Your Guide to the Kaaterskill Wild Forest

This post may contain affiliate links.
View of kaaterskill wild forest

Less than an hour south of the magnificent New York State Capitol building is a different majestic scene: the Catskills. This mountain range on the Allegheny Plateau of the larger Appalachian Mountains is home to Kaaterskill Wild Forest

You’ll find miles of trails and opportunities to view wildlife within these dense deciduous and boreal trees. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a visit to Kaaterskill Wild Forest is in order. Let’s explore!

Where Is Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

Located in the Catskill Forest Preserve, the Kaaterskill Wild Forest is in southeastern New York. Highway 23A runs through the forest and connects Palenville in the east to Haines Falls in the west.

And Interstate 87 runs along the eastern border up to Albany. It’s about an hour’s drive north to the state’s capital.

How Big Is Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

The Kaaterskill Wild Forest encompasses 7,620 acres of wilderness in New York state. The terrain varies from mountains and valleys to cliffs and waterfalls within the forest.

And you’ll find many hiking trails and other recreational trails to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy during all seasons of the year.

View of kaaterskill wild forest

Does It Cost to Visit the Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

It doesn’t cost to visit the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. The New York Forest Preserve manages it within the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The DEC manages 288,000 acres within the Catskill Forest Preserve, which the forest lies within. The Adirondacks, the only other Forest Preserve in the state, contains 2.7 million acres.

Because of the remote backcountry lands, parking is limited within forest preserves. When you visit the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, arrive early and pay close attention to posted signage. 

For example, the town of Hunter has parking restrictions on Route 23A and Platte Clove Road. Only park in designated DEC parking lots to prevent getting towed or a ticket.

How Do You Get to the Kaaterskill Falls?

For visitors wanting to view the popular Kaaterskill Falls, the DEC suggests parking at the Laurel-House Road, Scutt Road, or South Lake parking areas. 

Laurel-House Road is located off of North Lake Road, a half mile before the entrance to the North South Lake Campground entrance. Walk about 0.3 miles to the observation platform overlooking Kaaterskill Falls.

Scutt Road is located in the same area, just off North Lake Road, immediately before the entrance to North South Lake Campground. You’ll have to walk a bit farther to see the falls from here.

Follow the blue-marked Escarpment Trail south and cross the Spruce Brook bridge that leads to the viewing platform.

Finally, the South Lake parking area is in the North South Lake Campground. From the parking lot, you’ll walk south along South Lake Road for about 200 meters to the yellow-marked South Lake access road on the right. 

From this trail, you’ll connect to the blue-marked Escarpment Trail, where you’ll cross the Spruce Brook bridge to the viewing platform.

A waterfall at kaaterskill wild forest

Are There Hiking Trails in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

Kaaterskill Wild Forest has many hiking trails. The longest within the forest is the 6.5-mile Kaaterskill High Peak Trail. It gains an elevation of 911 feet. 

During the winter, it’s ideal for snowmobilers, while the warmer months are perfect for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.

The Escarpment Trail is 23.9 miles and connects to other forests and wilderness areas. Within the forest, you can hike 9.8 miles of this trail. 

As you travel along the Escarpment Trail, you’ll find short side trails that lead to Artists Rock, Lookout Rock, Sunset Rock, and Newman’s Ledge. These will provide beautiful views of the Hudson Valley.

For hikers looking for shorter trails, you can take the 2.4-mile Huckleberry Point Trail that offers views of the Hudson Valley and Overlook Mountain and the 4.8-mile trail leading to Buttermilk Falls. 

The 4.9-mile Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail is open to horseback riders and hikers and takes you to the Rip Van Winkle Historic House site.

Keep in Mind: Have you ever wondered Who Invented the RV? Let’s find out!

Can You Camp in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

You can camp in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. Off the Escarpment Trail, you can access the one primitive campsite. You don’t need a permit unless you stay for more than three nights or in groups of 10 or more. 

Follow the Leave No Trace principles and set up your campsite at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water.

What Winter Recreational Activities Are Allowed?

Because of the miles of trails within the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, snowmobiling is a popular winter activity.

You can snowmobile on the Kaaterskill High Peak Trail and the Long Path from the Steenburg Road parking area off Platte Clove Road.

You can also go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, although no trails are maintained for these specific activities. However, you can bring your skis along any hiking trail during the winter.

What Wildlife Might You See in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest?

The Catskills region has abundant wildlife. You might see a deer munching on grass or witness a bear or bobcat strolling through the forest. 

You might even see a porcupine on the trails. Just like other forests, you’re likely to see snakes, coyotes, foxes, and opossums here as well.

Keep in Mind: It’s illegal to hike to Mossbrae Falls, But People still Do It anyway! Click the link to see why this hike is illegal.

A deer eating grass at kaaterskill wild forest

Don’t Forget to Leave No Trace When You Visit the Kaaterskill Wild Forest

The Kaaterskill Wild Forest in southeastern New York is worth a visit. The scenery is spectacular, from the beautiful overlooks of the Hudson Valley to the cascading waterfalls of Kaaterskill Falls and Buttermilk Falls.

Plus, the miles of trails provide opportunities for outdoor adventure during all seasons.

Will you visit Kaaterskill Wild Forest this camping season?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Article
A jeep being flat towed by an RV

Does Flat Towing a Car Add Miles to It?

Next Article
The Bonnie and Clyde Death Car

Add the Bonnie and Clyde Death Car to Your Macabre Bucket List