by Rochelle Riservato
There’s something so calming and relaxing about viewing the majesty of waterfalls as they rapidly cascade with breathtaking speed—from one stratum to the next. Descending with gushing force from towering mountains and through rock formations, it makes one feel so small and insignificant to realize that nature can be so powerful. Yet they comfort us with their beauty.
From afar a waterfall provides a wondrous backdrop. As you get closer, the drizzling breeze radiates from bubbling and roaring waters—drenching you with tender droplets of moisture.
And once you’re at the safest distance nature will allow—you’re surrounded with a less-than-delicate froth of billowing bubbles.
No matter how far or near—waterfalls are miraculous and essential to our lives. They feed our senses with their splendor—and our thirst with fresh waters.
There’s an old saying: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls”—but that’s for fear of the unknown. VISITvortex has put together a group of well-known and most popular waterfalls in the Hudson Valley to satiate the passions of photographers, hikers and sometimes swimmers, when waters are safe and accessible. According to Russell Dunn, author of Hudson Valley Waterfalls, the popularity of waterfalls is ever-increasing with the passage of time.
Don’t let summer pass you by without a visit to one of nature’s most imperial endowments to mankind.
Minnewaska State Park is the optimum place in Ulster County for an all-day waterfall adventure. A 3- to 4-hour hike will give the opportunity to see three falls—Awosting, Stony Kill, and Sheldon Falls. For updates on road closures within the park—due to last year’s flooding damage—call the Park office at 845-255-0752 or visit nysparks.com/parks and then Minnewaska State Park.
Awosting Falls – A 60-foot plunge down Peters Kill creek in Minnewaska State Park. The falls are inside the park and just off the road. Best to drive into the main park entrance, make an immediate right turn after the park admission booth, and drive a bit down the access road to the horse trailer parking lot. After parking, walk back down the access road, past the entrance booth, then take a right on the road to the lake. Just after crossing the stream make a left on the old carriage road. This route takes you along the stream to the top of the falls, and the road continues on around a couple of switchbacks to the bottom of the falls.
Sheldon Falls – Also located in Minnewaska State Park and available by following the stream from Awosting Falls. This fall is visible from the old power station and dam, which is also a great place to explore. A few more waterfalls are downstream for extra adventure.
Stony Kill Falls – A 90-foot plunge down the Stony Kill located in Minnewaska State Park. The easiest way to get to this fall is by parking at the gate on Shaft 2A road and walking a half-mile or so to the falls.
Verkeeter Falls – At 120 feet it is the tallest waterfall in the Shawangunks. The waterfall is located in Sam’s Point Preserve in the Town of Shawangunk. It is an uneven rocky trail but very easy to follow, clearly marked with blue spray paint dots. Overall the hike is six miles round-trip. In order to get the best vantage point to see the falls you have to cross the stream and there is a nice rock outcropping that gives you a clear view and a nice place to sit down. There is no swimming at the bottom of the falls although there is enough water to get your head wet and a nice shower. There are no trails to the bottom so you need to bushwhack to the base.
Beebe Hill Falls – In Beebe Hill State Forest in the Town of Austerlitz on the Taconic Mountain Range. A short hike leads to a small stream with a 5-foot cascade and a 20-foot combination slide and cascade. The upper falls drain the outlet of a shallow swamp. The falls are small, but the area and views are beautiful to behold. Directions to the state forest: 518-357-2450.
Stuyvesant Falls – A nice pair of falls on the Kinderhook Creek that was named Stuyvesant Falls in 1863. There is a small viewing park on the opposite side of the creek where you can see the upper set from a distance. There is a dam and reservoir at the top of the falls. Nice town park right along the creek that allows access to the falls and has a small beach to swim at when there's a lifeguard on duty.
Bastion Falls – Also called Horseshoe Falls, it’s a triple falls conveniently roadside near the more renowned Kaaterskill Falls. A 60- to 80-foot waterfall with a larger upper fall and multiple lower falls. It sits on a hairpin curve on route 23A in the Catskill Mountains. The parking lot is about .2 miles up the road from the falls.
Buttermilk Falls – The Town of Denning offers the Peekamoose Mountains, Buttermilk Falls Brook, and these picturesque falls—and as an extra just ask around for some secret swimming holes. For directions call Town of Denning at 845-985-2411. Video at: visitvortex.com/Buttermilk_Falls
Fawn's Leap – A constriction in the gorge creates a 30-foot plunge on Kaaterskill Creek. You can walk along the creek bank, but best to walk up the road and then descend just before the sign. The embankment is actually easier to negotiate than the stream bank. Up the road from Moore's Bridge Falls.
Kaaterskill Falls – One of the tallest falls in the state, this triple-tiered falls has a massive overall height of 260 feet. The first overhanging drop is 180 feet tall and the second is 80 feet. The hike in is about one-half mile from the road with about a .2-mile walk from the parking lot. Offers a large boulder base and a beautiful bowl with a swimming hole. Route 23A between the towns of Haines Falls and Pallenville in the Catskill Mountains. Video at: visitvortex.com/Kaaterskill_Falls
Moore's Bridge Falls – A beautiful 10-foot cascade extremely popular with tourists. Best accessed by parking in a small pull-out east of the falls, then walking up over the bridge past the falls and descending on the far side. Downstream from Fawn’s Leap. Just below the Route 23A bridge over Kaaterskill Creek, about 1.9 miles from the Town of Palenville on Kaaterskill Creek.
Otter Falls – Located on state land in Sundown, a small but adventurous side trail leads to the spectacular falls cascading down about 30 feet to a large, deep basin measuring about 20 to 30 feet in diameter with a center depth between 6 and 8 feet. Otter Falls is only about a half-mile from the popular Giant Ledge trail parking area, making it an excellent stop after a hot, sweaty hike.
Vernooy Falls – A 20 to 30-foot staircase falls on the Vernooy Kill just outside of Kerhonkson. It's a 3-mile roundtrip hike to view them. Directions: Route 209 in Kerhonkson; turn north onto Route 3/Samsonville Road; go for 3.5 miles; at the sign for Veritas Villa bear left onto Lower Cherrytown Road across a stream; go for 1.4 miles; at the intersection with Cherrytown Road and Upper Cherrytown Road, bear right onto Upper Cherrytown; and go 3.1 miles to a parking area on the right, on Trails End Road. Video at: visitvortex.com/Vernooy_Kill
Viola Falls – Up the ravine from Kaaterskill Creek on the right hand side.
Wildcat Falls – Two sheer drops down a total of about 100 feet on the Wildcat Ravine on the south end of Kaaterskill Clove near the Town of Palenville. Along the same cliff as Buttermilk and Viola Falls.
Take precautions along paths as erosion and water can create slick conditions. As a general rule, use common sense and be aware of the loose rocks, dirt and water-slick stones as some spots can be dangerous or deadly if not careful.