Kaaterskill Wild Forest
Alert: Construction is underway on multiple improvement projects in the Kaaterskill Falls area and public access to the falls area is restricted until all the work is complete. It is recommended that visitors avoid the area until further notice. Alternative hikes.
- Open for recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 4 Stamford Office (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM): (518) 357-2450; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emergency, Law Enforcement, and Rangers: (518) 408-5850 or dial 911
- DEC Region 4 Stamford Office (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM): (518) 357-2450; email: email@example.com
- Location: Towns of Hunter and Catskill in Greene County and the town on Saugerties in Ulster County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 3A
- Map: View Kaaterskill Wild Forest Map - PDF (3.0 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
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.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Kaaterskill Falls Trail (0.5 miles; elevation gain: 445 feet, loss: -112 feet)
Access the trail from the Molly Smith parking area on the south side of route 23A. The trail head is located 0.2 miles down the road from the parking area. From the trailhead it is 0.5 miles to the base of the iconic 260 foot tall Kaaterskill Falls. There is a moderate climb for the first 250 ft, the trail then levels off to a gentle climb following the creek.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Molly Smith Parking Area is located on Route 23A approximately 5 miles west of its intersection with NYS Route 32 South. Provide access to the Kaaterskill Falls Trail 42.18985°N, 74.074111°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)
Schutt Road Parking Area is located off of Lake Road immediately before the entrance to North South Lake Campground. 42.200753°N, 74.058512°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.
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
- North-South Lake Campground
- Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness
- Colgate Lake Wild Forest
- Elm Ridge Wild Forest
- Hunter-West Kill Mountain Wilderness
- Rusk Mountain Wild Forest
- Indian Head Wilderness
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.