 is Artists Rock with its excellent views of the Hudson Valley. At mile 5.75,n your right is a yellow blazed side trail that leads to Lookout Rock and 0.2 mile to Sunset Rock. This is another Sunset Rock. Mile 5.95, reach Newman's Ledge with more excellent views of Hudson Valley.

Camping

primitive camping
two people at the Kaaterskill Falls Trailhead

General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Kaaterskill Wild Forest features one accessible primitive campsite which is located off of the Escarpment Trail. Additionally, at-large backcountry camping is also allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water.

Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Hunting & Trapping

huntingtrapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations

Hunting and trapping are allowed in Kaaterskill Wild Forest during appropriate seasons. The main game species and furbearers found on the property include deer, bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote, and fisher.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Snowmobiling is available in Kaaterskill Wild Forest on the Kaaterskill High Peak Trail and on Long Path from the Steenburg Road parking area off of Platte Clove Road. See the trail description above in Hiking.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross-country skiing
snow shoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

There are no groomed or maintained trails for cross country skiing, however cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Kaaterskill Wild Forest is open to horseback riding, the horse trails in the unit include sections of the Escarpment Trail, Schutt Road Trail, Yellow Horse Trail, Harding Road Trail, Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail, and Mountain House Turnpike Trail. Proof of current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses and out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate.

From the Schutt Road Parking Area the Escarpment Trail across the street is a horse trail until it reaches the junction with the Schutt Road Trail. From there the Schutt Road Trail creates a horse trail loop with the Yellow Horse Trail and a piece of the Escarpment Trail that connects the two. At the Intersection of Escarpment Trail and the Yellow Horse Trail, there is a connection to the Harding Road Trail which is a horse trail that leads to the Harding Road Parking Area, off of NYS Route 23A in Palenville.

The Harding Road Trail also connects to the Sleepy Hollow which leads to the Mountain House Turnpike, another horse trail. The trail winds down through Rip Van Winkle Hollow, down the escarpment to Castle Road.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The Catskills are home to an abundance of wildlife. With both larger mammals (including deer, bear, and bobcat) as well as smaller mammals (including porcupine and fisher) the Catskills have several unique habitats. In addition to the many mammals found in the Catskills, hundreds of species of birds can also be found in the Catskills.

Accessible Features

access for people with disabilities

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Kaaterskill Wild Forest features several horse trails with accessible horse-mounting platforms at various trailheads. Additionally, the Escarpment Trail leads to an accessible trailside campsite.

From the West: Take St. Hwy. 23 East to Rt. 23A. Follow Rt. 23A thru Tannersville. Make a left onto County Route 18 (follow signage for North/South Lake Public Campground). Schutt Road is on the right before you reach the campground. The parking area with the platform is on your right when you pull onto Schutt Road.

The Kaaterskill Falls trail [g1] from the Laurel-House Road parking area to the observation deck is .3 miles of 7% grade with 541 feet greater than 8% (the slope of a standard ramp). The trail is firm crushed stone 60 inches wide with a typical cross slope of 1.25% and 376 feet greater than 2%.

Directions

bastion falls at the kaaterskill fall trailhead
Bastion Falls at the Kaaterskill Fall Trailhead

Harding Road Parking Area is located just off of route 23A, approximately 5 miles west of its intersection with NYS Route 32 South. 42.176236°N, 74.030495°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

Steenburgh Road Parking Area is located off of Platte Clove Road. Provides access to the Long Path and Huckleberry Point. 42.133074°N, 74.08173°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Laurel-House Road Parking Area is located off of North Lake Road .5 miles before the entrance to the North South Lake Campground. 42.195628°N, 74.08173°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Schutt Road Parking Area is located off of North Lake Road immediately before the entrance to North South Lake Campground. 42.200753°N, 74.058512°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

South Lake Parking Area is located in the North South Lake Campground at the end of North Lake Road. After entering the campground beyond the entrance booth, stay right to follow South Lake Road. The pull-off parking area will be on the right. (There may be a day-use fee required for parking within the campground). 42.196504°N, 74.051059°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Whites Road Parking Lot is located on Whites Road in Palenville off of 23A. Provides access to the Harding Road Trail. 42.182395°N, 74.02619°W Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) principles when recreating in the Catskills to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.

All users of Kaaterskill Wild Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Specific Rules

Biking is allowed on the trails in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest except where posted. However, no trails in this wild forest are maintained for biking.

How We Manage Kaaterskill Wild Forest

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

DEC Lands & Facilities

Lodging and dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies may be found in the communities of Hunter, Tannersville, and Pallenville.

Catskill Regional Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.