Exploring kid-friendly hikes is my favorite part of visiting the Hudson Valley! As a plus, they’re also super easy to do with children of all ages. My husband was working in the city our entire trip, so I did most of these hikes alone with my kids (totally doable!). We stayed in an AirBnb near Woodstock with my three kids, aged 10, 7, and 5. It turned out to be a huge silver lining for our summer! Over these five weeks, we discovered beautiful nature hikes, swam in crystal clear lakes, waterfalls, and creeks. Whether you have active kids or just want to get out for the day, taking a hike is a great way to explore this abundant natural area. To help you plan your own itinerary, I’ve also compiled the 6 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in the Hudson Valley!
Don’t forget to also check out my 8 Perfect Summer Activities in the Catskills with Kids. It includes the perfect family-friendly guide to hikes, as well as beaches, farms, and horseback riding in the Catskills!
Comeau Property Trail
Comeau Property Trail is an easy, flat trail following the Sawkill Creek. Perfect for little kids, it’s less than a mile and conveniently located in Downtown Woodstock. Of course, the real highlight here is descending down to the creek for a dip! There are two spots especially ideal for accessing the water, which will be clear once you’re on the trail. One has a little rope to hold; the other, a little further up the trail, has a skinny path leading to a section to swim. After one hike, my family came here to sit and relax while the kids played in the shallow current. Plus, the short walk from the parking lot to the water means you can easily carry a backpack, chairs, towels, buckets for catching frogs, an inflatable float, and a backpack with snacks. After spending a few hours here, we just backtracked to the parking lot!
Sloan Gorge Loop
Sloan Gorge Loop is an intriguing, engaging, and informative 1.3-mile loop-trail. With nine stops illustrating its fascinating geology, it is perfect for keeping kids entertained in unexpected ways. My kids loved realizing they were walking in a canyon created by melting glaciers! Additionally, they loved spotting rocks dating back to the Ice Age. We had a lot of “ah-ha!’ and “wow” moments. At the end of the hike, they identified rock formations like amateur geologists!
Start with the short Quarry loop, then proceed on the Gorge trail, which offers easy-medium difficulty. (Only because there are exposed roots, a tiny bit of rock climbing, and a very slight incline.) Though pamphlets describe each stop at the trailhead, I recommend downloading a pdf just in case there are none when you arrive. Previewing it will also give you a sense of the cool facts you’ll discover! It is no wonder that Sloan George Loop is one of the most kid-friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley.
Black Creek Forest Preserve
Black Creek Forest Preserve is a fantastic family hike! Featuring a little suspension bridge and vernal pools (although they may be dry in summer), it is one of my favorite kid-friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley. The trail will even take you to the edge of the Hudson River. Black Creek’s full hike consists of three trails, all connecting in one big loop: Yellow (0.5mi), Red (1.0 mi), and Blue (0.5 mi). Choose which is best for you, depending on your family’s skillset! Be aware that they’re all medium difficulty due to incline. However, they are still totally doable for little kids. Plus, the hike is shaded, clearly marked, and has benches to stop and rest. When you reach the Hudson River, which is approximately the half-way mark, climb down off the trail and have a picnic on the rocks.
After the hike, tell the kids they have earned ice cream at the 100-year-old Boice Brothers Ice Cream Company in Kingston. I can’t think of a better way to end a day of hiking in the Catskills with kids!
Cooper Lake Reservoir
Cooper Lake Reservoir is a gem hidden in plain sight! Unlike anything you’ll find on a map, it’s one of the most breathtaking kid-friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley. It’s easy and flat along the edge of crystal clear Cooper Lake, which is the largest natural lake in the Catskills. Offering incredible mountain views, my kids cherished opportunities to spot herons, frogs, fish, geese, deer, newts, turtles, and even beavers. For a family picnic, there is a perfect spot on flat rocks jutting into the water. While swimming here is forbidden, dipping our toes into the water was one of the most serene moments of the summer. Remember warm months on the lake can also present unruly foliage blocking some paths, but don’t miss the chance to take in the stunning views here. Head to Cooper Lake Road, right next to the Lake Hill Post office.
Our favorite route was on the lake-side of the road, a few yards past a funky, little blue house (on your right-hand side shortly after the lake comes into view; if you lose sight of the lake, you drove too far). Walk to the water’s edge and proceed to the right, counter-clockwise, which will lead you to the perfect picnic rocks, sandy spots, and shady woods. At one point, you’ll emerge from the shaded trees into an open space that looks like a cut-down forest. Don’t be deterred by this reservoir overflow! The path continues along the water and then bears left. Turn around and retrace your steps when the main street comes into view. In months with less foliage, continue around the lake. Take one last stretch on Cooper Lake Road for lovely views, as little legs may get tired making it back to where you parked!
Another option is to pull your car over as soon as the lake comes into view. Past the big wood chip pile on your left, the path is clear as soon as you’re at the water’s edge. To the left, you’ll also walk along an exposed stretch leading to a sandy enclave, followed by a short walk into woods. Watch for the teepee made of branches to mysteriously appear! Then, you’ll probably have to turn around, unless the foliage is sparse (you are steps away from where the path described above dead ends when the foliage is dense). From the same parking spot, if you walk to the right, you’ll also follow a very pretty, exposed path bordered by wildflowers. Find spots to walk right up to where the water gently rolls onto the shore! Again, turn around when you simply can’t go any further.
Also, check Stephanies article on 6 Stunning Beaches and Swimming Holes in the Catskills with Kids.
