Plattekill Falls in Spring
Platte Clove, Greene County
Plattekill Falls tumbles over a 65-foot single drop in to a cliff-enclosed bowl of idyllic splendor. Although popular, this location is a nice alternative to the larger crowds typically found at Kaaterskill Falls. The falls are accessible via a short but steep 0.5-mile roundtrip hike. There are signs along the path identifying different trees and a sign that details the geological history of the Catskills and Platte Clove.
The falls are located along the Plattekill Creek and on the Platte Clove Preserve, which is owned by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), a regional conservation and advocacy group founded in 1969. The 280-acre area was donated in 1975 by the Griswold family. The CCCD maintains an artist retreat at the Preserve, which you pass at the beginning of the hike. Artists, painters, writers, composers and, yes, photographers can apply for short-term summer residencies here, surrounded by the beauty that is Platte Clove.
Platte Clove, also known as Platte Kill Clove, is a deep, dark, heavily wooded, historic, wildly rugged and wonderfully scenic mountain pass through the northern Catskills. Charles Lanman, a noted American writer and artist who spent much time in the clove, described his impressions in 1844: “Plauterkill Clove is an eddy of the great and tumultuous world, and in itself a world of unwritten poetry, whose primitive loveliness has not yet been disfigured by the influences of mammon, and God grant that it may continue so forever. It is endeared to my heart for being a favourite haunt for solitude, and for having been consecrated by a brotherhood of friends to the pure religion of nature; and they always enter there as into a holy sanctuary.”
With Plattekill Mountain encroaching from the south and Kaaterskill High Peak looming to the north, a narrow and winding two-lane road precipitously crosses the eastern portion of the clove, rising over 1,400 feet from West Saugerties in only 2.1 miles. There are no guardrails despite the nearly vertical cliffs along much of the drive. The climb is so dangerously steep that it is closed in the winter from November 15th to April 15th as the town provides no maintenance.
Platte Clove is home to, depending on who’s counting, over 18 waterfalls, many of which are only reachable with extreme caution and effort and is not recommended. There are fatalities in the clove area just about every year. Fortunately, the clove’s showpiece waterfall, the beautiful Plattekill Falls, is easily and safely accessible.
The traditional time to visit the falls would be during either the spring, summer or fall seasons. However, it can also make for an interesting winter destination when the entire waterfall can freeze over. Platte Clove, including the falls, is one of the most popular ice climbing locations in the Catskills.