Stunning, breathtaking, and inspiring- Even these adjectives are subpar when it comes to describing the Catskill Mountains, and it’s difficult to accurately capture the beauty of this area. Maybe Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, originally from England, said it better than me in the following quote-“Must I tell you that neither the Alps nor the Apennines, no, nor even Aetna itself, have dimmed, in my eyes, the beauty of our own Catskills? It seems to me that I look on American scenery, if it were possible, with increased pleasure. It has its own peculiar charm- a something not found elsewhere. I am content with nature-Would that I were with art!”
And then we have protagonist Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain saying upon his arrival in the Catskills that, “I throw back my head, and, feeling free as the wind, breathe in the fresh mountain air. Although I am heavy-hearted, my spirits are rising. To walk in nature is always good medicine.”
While I don’t have the artistic talent of Mr. Cole and I will probably be no good when it comes to surviving a year in the Catskill wilderness like Sam, I would like to think I’m good at recommending places to visit in the Catskills. This post is going to spotlight the beautiful waterfalls of the region. I love myself a good northern New York waterfall- and this state has plenty! Even if you only make it to one of the waterfalls, that’s okay- It’s so worth it!
- Stratton Falls (Roxbury, Delaware County)
Stratton Falls is named after two brothers- Joseph and Samuel Stratton- who were Connecticut natives that served in the Revolutionary War and survived. After the war, they relocated from the Nutmeg State to Roxbury.
There is a bridge near the waterfall, and legend says that a ghost lives under the bridge. When people would arrive at this destination in carriages, the ghost would emerge and spook visitors. No ghost emerged to frighten us in our car and I didn’t see him when near the bridge, but then again, I was there in daylight.
There are two paths that lead to the waterfall. To the right, you can descend the stairs and see a full view of the waterfall. The path takes you to a place that almost looks like a gazebo- This is the perfect place to take a photo with your fellow travelers. There are more stairs to climb for the photographer in your party, and there’s a reason for it-When the photographer stands in the elevated position, the subjects of the photograph won’t be blocking Straton Falls or the bridge. The people, the waterfall itself, and the bridge will all make it into the photo, and this will contribute to a picturesque image.
The path on the left will make you descend extremely steep stairs and follow a route to reach the bottom of the waterfall. The view at the bottom of Stratton Falls is definitely a different perspective from the top! The river is gorgeous and you can follow another path alongside the river. The path will lead you back to the grounds of The Roxbury, a spectacular hotel with themed rooms that deserves a whole post blog in itself (I stayed at its sister site, so there will be a future post detailing this stay!)
Overall, the rushing water of Stratton Falls is so soothing to hear and I can stare at this waterfall forever.
2. Mine Kills Falls (North Blenheim, Schoharie County)
This unforgettable waterfall is located at the intersection of Central New York and the Catskills Mountains. It’s part of the greater Mine Kill State Park that has an Olympic-sized pool and a river filled with trout and walleye, hiking trails, and mountain biking trails.
Mine Kills Falls is an absolute treasure: It’s an 80-foot waterfall that goes through a gorge. There’s a parking lot that’s 0.25 miles away from the park’s entrance. Park here, and then walk to see this amazing sight. First, there’s a scenic overlook platform where you can enjoy a birds-eye view of the falls. This place has a solid view of the uppermost waterfall that is 20 feet and flows right under the NY-30 bridge. The middle part of the waterfall is roughly 40 feet high.
Don’t get me wrong, the overlook platform delivers impeccable views. But the hike to the lower falls is a must! You’ll hike in the woods for roughly 10 minutes- It can get steep at certain points and there is mud, so be careful and dress comfortably!
There’s a sign that says New York City is 278 miles away, and that gave me a laugh. I later realized that the trail that takes you to the bottom of the falls is a portion of the Long Path, an extensive 358-mile trail that runs from New York City to Thacher State Park.
Once you finish your descent, you’ll be standing on some very, very large rocks (and will learn how to navigate walking on those rocks without twisting your ankles). The view is just about the best thing ever: The towering gorge has a long, narrow opening for the water to stream through. You feel small but in a good way.
My talented dad produced a really fantastic video about this waterfall! You can check it out below-
One of the most memorable things about this destination is the water. It’s this turquoise-opal color. It looks so clean, so fresh, and is a mixture between green and blue. You get a sudden urge to swim in it.
This waterfall will really mesmerize you, I felt like I entered a trance when I first saw it.
3. Artist Falls (Round Top, Greene County)
Artist Falls is a lovely, 25-foot high waterfall on the territory of Winter Clove Inn, right at the base of North Mountain (Winter Clove Inn is another wonderful place to stay when you’re in the Catskills, I love it here. Choosing whether The Roxbury or Winter Clove Inn is better is the equivalent of choosing a favorite child. There’ll be a blog post about Winter Clove Inn in the future, too!)
The falls are right behind the inn. One trail will take you to the Alfred Clark Covered Bridge that’s at the top of Artist Falls. The second trail leads to the bottom of the falls and Winter Clove Brook, so it’s awesome to take both trails to get two different views and to spice up your photos! It’s in a forest with pine trees and there are dirt trails, so yes, it’s the epitome of the phrase “one with nature.”
I’ve visited in the summer, and I can only imagine how it must look in the fall when the leaves change color or in winter when it’s frozen and under snowfall.
There’s an abundance of hiking trails in this area, so feel free to extend your visit and lace up your hiking boots!
4. Kaaterskill Falls (Tannersville, Greene County)
It’s impossible to talk about the Catskills without mentioning the formidable Kaaterskill Falls. This is the crown jewel of the Catskills and is placed on many travelers’ itineraries when they visit this mountainous region. There’s a reason why Hudson River School artists were enthralled and painted this landmark. Poet William Cullen Bryant and author Washington Irving even mentioned this waterfall in their writing.
Kaaterskill Falls continues to inspire writers, photographers, and filmmakers. It’s the highest waterfall in New York State and it’s a two-tiered waterfall that drops over 260 feet.
It lives up to its reputation as an impressive and unbelievable waterfall. There’s an observation deck, and there is also a 1.4-mile hike.
I’ve seen this beauty when I was younger but the world has changed! Crowd control is now an issue and cars are parked illegally. When I interned at New York State’s tourism organization, I heard that there was such a major influx of travelers that the local tourism promotion agency was advising visitors to seek alternate trails. In the age of social media (and a global pandemic in which people strive to enjoy less-trafficked areas), Kaaterskill Falls has exploded in popularity. Not to be a debbie downer here, but there have been deaths here- Please be careful while hiking and put the phone away if you’re nearing a ledge! That Insta story can wait.
All in all, Kaaterskill Falls is worth it. There’s nothing like seeing one of the tallest waterfalls on the East Coast.
There you have it, four extraordinary waterfalls in the Catskills! Please let me know if you visit and what your impressions were of these places!