A thunderstorm rolling through on a warm evening brings a familiar, relaxing rumble of summer in the Hudson Valley, and the cooling rain that comes with it breathes life back into some of the best natural attractions we have in the region: waterfalls. You can often hear that same rumble before you reach a waterfall, although not all waterfalls are created equal—the weather and seasons can play a big role in whether or not it’s a good time to hike to these scenic spots.
Surging waterfalls in spring can sometimes look a lot different in the summer, but, really, there's never a bad time to go chase waterfalls. The Hudson Valley has a bunch of accessible falls, so check the forecast, grab your dog or friend (or both), and head out to explore one of the region's famous (or lesser-known) waterfalls this summer.
new croton dam, croton-on-hudson
New York City's vast water supply system funnels fresh water from all over the Hudson Valley, thanks in part to this impressive dam at the Croton Reservoir in Westchester County. The original dam was built in 1892, and a visit to Croton Gorge Park allows visitors views of the cascading water and natural waterfall flowing down from the reservoir. A bridge over the waterfall at the top of the dam provides a dramatic view and is a fantastic spot to photograph the sunrise.
buttermilk falls, grahamsville
This is another gem of the Catskills that's viewable from the road and requires very little hiking to enjoy. This 46-foot waterfall (one of many in the state and region called "Buttermilk") is just off Route 42, also called Peekamoose Road, just northeast of the Rondout Reservoir. There's a small dirt parking, area and you'll spot the creek on Google Maps as "Buttermilk Falls Brook." This spot is a photographer's dream with its many rocks, cascades, shady trees, and easy access.
awosting falls, minnewaska state park preserve
Awosting is one of the most popular spots to visit on a day trip to Minnewaska, a state park in the Shawangunk Mountains, just west of New Paltz. The 60-foot waterfall is an easy 15 to 20 minute walk down the trail from the main entrance to the park. Awosting Falls is fed by Peters Kill, a mountain stream that meanders through the Gunks from Lake Awosting, about four miles away.
Visitors can park at the Awosting lot near the main entrance of the park and walk back toward the road to connect to the main carriage road trail—take it to the edge of the cliff at the top of this waterfall and enjoy the view looking down (take note of the very old pitch pine trees here). Then, continue down the trail for a few minutes to the bottom.
If the water level is low enough, you can cross the narrow stream and get a different perspective of the waterfall for your photographs. The shady, quiet trail below the waterfall also continues along the water—perfect for a quick, scenic hike. Minnewaska charges a $10 parking fee. Visitors can also drive up to the lake and enjoy the park's trails, cliffs, swimming areas, and views.
stony kill falls, minnewaska state park preserve
Locally known as Shaft 2A, Stony Kill is really worth your time following the fantastic trail work and renovations that were recently installed by the state. This 90-foot waterfall plunges straight down to a pool and flows into a rocky creek, and now it's easier than ever to enjoy the sounds and cool mist. A $340,000 construction project in 2017 allowed a local trail-building company (Tahawus Trails) to artfully create a new path through the area, complete with two wooden bridges, a viewing platform, and natural stairs made from the iconic white rocks of the Gunks. The first footbridge over the creek provides an Instagram-ready composition of the waterfall and cascading stream below. Pack a lunch and hike up above the falls for another smaller waterfall. Finding this spot is the toughest part: if coming from New Paltz, drive past the main Minnewaska park entrance and down the winding road to the other side of the ridge until you see Rock Haven Road on the left. Take that to Shaft 2A Road and park at the end on the side, before you reach the metal gate. The trail here leads you through a vast, open space that previously existed as a rock quarry—it's now part of Minnewaska and partially controlled by New York City's water commissioner. There's no fee to park here.
kaaterskill falls, hunter
This 260-foot, two-tier waterfall is a classic scene of the Hudson Valley, and has inspired artists, painters, poets, and visitors for decades. Recent trail improvements have made Kaaterskill—the tallest waterfall in the state—even more accessible and less dangerous, and include a wheelchair-accessible gravel path to an overlook platform near the top. Most hikers park in the small lot along Route 23A and walk back toward the main trailhead, which takes you past Bastion Falls and up to the bottom of the lower falls. The viewing platform near the top has a nearby parking lot and short trail to follow. There is no fee to park.
indian brook falls, garrison
This relatively small but scenic waterfall is perfect for a day trip from New York City. A small, free parking lot for the nearby Constitution Marsh (park only in designated spots to avoid a ticket) allows visitors to walk up the road to the left to reach a short trail down below a bridge that leads to the waterfall. Afterward, head down the road to the Hudson River and enjoy Instagramable views of the Hudson Highlands at the marsh's boardwalks. Grab lunch in Cold Spring or head over the bridge to Bear Mountain State Park for sunset at the lake or Perkins Tower.
verkeerderkill falls, sam’s point preserve
This 180-foot waterfall flows down the side of a rocky cliff in the Gunks, although getting to it requires a much longer hike than Awosting and Stony Kill, and is best viewed from the top. From the Sam’s Point Trailhead on Sam’s Point Road, follow the 8.3-mile long Verkeerderkill Falls trail loop.
rainbow falls, minnewaska state park preserve
Cool off and stand under the falling water of this small waterfall, but only go if you're on your way out to Lake Awosting and there's been enough rain to keep this one flowing. A footpath off the main carriage road just before you reach the lake will take you here—just watch out for poison ivy.
plattekill falls, elka park
The Platte Clove in the Catskills is known for its canyon-like scenery, including this 70-foot waterfall at the end of a one-mile hike from a DEC parking area on Platte Clove Road. As many hikers have warned, it is important to stay on the trail here and not wander off, due to the extremely dangerous, steep cliffs.
bastion falls, hunter
Bastion Falls is viewable right from the road, making it a good option for those who’d rather not hike up to Kaaterskill, but still want to see a nice waterfall before grabbing lunch in Palenville or Woodstock. Visitors will drive around the curve on Route 23A and see the falls, and you can park in the lot just up the road and walk back for a closer look.
Photographing the Falls: If your goal is to photograph a waterfall, consider adding a circular polarizing filter for your camera—it will help with water surface glare and clarity. A neutral density filter is also helpful in creating those silky, soft long exposures when paired with a tripod. Don't have a fancy camera? Your iPhone can do the job, too: enable live mode (the yellow circle at the top of your camera screen) and snap a photo; when viewing the image afterward, swipe up and select the "long exposure" option on your iPhone to get a similar effect. Waterfalls are best photographed on cloudy days or in the shade.
Waterfalls in Other Parts of New York: If you're up for a longer adventure, consider a trip to Watkins Glen and Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, famous for its many gorges and waterfalls, including the picturesque Taughannock Falls.
General Guidelines: Be mindful of park fees, parking regulations, and staying on marked trails to avoid eroding the terrain and disturbing wildlife, such as snakes. Respect the land and keep it clean: be sure to carry out any items you bring in, like water bottles or food wrappers. It's our responsibility to keep these beautiful spots clean and natural.