"Kaaterskill Falls is one of those rare, glorious, big pay-off hikes that doesn't require too much time or sweat. The 260 ft. double-tiered waterfall between Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County New York is an awe-inspiring body of shale and rushing creek water. The water drops 175 ft. from the top, past a natural amphitheater created by the overhang of the upper falls cap rock. The lower falls then drop another 85 ft., spraying mist against the sides of rock, wetting the nearby craggy greys and dark browns. At the bottom, the massive fountain of water calms as it flattens into a rocky Kaaterskill Creek bed that flows alongside the .4 mile trail back to the road".
Once you get closer to the top and start to hear the roar of the main Falls, you know you're almost there. When you finally reach the pools below the lower Falls and see them for the first time, you just stop and stare to take it all in. If it's been raining and the Falls are full, it's an impressive sight and sound, especially since there are not many waterfalls of this size anywhere near here.
Note that I did talk to a friend who made this same hike in the middle of a very dry summer and he said the Falls were merely a trickle. Plan your trip accordingly....Make this hike after a few days of heavy rain to ensure a good viewing experience.
Once at the base of the lower Falls, you can wade into the cool water, watch it stream around you, and enjoy sitting a while to look at the sights centered around this large double waterfall. We saw many photographers and painters on the hike up making their renderings of the scenes.
For the extra adventurous, you can hike up the very steep hill to either side of the Falls to get to the natural amphitheater at the base of the main Falls. This extra section of hiking is discouraged on many websites that discuss Kaaterskill Falls due to the complexity and steepness. I didn't try it because we had our kids with us, but I saw several people who did. I would imagine that it's quite impressive to stand at the base of the main Falls, so I will try this hike one day with an abundance of caution.
When we were done wading around and viewing at the top, it was time to head back down. Careful stepping was required on the way down. It's easy to pick up speed! Once at the bottom, we proceeded to head back up the hill to the parking area where we hopped in our car and headed into Hunter Mountain village to grab a good dinner.
If you decide to head into the village (a few miles down the road from the Falls) and you like Mexican food, pay a visit to Pancho Villa's Mexican Restaurant. The food is good, the drinks are good, and there's always a lively crowd inside. If Mexican is not your thing, there are other restaurants on the same street as well...
This was a great way to spend a day outdoors with the family. If you're in this region and you're looking for something fun to do, this is the just the ticket. If you combine this hike with a visit to one of Hunter Mountain's many festivals, the day will be even more complete.