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Kaaterskill Amphitheater and Hawkeye Ledge


Overview of this Hike:

Distance: 7.53 miles round trip from parking at bridge to Kaaterskill Amphitheater and Hawkeye. NOTICE: This hike requires two cars and you will be BUSHWHACKING for part of this hike.
Time: 5.0 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,163’ feet from parking lot to Kaaterskill Amphitheater
Elevation Loss: 2,419’ feet from Kaaterskill Amphitheater to Malden Ave
Best Time to Hike: When the leaves are not on the trees (late Fall to early Spring).
Side Trips: Indian Camp, Viola Falls, and Poet's Ledge.
Difficulty: Moderate
VO Map No: 26 - bushwhack - 19
Catskill Highest: not a peak hike
Peak Elevation: 3,055'
Digital Mapper: Topo Terrain Satellite
Attractions: Nice walk along the Kaaterskill Amphitheater rim.
Attractions: Hike an old ancient Mohawk Indian trail.
Attractions: Visit a very rare Pitch Pine tree grove.
Attractions: Very remote. It is unlikely that you will encounter another person.
Unattractions: Need two cars for this hike.
Dangers: Falling off the rim of the Amphitheater
Dangers: Rocks are often wet and mossy all year , and are deceptively slippery. Do NOT underestimate the slippery rocks. Getting injuried is easy. Being on the North side of a steep mountain, the sun doesn’t shine here often, so there are a lot of moss and wet rocks.
Dangers: If you are injuried you may be stuck there for days before someone comes by to help. This great trail is rarely used. Most travelers are passing thru via the Long Path.
Dangers: Black bears visit this region very often. Watch for dig holes. The possibility of you encountering one is pretty good. Make sure that you are up-to-date on bear encounters.
Common Animals: Coyotes, bears, bobcats, birds, Hawks, butterflies (whites & swallowtails), and deer.
Risky Animals: Rattlesnakes and Copperheads (none known), Bears (High)
Access Methods: Foot and snowshoe.

Maps, Profile, and GPS files

kaaterskill amphitheater hawkeye gps map
kaaterskill amphitheater hawkeye gps profile map

Directions to Trail Head from New York State Thruway (Easist, not the shortest):

  • GPS Coordinates to DEC Parking Lot: N42 08.020 W74 04.962 - Elevation is approximately ,1872 feet
  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 21 (Catskill).
  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road.
  • Go approximately 1/4 mile
  • Take a right onto Route 23 West
  • Go approximately 6.6 miles to Cairo, NY
  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 32. McDonalds Rest. on corner.
  • Go approximately 7.7 miles on Rt 32
  • Take a RIGHT onto Rt 23A
  • Go roughly 10 miles on Rt 23A .
  • When you come into Tannersville, take LEFT at the red light onto RailRoad Ave (Rt 16), which will turn into Spruce Street, which will turn into Platt Clove Road. Follow this road approximately 7-8 miles
  • The parking lot is on the RIGHT side of the road. You will actually be parking on the side of the road
  • It is approximately 1/2 mile past Josh Road (on right side of the road). GPS N42 08.020 W74 04.962 - Elevation 1,872'
  • If you start to go down the hill to the valley, then you have gone too far. The downhill section of the road is closed in the winter.
  • Do NOT block the gate entrance - there is a house at the end of this road.
  • Do NOT drive up the dirt entrance road to the trail head - this is PRIVATE property - AND there is NO place to park or turn around once you get to the trail head.

  • Notes about this Hike

    The hike to Kaaterskill Amphitheater and Hawkeye is one rarely ever hiked. But, the trail is probably one of the oldest trails in the Catskill Mountains. The Mohawk Indians used it to climb up to their Indian Camp between the Amphitheater and Kaaterskill High Peak. Today only a couple people a year hike this route. Hawkeye is a special place. Years ago, there was a spectacular view from Hawkeye Ledge. Today, it is overgrown with trees. There is also a beautiful flat ledge rock. It is populated with rare Pitch Pine trees. You can also make side trips to the Mohawk Indian Camp and/or Poet's Ledge.

    Poet's Ledge is best viewed in the morning, as the sun shines in from east and fills up the Kaaterskill Clove with sunlight. Later in the day, the view is very disappointing. The path to Poet's Ledge is well marked DEC trail. You can also access it from Viola Falls by following northern escarpment into the woods. This is where the old trail existed. They have recently changed it so that people could access Poet's Ledge from Palenville with less mileage.

    It is best to start this hike from Devil's Kitchen in Platte Clove. Going this way will save you 1,300 vertical feet of climbing. The parking lot in Devil's Kitchen is around 1900' and the parking in Palenville is around 600'. You will need to put one car next to the bridge on Rt 23a. Look at the last picture for the parking spot. There are two other places on Rt 23a you can park, but this spot is the best. Do NOT park on Malden Ave. The local people get very upset, and will have your car towed. Some people have parked at the Fernwood Restaurant with permission (ie, eat dinner when you come back later). Then with a second car drive to the Devil's Kitchen parking lot on Platte Clove Road (Rt 16).

