6 Easy Catskills Hikes

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Want a deep Catskills experience without the angst of a rigorous mountain hike? These are the easy Catskills hikes for you. These six routes are a wonderful way to get a real-Catskills nature fix — without adding the risks that come with tougher hiking trails.

These easy Catskills hikes are presented in order of increasing difficulty, but all six are very do-able. 

The first four have almost zero elevation gain — meaning, they’re relatively flat hikes. They are amazing Nature Walks and are do-able by anybody free of mobility concerns.

The two mountain hikes at the end have very moderate elevation gains and no technical concerns; they are the two easiest Catskills High Peaks to hike. Both hikes make for a perfect introduction to the deep joys of mountain hiking.

6 Easy Hikes in the Catskills

Immerse yourself in the outdoors with these six easy hikes in the Catskills…

1. Kaaterskill Falls via Kaaterskill Rail Trail

Iced-up Kaaterskill Falls: an easy catskills hike
Kaaterskill Falls seen from the Viewing Platform

Kaaterskill Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the Catskills, with good reason. The falls here are the tallest cascading falls in New York State, dropping for a total of 260 feet in two plumes (which is much taller than Niagara Falls). But it’s really the incredible structure of the falls that makes it such a spectacular experience.

This short, super-easy hike is not the lower/sketchier route to Kaaterskill Falls via Route 23/Bastion Falls. This hike follows a wide flat trail almost all the way to the incredible viewing platform.

This route also includes views not seen by those who park closer to the falls. For winter walkers, it’s also the perfect trail for easy snow-shoeing or cross country skiing.

2. Ashokan Quarry Trail

ruins in woods / an easy catskills hike
Old railway ruins

A short, super-easy hike almost anyone can do — with fantastic terrain and scenic views, and a superb set of ruins to explore.

The Ashokan Quarry Trail is a new, short and highly entertaining hike most people will be able to do in under an hour.

It’s so varied in terms of terrain, flora, views and ruins, it’s a hit with younger hikers, too.

3. Onteora Lake

onteroa lake view / an easy catskills hike
Looking across Onteora Lake

Just a 10 minute drive from both Kingston and Woodstock, Onteora Lake is a fantastic set of three interconnected loops that are perfect for a hit of the real Catskills.

Its lake, ponds, streams, trails, old quarries, hemlock and oak forests on gently rolling hills — with occasional cliffs — are ideal for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing.

If you want to know what the Catskills are like, without actually climbing a mountain, these easy loops are for you.

4. Sloan Gorge Preserve

chimney interior
The Chimney (interior)

A super-short but super-fun hike through hemlock woods that descends into a rocky gorge with dramatic cliffs and a wonderful chimney/rock-passage to climb through.

Sloan Gorge Preserve offers an absolutely delightful, short, family-friendly nature walk.

The preserve is managed by the Woodstock Land Conservancy who describe it as a treasure trove of mixed hardwood and coniferous forests, vernal pools, a seasonal stream, and bluestone quarries. It has the first interpretive “geology trail” in the area. It is also home to bear, fox, deer, raccoon, possum, porcupines, and a wide variety of birds and woodland flora.

The next two hikes are a bit more strenuous, but both are very do-able. Pack your ten essentials and have an amazing day.

5. Balsam Lake Fire Tower

conifer forest view
Fire Tower view

There are no tough sections on this route to the summit of Balsam Lake; it’s easy hiking the whole way.

From Mill Brook Road, the ascent of Balsam Lake takes barely 90 minutes, about the same as hiking Slide Mountain from Route 47 — but this is even easier. Plus, you’ll get the best wilderness view in the Catskills from Balsam Lake’s fire tower. See above.

6. Windham High Peak from Cross Road

dappled woods light
Late afternoon light

Windham High Peak is one of my favorite Catskills to hike from any direction but this route is my absolute favorite — it’s just so lovely.

The large parking area, and the easy first mile of boardwalks and hemlock-rich woods, make for such a pleasant beginning and end to this beautiful day hike.

Even the drive along Route 23 is beautiful. It winds along the Catskill escarpment, from Cairo through Acra and South Durham to East Windham. On a sunny day, it’s a lovely route with great views of the escarpment peaks.

The three ledge views from the summit of Windham High Peak are some of the most dramatic in The Catskills.



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More Easy Catskills Hikes (and some harder ones too)

Not ready for mountain hikes? Explore the complete list of Nature Walks — these are far easier to tackle.

And here’s list of family friendly hikes which get your whole clan into nature.

If you’re up for more of a challenge, think about tackling the Catskills Fire Towers — there are now six and all offer exceptional 360° views.

Are you ready to tackle The Catskill 3500 List?

2 responses to “6 Easy Catskills Hikes

  1. I would no put Balsam Lake Mountain on the list of easy hikes but I suppose that depends on your definition of easy and the hiker’s conditioning. Certainly the descent on the Beaverkill side can be difficult. The ascent on the Beaverkill side is short but steep. The description of the Balsam Lake hike still include Graham which is now closed.

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