Hiking the Kaaterskill Falls Upper Hiking Trails in Catskills, NY
Most people, when traveling to Kaaterskill, are interested in the lower hiking trails mainly due to being able to see Kaaterskill Falls. But trust me on this – although the upper trails aren’t nearby the waterfall you still don’t want to miss out on the incredible views the upper trails offer.
The upper hiking trails are located near the campgrounds, making this a perfect spot to settle in for an overnight or two while exploring the nearby trails or even taking the kayaks out in the nearby North/South lakes.
The upper escarpment trails near the campgrounds will take you to several lookouts – including to the upper Sunset Rock, Artists Rock, and Newman’s Ledge. An additional spot you’ll love, especially if you’re a history buff, is the Catskills Mountain House location. Walk where Theodore Roosevelt, and other presidents stayed while visiting the Catskills!
There is a lot to explore in the Upper Trails at Kaaterskill Falls, so keep reading to get everything you need to know to check out these trails for yourself.
Location: Greene County, NY
Distance: 3.5 miles for the out and back
Time: 2-3 hours
Cell-Phone Service: Solid. I didn’t seem to lose service
Features: Sunset Rock, Newmans Ledge and Catskill Mountain House
Hours: Open 30 minutes after sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset
Cost: $10 for parking at the nearby lot, free if you hike up from the lower trails.
Parking: Large lot near North Lake
Bathrooms: Yes – in a structure
Dog Friendly: On-leash only
Location, Bathrooms, and Parking for Kaaterskill Falls – Upper Hiking Trails
There are several parking areas to choose from when hiking the Upper Hiking Trails at Kaaterskill Falls. I chose to park here, primarily because it was close to all the viewpoints, and had solid bathrooms. However, it is $10 for a day-use pass. It was worth it in my opinion, due to the location and amenities. But, you can also park here or here.
At the campground parking lot I utilized, there were a lot of things to do here. A volleyball net, boat launch, playgrounds, and beach. So, it’s a perfect spot for kids or to relax for lunch. The bathrooms were well taken care of and accessible to all.
Upper Escarpment Out-and-Back Hiking Trail
This trail will be an out and back – although you can choose to make it a longer loop if you want to loop back down and see the smaller Ashley Falls on the way back.
You’ll start on the escarpment trail, and stay on that trail for mostly the entire way (minus the way to the Mountain House). The trails are exceptionally well marked, and it doesn’t hurt you’re pretty much going in a straight line!
What to Expect Hiking Kaaterskill Falls – Upper Hiking Trails
This trail isn’t too taxing, but you will want to be prepared to climb up and down some rocks. Now, these rocks have very clear foot placement/steps and easy places to grab for your hands – but it’s definitely a 4-limb hike in some places. Not dangerously so, and it is entirely accessibly by beginner hikers.
When starting the trail, the paths are very wide – but they do narrow in and get rockier as you get closer to the lookout points.
Another thing to note, which I couldn’t tell from the trail map provided by the park, but the sunset rock location isn’t the viewpoint after artist’s rock. This is because you have to hike up and then loop around to it. Then you’ll have to hike back from the offshoot onto the main trail. So, I actually went to Newman’s ledge first before looping back to the Sunset Rock offshoot later.
Artist’s Rock | Hiking Kaaterskill Falls Escarpment Trail
The viewpoint at Artist’s Rock is incredible. The hiking guide at the lower trails actually told me you can see 5 states from this viewpoint. I have no idea if it’s true, and am not nearly inherently directional enough to tell you which states are in what direction – so take that as you will.
The name for this viewpoint comes from the fact it’s been an inspiration spot for several famous works of art. And when you’re there you completely understand why. It’s absolutely beautiful and is one of those moments where you can feel the weight of yourself in the world/universe. I really enjoyed it.
After you’ve caught your break, both from the hike and from the natural beauty, continue straight along the trail until your next viewpoint.
After hiking through some rocky areas, with some trees extending some serious amounts of roots onto the trail, you’ll come across a trail marker directing you towards the remaining view points.
I chose to head to Newman’s ledge first, but am going to discuss Sunset Rock next because it’s technically the next one on the map.