    Register your hike in the DEC registration box. If you get lost or hurt while bushwhacking you need to give search and rescue some idea where you are. Your life might depend upon it. Hike up the road where the gate is located. After close to a mile, you will turn RIGHT off the road onto a DEC trail. After another 1/3 mile, you will take a LEFT and hike up the Long Path route. After about 2.4 miles, you will come to a level hiking area. Look on your left for a side trail (non-DEC trail). This side trail will take you to the old Mohawk Indian Camp. At this point, you want to take a RIGHT at the side trial to the Mohawk Indian Camp. You will then BUSHWHACK about 1/3 of a mile to the rim of the Kaaterskill Amphitheater. Once you reach the Amphitheater you will take a LEFT and head down hill towards Hawkeye.

    The old Indian Path is evident in some places and gone in other areas. Just stay within visual distance to the rim. But, don't get too close to the rim. It is easy to fall down the steep bank and off the cliff. So, you need to be careful when approaching the rim. It should be noted that there is not a safe place anywhere on the Amphitheater where you can get a clear view. While it is disappointing that you cannot get a clear picture, you will have a view almost the entire way down to Hawkeye. Still very enjoyable. There is one ledge you have to climb down, but it really isn't that steep when comparied to other mountains in the Catskills.

    Once you get down Hawkeye, you should stick close to the rim. Hawkeye Ledge is on the rim. When you get close the Mountain Laurel gets very thick. The easy route is sticking close to the rim. Hawkeye Ledge is now overgrown. But, when the leaves are not on the trees, you can still get a good view. Once you get done, continue around the Mountain Laurel. Take the easy path. After a short distance, you will see a faint trail that will ledge you to the large flat rock. There are scrub pines (Pitch Pines) growing out of the cracks in the rock. Pitch Pine trees only exist in a couple areas in the Catskills. You will also see a fire ring. This fire ring was used 50 to 100 years ago. Nice place to camp. But, beware that there are a lot of bears on the Amphitheater and Hawkeye.

    When you get down walk down the water drainage from the fire ring. Stay in the hardwood trees. The conifer trees will lead you to a rock ledge. Soon the drainage will turn into a stream. Follow the stream until you run into the DEC trail. Once you reach the trail, take a RIGHT and follow the route down to Palenville. It is a 2.25 mile hike from the trail junction to Poet's Ledge to Malden Ave. When you get to Red Rock Road (rough dirt road), stay on the road. This is private property. Once you reach Malden Ave, take a LEFT. Then walk up Malden Ave. When you get to the guard rails blocking the rest of Malden Ave, walk around the guard rails. When you get to Rt 23a, you should be able to see your car.

    Mile Stone Chart

    Mile PointAltitudeNotes
    0.001,872’ DEC Parking Lot. N42 08.020 W74 04.962
    0.902,366’ Road & Trail Junction - On Right side of road - easy to miss this junction - N42 08.553 W74 04.467.
    1.252,412' Trail Junction - Left goes to Kaaterskill High Peak - Right goes to Huckleberry Point - N42 08.544 W74 04.325. Go LEFT.
    2.412,977' Trail Junction - Left on unmarked trail goes to Mohawk Indian Camp - Straight continues on the Long Path. As soon as you stop climbing in elevation, start looking for a faint trail on the left. It will have a small rock cairn next to it. N42 09.502 W74 04.006 . After several hundred feet, you will come to a round circle of about 150' in diameter. This is the old Mohawk Indian Camp.
    2.653,055’ Kaaterskill Amphitheater Rim
    3.782,482' Hawkeye Ledge GPS N 42 09.550 W 74 03.084
    4.522,389’ Trail Junction - take right on DEC trail.
    4.692,397’ Trail Junction to Poet's Ledge
    6.251,254’ Dirt Road (Red Rock Road) - Take left
    6.97636’ Malden Ave - Take left
    7.53680’Parking on RT 23 by the bridge

    Hike to Kaaterskill Amphitheater & Hawkeye

    registration box at devil's kitchen in platte clove
    Make sure that you register for this hike. Should you get lost or hurt, the rangers need some idea of where you went. Then follow the road up the hill past the gate.

    Follow the road up the hill. It used to be called Steenberg Road.
    steenberg road
    trail to KHP
    Part way up the road, you will see a Y in the road. You want to stay on the road, so you should go LEFT.

    When you get close to a mile up the road, you will see a trail off the to LEFT. You want to take a LEFT here. There is a Trail sign, but sometimes people miss the sign. If you continue straight, you will start to approach a house at the end of the road. You will also see signs telling you to turn around.
    trail to huckleberry point
    trail to huckleberry point
    After you leave the road and travel about 1/3 of a mile, you will come to another trail junction. You want to take a LEFT. Right will take you to Huckleberry Point.

