Hiking Kaaterskill Falls With Kids: A Warning to Wimpy Parents
Hiking Kaaterskill Falls with kids just got easier. An $800,000 project to "improve safety and accessibility" was just completed this week, according to HudsonValley360. We visited the new overlook platform a month ago, and it was a wondrous hike for our 6-year-old son, a bit of slog for our 3-year-old daughter, and an odd mix of joy and terror for my husband and me. Here's everything you need to know about taking your kids on the trail.
How to get to the Kaaterskill Falls observation deck: The new trail to the upper falls is easily accessed by car. Our GPS didn't work in the area, but you can map out a route to 103 Laurel House Rd, Palenville, NY 12463. We followed these directions from hv1: "You get there by taking Rte. 23A up the clove and into Haines Falls. Then you turn right onto County Route 18 and head east. Turn right again onto Laurel House Road and drive to the end. If you have been there in the past you will be pleasantly surprised by the new parking lot."
The trail to the Kaaterskill Falls viewing platform is a gently sloping 0.3 miles, easy enough for small children to navigate. However, a foreboding message I'd read on Catskill Mountaineer echoed in my mind on this gentle walk: "There are many ways to die at Kaaterskill Falls."
That said, as my son bopped along with his pint-sized walking stick in hand and plastic binoculars bouncing around his neck, I wasn't really thinking about the "Hundreds of deaths over the past 200 years" reported by Catskill Mountaineer. Or the zebra that escaped from Baliwick Ranch and tumbled down a cliff in the Kaaterskill Clove area.
I mean, the majestic beauty of the trail is downright distracting. I'm so grateful for this kid-friendly path, so thankful that my city kids could experience such a breathtaking walk through nature. On the way to the falls, we spotted a spooky tree that sort of looked like a giant.
My 3-year-old wasn't really into the walk, so she rode on my husband's shoulders. She appreciated the sights, and the walk was short enough that carrying her wasn't too hard. (I also saw a few families pushing some all-terrain strollers along the trail.)
We made it to the viewing platform, where a bunch of hikers were leaning over the edge, taking pictures and chatting casually. I stepped beside them to see the most beautiful cascading waterfall, and then immediately felt as though the air around me had begun to spiral downward. A haunting chill filled my bones, as though I'd stepped into the path of ghost. I desperately grabbed both my kids. I couldn't take another step toward the edge of the observation deck. I felt the pulsing of every blood vessel in my body, like cold foreign liquid had been injected into my veins. I took the picture below, and then dropped to my hands and knees. With an arm hooked around each child, I crawled back to solid ground.
Turns out I'm a little afraid of heights, guys! My brave husband took the camera and got the shot, while I sat on a big rock, squeezing our children tightly. It's so intensely beautiful, and yet, just looking at these photos fill me with dread.
And even my husband, who is into camping/hiking/risk-taking/adventure, turned back to us looking green and shaky. "I did not like that!" he said. The views were still great from the sturdy rock ledge behind the observation deck. But as I look at the photo below, I'm noticing Ramona was holding her binoculars backwards, so she may have missed the whole thing. Oops.
We were pumped with adrenaline that quickly carried us through the hike back to the car. We'll probably do it again. Every summer, forever.
In short: If you have a kid who loves to hike, or a kid aged 5 or older who might be ready for their first hike, I highly recommend this simple trail to Kaaterskill Falls. It's safe with adult supervision, and the pay-off is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring view. If you've got any fear of heights, though, the viewing platform is not for you!