Sunset Rock | Upper Trails | Hiking Kaaterskill Falls Escarpment Trail
After heading out from Artist’s Rock it won’t be long before you reach the offshoot to Sunset Rock. You’ll almost feel like you’re doubling back – but because Sunset Rock is a rock, you have to double back since it’s located at a higher point than the escarpment trail.
This part of the trail is very open and structured as a mix of light dirt/rock. There is a small section called inspiration lookout you can get some views as well – but the highlight on this section is definitely Sunset Rock.
When you make it to the end of the trail it’ll open out on some large boulders you’ll have to cross to get to the rock. Sunset Rock is indeed a rock – a fairly small one that you’ll climb up onto get this view. Although you can see beautiful views from down below – you do want to take the time to actually get onto the rock itself. Only about 3-4 people can fit on the rock at once, so depending on how busy it is you may need to wait your turn.
Honestly, I think this may be my favorite viewpoint I’ve ever seen. It’s the landscape used for a few different famous paintings, and if I had time I definitely would have stayed here for a while taking it all in.
I’m really not sure a view will ever beat this (at least for me) – but I guess I’ll keep hiking and find out. But really, this view is entirely worth the trip out here and my recommendation is that you do not go to Kaaterskill Falls without making the trip up to the Upper Sunset Rock.
Newman’s Ledge | Hiking Kaaterskill Falls Escarpment Trail
Continuing on past the Sunset Rock offshoot, you’ll come across Newman’s Ledge, in about 0.2 miles. This part of the trail is the rockiest part – so expect multiple points of climbing up and down rocks.
They are well maintained with clear footholds for beginners. I definitely used all 4 limbs, and chose to slide down on my butt a few times – but I saw several other hikers who just jumped down. To each their own.
For Newman’s Ledge you’ll come across it just as you’re rounding a corner and it’ll open up to this spectacular view. By this point, since you’ve seen so many other views you may be tempted to just let this one pass you by – but try not to. Be present in the moment and take it all in.
Also, if you don’t want to stop here – don’t! The escarpment trail continues on for a much longer time – and there is even one additional view point a few miles away from Newman’s that I didn’t hike to. If you’re up for a longer trip – go for it and see all that you can!
Catskill Mountain House Historical Site
Once you’ve finished Newman’s Ledge make your way back to the North/South Campground Parking Area. The Catskills Mountain House Site is actually south from the parking area – so you’ll need to head past the parking lot to get to it.
From the parking lot, though, it’s an extremely short (~0.2 miles) to the field that held the Catskill Mountain House. This house was Greek-revival style house with white columns towering up over the field. It housed multiple presidents at various points, including Theodore Roosevelt and was well known historically for beautiful views.
Even though the house no longer stands, the views still do – and you absolutely can see why people built a huge dwelling here. Absolutely stunning views over the mountainside and extending into the nearby areas. It is close enough to hike to Kaaterskill Falls, but far enough away for some privacy.
When visiting, plan to bring a blanket and lay out in the field to enjoy it! I saw several people picnicking or reading as the sun started to set across the mountains.
Ending the Hiking Trail Loop at Kaaterskill Falls – Lower Hiking Trails
After soaking up all the views at the Catskills Mountain House, head back to the parking area where you can head out – or stick around a bit and enjoy the sights they have there.
This parking area is adjacent to the North/South Lakes, and has a small beach, volleyball net, playground, and boat launch (for non motorized boats).
Or – if you’re all pooped out from the hike (like me) just rest a little and enjoy the sunset and the colors of the mountains before heading back home.
Other Tips to Remember
Kaaterskill Falls is an incredibly expansive park – so you can absolutely do more or less than what I’ve detailed here. For those particularly adventurous, try parking at the Falls and hiking from there to here. It would probably be about 10-12 miles to do the lower and upper trails that I did, so still accomplishable in 1 day if you want to try it!
If not, and you’re just wanting a more chill hike – you can absolutely make your visit into whatever you’re looking for, and still catch some beautiful views.
The upper trails were less trafficked than the lower ones, so be prepared for bears. If you’re hiking in a group though, that will be much less of a concern. Also, like the lower trails, this probably isn’t recommended for you if you have a fear of heights. Several lookouts on rock face ledges doesn’t lead to a fun trip for those scared of heights.
Other than that, wear proper shoes and enjoy the beauty and history of this park!
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