    Part way down the trail, you will enter a nice conifer forest.
    trail to KHP
    bridge over hell''s hole creek
    Part way through the conifer forest, you will cross Hell's Creek over a little bridge.

    When you come out of the conifer forest, the trail will move from a level region to an incline. The picture on the right show part of the trail. In the Spring, parts of the trail can be wet, but not terrible.
    Long Path to KHP
    Long Path near Kaaterskill High Peak
    When you get close to 3,000' feet the trail will level off. At first the trail will still have lots of rocks. But, soon most of the rocks disappear. This is one of the signs that tells you that you will be leaving the trail to bushwhack over to the Kaaterskill Amphitheater.

    When you get to a trail junction, this is where I leave the trail. Left will take you to the old Mohawk Indian Camp. On the opposite of the trail is where I leave the trail to hike to the Kaaterskill Amphitheater. 100-200 years ago, the trail ran from the Mohawk Indian Trail to the Amphitheater. The Old Indian Trail then ran both ways around the Amphitheater.
    intersection of LP and old indian path on Kaaterskill Mountain
    kaaterskill amphitheater view on old indan trail
    Once you reach the Amphitheater, you can take a LEFT to the north. It takes about 0.15 miles to reach the Amphitheater from the Long Path. While you will have a view most of the way around the Amphitheater you will see a view. But, you will never get a view without branches slightly blocking your view.
    kaaterskill amphitheater view on old indan trail
    This is one of the areas where the old indian trail is visible. Sometimes the trail will disappear. Other times, the trail will be quite visible.
    kaaterskill amphitheater view on old indan trail
    There are a few steep sections with ledges. But, they are not too bad. This is the most difficult ledge, which isn't that difficult.

    As you get down towards Hawkeye, you want to keep closer to the rim of the Amphitheater. If you drift too far away from the Rim, you will get stuck wading through Mountain Laurel. They are quite thick near Hawkeye Ledge. Once you get the the Mountain Laurel, move close to the rim of the Amphitheater to avoid the difficult wading throught the Mountain laurel.
    view of kaaterskill amphitheater from hawkeye ledge
    This picture was taken from Hawkeye Ledge. Unfortunately the trees have now overgrown the view from the ledge. But, you can still see the Amphitheater when the leaves are not on the trees.

    After you get done, walk north. Stick to the right and walk around the Mountain Laurel. After walking north for a little while, you will see a trail that will take you to Hawkeye. It is a very large flat rock ledge. This is one of the few areas in the Catskills where you will find scrub pines (Pitch Pine).
    hawkeye with scrub pines
    This is Hawkeye. This is one of the few areas in the Catskills where you will find scrub pines (Pitch Pine). It is a very interesting area. Worth walking around to explore. Here is another picture of the flat ledge rock that was ground smooth by the glaciers.
    hawkeye camping
    This is an old fire ring from 50-100 years ago. Probably has not been used in decades. From here, I usually walk north west down the drainage to exist Hawkeye. It is an excellent place to camp for the night.
    scrub pine on hawkeye ledge
    This is a picture of the Scrub Pines on Hawkeye. It is growing out of the crack of the rock.

    This is the beginning of the drainage. Soon, it will turn into a stream and flow over Viola Falls. Once you reach the trail, take a RIGHT on the trail.
    source of viola falls
    trail to poet's ledge
    This is the trail junction to Poet's Ledge. You can take a side trail to Poet's Ledge. It will add about one mile to your hike. Poet's Ledge is best viewed in the morning on a clear day.

    A little further down the trail, you will come to a nice view point. From this view point, you can see Indian Head and Palenville Overlook. Not as good as Poet's Ledge, but well worth the stop.
    view of indian head and palenville overlook
    giant steps to poet's ledge
    These are the Giant Steps. Some of the steps have been smoothed over time, so be careful on some of these steps. Especially if they are wet.

    This is one of the flat section on the way to Palenville. Shortly, this trail will end, and you will end up on Red Rock Road. This road is privately owned, so please respect the private owner's property.
    trail to poet's ledge
    red hill road to poet's ledge
    When you get to the bottom of Red Rock Road, take a left down to Malden Ave..

    After about 200' you will come to Malden Ave. Take a LEFT and walk UP Malden Ave.
    malden ave to poet's ledge trail
    waterfalls on kaaterskill creek in palenville ny
    If you look to your right as you walk up Malden Ave, you can see waterfalls on Kaaterskill Creek. You cannot access Kaaterskill Creek here, so please respect the private property of the land owners..
    closed section of malden ave
    When you reach the guard rails, walk around the guard rails, and continue to walk down the road. When you come near the end of Malden Ave, you will have to climb over more guard rails.

    Most people park across the street by the bridge.
    parking on rt 23a in palenville
    Links and References: Forum - Ask questions or tell us about your experience with this hike

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