HUNTER — Parking and trail regulations first put into place at Kaaterskill Falls last summer will remain in force this year.
The rules implemented last year were designed to combat overcrowding at the trailhead on Route 23A in Haines Falls, according to Greene County Tourism.
“We encourage visitors to be familiar with the parking and safety regulations prior to hiking Kaaterskill Falls, so they are prepared upon arrival,” Greene County Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw said. “We also urge visitors to hike on less crowded days of the week, or to explore other less crowded hiking trails to help ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience.”
The Molly Smith parking area remains closed to the public this summer. Kaaterskill Falls can be reached from parking lots on Laurel House Road and Schutt Road, and from the North-South Lake State Campground.
Kaaterskill Wild Forest is a 7,620-acre site in the Catskill Forest Preserve, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Kaaterskill Falls is a two-tiered waterfall with a 260-foot drop, and is the tallest two-tiered waterfall in the state, according to Scenic Hudson.
Illegally parked vehicles will be ticketed and towed, according to Greene County Tourism.
The parking changes were first put in place in the summer of 2020.
“The regulations were changed last year because of overcrowding with parking on [Route] 23A between Palenville and Haines Falls,” Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg said Monday. “It became a safety issue for pedestrians and vehicular traffic alike.”
The parking changes were made cooperatively among the town, state and county, Legg said.
“Last year was one of the first years we implemented stronger enforcement on the [Route 23A] corridor and it was, in my opinion, a big success,” Legg said.
Hikers are also encouraged to remove all trash before leaving the falls and trail. There is a $250 fine for littering in the Catskills, according to the county’s tourism website.
The agency also advised hikers to be mindful of wet rocks near the waterfall because they can be slippery, and to always stay on marked trails. Proper hiking gear is also advised.
There have been several fatalities at Kaaterskill Falls over the past few years.
“There have been deaths at the upper part of the falls,” Legg said.
The body of a Yonkers man, Jesse Ritholz, 36, was found by divers April 30 at the base of the falls, Troop F Public Information Officer Steven Nevel said earlier this month.
The body of a Westchester County man, 62, was recovered from the Becker Hollow Trail in Hunter after he suffered a medical condition while on the trail.
In September 2019, a West Point cadet fell to his death at nearby Fawn’s Leap, when part of the rock ledge he was hanging onto broke off.
The Department of Environmental Conservation announced regulations in 2018 that prohibit visitors from going within 6 feet of cliff edges, except when on marked trails, as a safety precaution. Hikers are also prohibited from going into the water within 150 feet upstream of the falls, according to the county tourism department.
Reporter Bill Williams contributed to this report.