Giant Ledge Trail
Giant Ledge is a legit H-I-K-E. Though it’s a fantastic climb and the views at the top are spectacular, it’s rated as “moderate.” But because it’s only 1.5 miles up, there’s also a big pay off for your effort. While challenging, this hike is totally manageable to tackle if you want something not too long, but still enough elevation for a real view. After parking at the Trailhead, cross the street to where this trail begins, walk over a little bridge, and suddenly, you’re on your way up! I like to think of the trail as having 3 sections to help motivate the kids, and myself! For reference, it took us an hour and a half to reach the top, with a few stops to rest and hydrate. We visited the ledges for approximately 45 min before heading back down.
Giant Ledge Trail’s first section is an upward, rocky climb. Kids have so much fun stepping on rocks and over tree roots! Though not super steep, you will follow yellow trail markers up a 725-foot incline. Then, the second section starts at the trail junction indicating you’re only 0.8 mi away (and another 410 feet in elevation). Don’t worry, this stretch is all flat! Children can frog jump from stone to stone, pretending they are lily pads. Which is an apt analogy, as there may be some wet and muddy spots (prepare for lots of dirty sneakers!). On the Blue Trail, the final section is uphill and rocky. As in, huge boulders! These large, eerie formations are beautiful to behold but require a little scampering around. Then, suddenly, a ledge comes into view. You’ve finally made it to the top of this stunning kid-friendly hike in the Hudson Valley.
Did you know Giant Ledge Trail actually has five ledges? Each one is spectacular! For only hiking 1.5-2 miles, you truly get a huge reward. You will find several breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains for miles and miles. Of course, hold little hands because the ledge is literally a ledge! While each of the five is close to one another, the trail between them is flat, so don’t just look at the first one and head back down. Check them all out (although the view is similar, they are just too incredible not to miss). Plus, the last ledge has a nice “seat” to have a snack and take in the view without your heart racing. Giant Ledge Trail is also just ½ mile down the road from Otter Falls, and very close to Belleayre Beach, both of which are great post-hike incentives to keep kids going!
Kaaterskill Falls is a jaw-dropping waterfall requiring a hike to reach. It’s the highest cascading waterfall in New York, and as a result, not a well-kept secret. Though moderately-heavily trafficked, it’s nonetheless worthwhile to visit with kids! Dress them in a swimsuit and bring a towel, because they can swim in the plunge pool along the way. (We didn’t realize and my kids went for a dip in their underwear as it was too tempting to resist the chance to cool off.) While not too many others were swimming (probably because the water is chilly or they also forgot bathing suits), it’s completely safe. Water shoes are a must, but if you hike in Keen shoes, you’re all set. There are three ways to access the falls, but I don’t recommend the Lower Trailhead. It’s dangerous, stressful, and totally unnecessary to reach your destination. Here are two ways for families!
One option is to walk a 1.5 mile Rail Trail and then hike down. I prefer this because while you add some walking mileage to your route, it makes the whole day feel more serene, despite the crowds. Drive past the dangerous parking lot on 23A, and when you see the sign for Haines Falls, take the next road to the right. Park near the big blue sign for the visitor’s center. The trail starts at the old railway station and is virtually empty. (Kids will love finding remnants of the old rails!) Ending at the Laurel House Road parking lot, head to the Falls Viewing Platform, and then down to the falls itself. Upper Trailhead is the shortest, most popular, and direct way to access the falls, however.
From Laurel House Road, walk on a flat road until you reach a trail sign. Go right on the Yellow trail or straight on the Blue trail. Follow the Yellow trail, and 3 minutes later you’ll arrive at a viewing platform overlooking the waterfall! Then, circle back to the trail junction to take the Blue trail. Cross over the bridge and walk for 5 minutes. Continue straight to Inspiration Point or bear right to the Lower Falls. While steep (my legs were shaking at the bottom!), the trail is short and safe, as you are mostly going down steps. My kids did it with no problems. I was worried about the hike back up (a lot of steps!), but it’s shorter than it feels going down. My kids had so much fun at the waterfall! No complaints, but they did feel weary on the trail back to the car.
Appreciate Kaaterskill Falls, in all its wonder as one of the most kid-friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley, from amazing three locations. For a nice photo-op, take the steps to the bottom to see both cascades (incidentally, where the Lower Trailhead ends). There is a little pool here and large rocks for a quick rest. Following the steps, take it all in at the bottom! Secondly, the plunge pool that the lower cascade falls into. Thought, the view isn’t any better, it’s crowded, and it’s a bit treacherous to reach (off-trail, down a rocky slope, which I don’t recommend with kids). Stopping where the first cascade falls into its plunge pool is best.
From the bottom of the steps, climb back up to your left, where you’ll see a little walkway. Take this path to the most breathtaking spot, where the waterfall cascades into a gorgeous green pool with a huge cliff above. Find a semi-private place to enjoy it all!
Happy Hiking in the Catskills!
We hope you’ve enjoyed top contributor Stephanie Feingold’s list of the 6 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in the Hudson Valley! Regardless of how you spend your summer with kids, though, what’s important is spending time together! For more travel recommendations on vacationing with children, be sure to join our Facebook group Families Who Love To Travel! It’s a community of dynamic families who love adventure and exploration through travel. Plus, follow us on
Written by Families Love Travel Contributor, Stephanie Feingold. Find more about Stephanie, as well as her other articles here. In her writing and her travels, Stephanie prioritizes authentic experiences, delicious meals, impressionable moments, and balancing the iconic with the path-less-traveled.
Plus, don’t miss her 8 Perfect Summer Activities in the Catskills with Kids to plan your ultimate guide to the Catskills with kids!
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