The following is a guest post from our friends at Dig the Falls, experts in all things waterfalls and advocates of Leave No Trace.
The Catskills and Hudson Valley are immensely rich in history, heritage, and culture. From the days of the Hudson River School and Thomas Cole creating timeless masterpieces to the present, where diverse groups of visitors enjoy a variety of offerings, the Catskills stand at the top of many must-see lists.
While well-known for its mountains and art, the Catskills are also home to bountiful waterfalls. Each year, artists and hikers set out in search of these natural wonders to either capture or simply enjoy the scenes they create. For some, the sound of the water crashing or babbling amongst the rocks can be soothing or exhilarating depending on the time of year they are visited, while others find respite during a long hike near the base of the region's magnificent waterfalls.
The broad concentration of waterfalls in the Catskills also offers families an opportunity to enjoy them as many only require shorter, easier hikes. Included below is a short list of family-friendly waterfall Catskills hikes that are sure to be the foundations of many special days. But, before you visit, please take note of the following waterfall safety and etiquette tips to ensure that you stay safe and the Catskills stay sustained.
Waterfall Safety: Safety begins with preparation
- Research the trail no matter how short it may be. Make sure the terrain will be suitable and manageable for all in your party. It could help to jot down waypoints and directions, and it never hurts to carry a map. While phones can be great resources (especially with downloadable trail maps in apps like AllTrails), they can die and should not be fully relied upon.
- Bring water! Even on a short hike to a waterfall on a hot day, it's possible to succumb to dehydration or worse.
- Use a trekking pole for stability on the trails. Many trails can contain rough terrain or water crossings. A trekking pole (or two) can greatly increase stability while navigating rough or steep terrain.
- Wear breathable, lightweight clothing. During the Summer, jeans and cotton clothing will soak up perspiration and hold it all day. In the unfortunate event that a hiker gets lost and must remain in the woods overnight, the wet clothing could lead to hypothermia. Also, merino wool socks may sound hot or uncomfortable, but they are an excellent moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating material for your feet.
- Proper footwear is of great importance. Flip flops and sandals should never be worn on a hike. The lack of traction and support could lead to a fall or debilitating injury. Hiking boots/shoes offer excellent traction and support, which is crucial on the slippery trails and rocks surrounding waterfalls.
Trail Etiquette: Pack out what you pack in
Trail etiquette and trash are often a topic of debate on Social Media. We're of the opinion that tossing your trash on the ground is inexcusable.
- Bring a bag to store wrappers or leftovers from foods like bananas, oranges, peanut shells, sunflower seeds, etc. so they don't end up littering the trails.
- So often we hear, "What's the harm in tossing your banana or orange peels on the ground? The animals will eat them." Or, "They're biodegradable." While those peels will rot into the earth, their presence could lead to an increase in undesired interactions with wildlife and in the chance that wildlife may come to rely on such things. Wildlife could begin to associate hikers with food, increasing the odd chance that they seek out hikers as a food source. New York State recently noticed an increase in incidents where black bears followed and harassed hikers until the hikers threw their packs or food down.
- If you hike with a dog, bring a bag to pick up and carry out the waste. Please do not leave it at the trailhead or along the trail on the premise that "we will be back through, anyway..." Treat the trails as you would your neighbor's front steps.
By making the proper preparations and following the above etiquette tips, you and your family will ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the trails while minimizing the impact on the environment. Leaving the trails the way they were found is how we can all show the most love to the Catskills.
Practice the above waterfall safety tips on these family-friendly Catskills waterfall hikes:
Greene County - Ashley Falls: 40ft
For a shorter hike, you must pay to get into the North-South Lake, travel around North Lake Road till trailhead/Parking area on the northern side. Total hike of around 1.3 miles all around. Level of difficulty is easy. Trailhead GPS: 42.20430, -74.03908
Ulster County - Buttermilk Falls: 40 ft
Park at Buttermilk Falls trailhead GPS: 41.92369, -74.41287 Falls are a couple hundred feet from the trailhead. You can't miss it. Level of difficulty: easy
Delaware County - Hardenburgh Falls: 20 ft
Another Delaware County waterfall that makes a great family day trip is Hardenburgh Falls. Also found in the Town of Roxbury, this 20-foot waterfall forms on the Bear Kill and is accessible from the roadside. After parking along the road, GPS -42.33775 -74.45114, visitors will find a trail on the right after crossing a small bridge. In order to access the area for a view of the bottom of the waterfall, visitors must have a fishing permit.
Sullivan County - Beaverkill Falls: 16 ft
Beaverkill Falls forms on the Little Beaverkill in the Town of Liberty, Sullivan County. This picturesque waterfall is found near a parking a picnic area making it the perfect spot for a family trip! The trail can be found straight back from the picnic tables and is short, but fairly steep so please use caution. GPS for parking is -41.85895 -74.76460