Sandy beach
Cliff jumping
Hike-in Required
Sensitive Habitat
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Kaaterskill Creek is 26 miles long and offers a number of unique and precious swimming holes throughout the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. It’s a tributary of the Catskill Creek in Greene and Ulster counties and part of the Hudson River Watershed. Beginning near Tannersville and Haines Falls, this fast-moving freshwater runoff flows east to Palenville and eventually makes its way to the town of Catskill. Be prepared to hike down a short and steep path to reach the water.

Parking is very limited along New York Route 23A, and on hot days the area can become very crowded. This is a narrow road, and you will need to walk along the guardrail to the trailhead with much caution. You may have to do some visual searches for trails leading down to the creek, but the best option is to look for a sign designating one of the main paths. Make your way down to the creek (shoes are highly recommended), and upon reaching the water, navigate upstream about a tenth of a mile. You will find a gorgeous pool of water with a natural water slide and a few shallow ledges to jump from. Be mindful of the currents near the falls and watch your head on the overhanging rocks. Enjoy your time here, and please help keep the stream clean.

The trailhead of Kaaterskill Falls is a few miles west on New York Route 23A. It is New York’s tallest two-stage waterfall and one of America’s oldest tourist attractions. Located on Spruce Creek in the eastern Catskill Mountins, the falls cascades over 260 feet, draining water from North-South Lake and emptying into the Kaaterskill Creek. It’s a 1.3-mile round-trip hike to the falls traversing a 620-foot steep and rocky ascent. Many people like to snowshoe this path in the winter to see the falls when it is frozen.

The word Kaaterskill, or Caterskill, is correctly pronounced "kahter" and means “he-cat” or “big cat.” Its formation is relatively recent on the geological timeline. By the end of the Illinoian Stage around 191,000 to 130,000 years ago, runoff from the glacial melt flowed from the headwaters of the nearby Schoharie Creek, filled North-South Lake, and carved out the steep cove that extends along Route 23A. The Kaaterskill Clove, which forms the surrounding gorge, is much older, with some geologist estimating it to have been formed over 1,000,000 years ago. In some places it can be as deep as 2,500 feet! This area has been depicted by renowned painters of the Hudson River School and featured in Washington Irving’s classic story “Rip Van Winkle.” The construction of the parallel Scenic Byway New York Route 23A, originally the Rip Van Winkle Trail, made the Catskills much more accessible to visitors from the cities and bolstered the area's popularity. It was built by convict labor from 1914 to 1921.

This is one of several enjoyable swimming areas along the Kaaterskill Creek. Rat’s Hole is farther downstream to the east and easily identified by a vertical rock slab that creates a natural dam and unique pool. Fawn’s Leap is a popular 30-foot cliff jump to the north that is beautiful to observe but can be very dangerous to attempt. Please use common sense in this area and do not swim at times with high water volume nor jump when water is low.

BE VERY CAREFUL OF STEEP LEDGES AND SLIPPERY ROCKS. There is an unfortunate history of death in this area due to overzealous tourists. Please heed all signs and warnings, stay away from ledges, and remain on the designated path. The Kaaterskill Wild Forest is a place of beauty that requires a high level of respect.

Logistics + Planning

Parking Pass

Not Required


Protected pool area. Deep water.


Very little parking. Can become busy.


Field Guide


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