Stony Kill Falls

Scenery: 3.5 cameras out of 5

Difficulty: 4 out of 10 (easy stroll with some clambering at the falls)

Highlights: Awesome waterfall, sheer cliff face, naked people

Distance: 1.45 miles, up-and-back

Approximate roundtrip time: 1.5 hours

Total ascent: 193 ft

Max elevation: 1,291 ft above sea level

This hike is for you if: You want to visit a 90-ft waterfall that’s well off the beaten path.

Warning: The falls slow to a trickle in the summer.  You’ll have better luck if you come here when the water’s high.

Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:

Google Terrain Map of hike route:

Background you can feel free to skip: “Hey, can we go to Stony Kill Falls tomorrow?” my buddy Chunks asked during his recent visit from Texas.  We were planning to visit Minnewaska Preserve the following day.

“Where?” I asked.

“It’s up near Minnewaska somewhere, on Shaft 2A Road,” he said, perched over his laptop.

We did a little more investigating, and sure enough, a waterfall I’d never heard of appeared to be just a short distance down the road from our original destination, so we put it on our agenda as an appetizer for our Minnewaska hike.  That turned out to be a good plan.

The walk to Stony Kill Falls is sort of odd.  You go past a water treatment facility (complete with helipad, like any upscale water treatment facility should have) and through an old quarry, and then an unmarked trail sort of gets you close to the falls, but at that point you’re on your own.  You’d have to try really, really hard to get lost here since you can just follow the stream, but with such a gorgeous waterfall to visit, I’m surprised there’s not a proper trail leading the way.  The quasi-bushwhack does give the place a sort of wild feel, though, like you’re the first one to find this awesome, hidden place.

Which brings me to the naked people.  According to the Stony Kill Falls Wikipedia entry, you can hike above the falls to find a place called the Nudist Pool, if that’s your thing (we didn’t know to look for a trail heading up over the falls, but you can get a really good look at the falls from below, so to me, that’s good enough, even if it means you miss out on the naked people).  It also helps explain why the guy we passed below the falls was skinny dipping.  I think he just decided to make his own Nudist Pool, or perhaps christen a Lower Nudist Pool for naked people who are too lazy to walk all the way up to the real one.

In any event, this relatively little-known place is absolutely worth a visit.  Come for the gorgeous waterfall, stay for the full frontal nudity!

P.S.  I may have given the naked-people thing more airplay than it deserves.  You probably won’t see any naked people here, but you definitely will see an awesome natural place.


Trail guide:

**UPDATE April 5, 2017** This hike is currently off-limits due to trail construction, scheduled to re-open in late 2017.  Bummer for now, but better in the long run!  See this article for more details.

1.  From the parking area in front of the gate on Shaft 2A Road, follow the gravel road and walk around the gate.

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2.  Try to take some comfort in the fact that only deer hunting is allowed in here.  Did you leave your orange hat in the trunk?

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3.  Follow the road to the left of the large chain-link fence that looks like it must be guarding some top secret underground CIA facility.  It’s just an access point to the Delaware Aqueduct, you say?  Okay, I believe you.  That’s why I won’t let the helipad to the left of the road convince me that this is a CIA facility, either.

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The cliffs over the helipad to your left let you know that despite the chain-link extravaganza you’re walking past right now, you’re in an awesome, Shawangunky kind of place.

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4.  Directly after the definitely-not-a-top-secret-CIA facility, head straight across the old quarry.

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5.  At the far side of the quarry, you’ll pick up the road again and follow it for a very short while until you can see Stony Kill Creek.

6.  Take a right here to head up the bank and into the woods.  Walk upstream, staying close to the creek.  This is where one might expect a trail, but there’s not really one, except for the human equivalent of some deer trails.

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7.  The falls are straight ahead, not far at all.  You can view them from either the left or the right side of the creek.  The right side is probably a little easier to get to, and offers a clearer view of the entire waterfall.  Just head toward the sound of the waterfall and pick your way up there, being careful not to tromp any vegetation.

8.  If you want to check out the left side, pick your way across the creek and head up the bouldery slope.

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The views from under the cliff are fantastic.  We were here in early April, and there was still an iceberg under the falls.

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9.  If you can scramble around to the right side of the falls, you can get some perfect, unobstructed views.  Here’s a Youtube clip of the falls in warmer weather, viewed from the right side of the creek.  Man, what a nice place.  (Note the human in the first picture below to get a sense of scale.)

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10.  When you’re done ogling Mother Nature, head back the way you came.  And if you run into any naked people, careful you don’t get caught ogling them, too.


 

Directions to the trailhead: From New Paltz, head west on Route 299.  Follow this until it dead ends into Rt. 44/55, where you’ll make a right turn.  Follow 44/55 past the hairpin turn under the Shawangunk cliffs, past the Trapps parking area and past Minnewaska State Park Preserve.  About 4.3 miles after you pass Minnewaska on your left, take a left onto Minnewaska Trail, then an immediate left onto Rock Haven Road.  In about two miles, turn left onto Shaft 2A (marked Shaft IIA on the road sign).  Follow Shaft 2A Road until you come to the gate that blocks your way.  Park on the side of the road.

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You can also get directions by checking out the Stony Kill Falls entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

 

Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The intersection of Rock Haven Road and Shaft 2A Road in Wawarsing, NY is about half a mile north of the trailhead. (My old-ish Garmin Nuvi lets me put in an intersection as a destination, so hopefully yours does, too.)  Just head down Shaft 2A Road (marked Shaft IIA on the road sign) until you come to the gate that marks the trailhead.

GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.73437, -74.29544 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)


 

Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit the well-done Wikipedia entry for Stony Kill Falls.  You might notice this warning at the bottom of the page: “Writing explicit directions here would only increase the amount of impact that this very precious gem accrues. If you care enough about this to write about it here please consider the ramifications of your actions.”

I have written explicit directions to the waterfall because I think the people who care enough to find this trail guide will also care enough to treat this place with respect.  I’m very likely preaching to the choir here, but please do heed the advice to leave Stony Kills Falls in the same or better condition than when you found it.

**UPDATE May 2013** The Wikipedia page no longer features that warning, and instead offers directions for getting to the falls.  Nice!  Now I don’t have to feel guilty about it.  Still, I’m leaving that old text here because it’s a nice reminder to tread gently when visiting the falls.

More Stony Kill Falls pictures from the hike’s Picasa album (with a special thanks to my buddy Jered Earl “Chunks” Widmer for providing several of the photos used on this page):

Was this trail guide useful to you?  Please leave a comment!




17 thoughts on “Stony Kill Falls

  1. Hello MIke,
    Thank you very much for all the work you’ve put into getting all this information together for us in one place. It has been a tremendous source of entertainment for my friends and I.
    I visited Stony Kill yesterday based on your write up and it was well worth the trip. I wanted to let you know that someone has marked the trail with neon yellow/green ribbons. Not only that, but the ribbons take you all the way to the top of the falls It is a significantly tougher hike in comparison to the trail up to the falls, but well worth it in my opinion. The water was flowing, but the riverbed was not full and we trekked another 15 minutes or so up riverbed until we came to a fork. We could have found a way to get further, but we were pressed for time at that point and thought it was best to start heading back.
    Again, I appreciate all the work you’ve put. I’ve chipped away at about 10 hikes so far and I/we really enjoyed them all. Thank you!

    Regards,
    Bruce

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  2. For everyone’s information the helipad is for the Delaware aqueducts shaft 2a that is to the right of that there used to be air vents there and fenced thats where the famous wawarsing aquaduct is leaking lost of work there notice the new phone poles leading in.

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  3. I highly recommend visiting these falls several times during the year, they change so much. When they freeze they turn blue almost like this border, crazy stuff. Thanks for your site, its very informative and funny as @#$%

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  4. Great directions. FYI, the trail to the top starts by crossing the concrete dam to the left side of the stream just after you leave the gravel trail…down and to the left. Walk across the dam and you’re on the trail (sort of). If you wind your way up looking for a rock scramble that eases your way up to the top of the escarpment, and then just keep moving to the right at the top with the escarpment on your right, you will come to the top of the falls. I did it on July 29th, and the water was a trickle. When standing on the upper falls ledge, look to the left of the upper stream. Walk up the upper stream on the left side, and you’ll see the stream widen to about 30 feet wide with a granite base (dry when I was there). Walk about 100 yards upstream, and you will come to a natural dam with the naked people pool on the other side. I heard a couple along side the pool talking around a fire. They were behind a bush…they didn’t see me, and I didn’t see them, but I’m sure they were naked because…well…after all…this is the “naked people pool.” I took a pic of the pool to prove I’d been there and left without them knowing I’d ever been there. Trip down was a bit dicey, but there are a number of places to descend. A very fun hike…was hoping no one would be there, but when it’s on the Internet, everyone has been there before you. Thanks for a great hidden hike!

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  5. April 6, 2014: Great hike, beautiful falls both below and above. Rock Haven is an interesting road- I’ll leave it at that – quite a spectrum of habitation. The NYC presence is intriguing as is the helipad. The trek up and around the falls still has ice and snow and is slow going. I thrashed to the top via circling off to the left (mostly east). I heard a stream coming down and did not cross it so I kept the stream to my left and the falls to my right. At the “top” there is an area of mountain laurel – getting through that was a bit daunting, but I did find something of a narrow trail that led to Stony Kill Carriage Road/Trail and from there I headed over to the falls and pools above the falls. Next time, when the field of laurel comes first into view above me, I will start to head toward the falls – the route is much easier.

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    • Hi Steve, I was here on May 4th- I totally agree about Rock Haven Road- I took some fun pictures along the road. I too went up above the falls, very rewarding up there!

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  6. Is there a lot of law enforcement around and I read somewhere that you have to hike on DEC property and I’d rather not do that if possible…

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  7. Would this trail be okay for little ones ages 3 and 6? Is there any flat area for them to sit down and have their lunch? Or do you recommend another site for that? We are in the town of Poughkeepsie.
    Thanks!

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    • The hike itself would be a piece of cake for them, but once you get close to the falls, there is a fair bit of clambering involved. Might be tough for the youngest one, and I’m not immediately recalling any choice picnic spots. If you’re willing to make the trek to High Falls, that one is ideal for little ones (my almost-four-year-old did it no problem), and there’s a picnic table right at the overlook. That’d be my recommendation — here’s the trail guide: http://hikethehudsonvalley.com/high-falls-conservation-area/

      Whatever you decide to do, hope you have a great trip!

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  8. What a great waterfall!! Breathtaking views and amazing experience to get so close and feel the mist and power of the waterfall. First time I got so close to the waterfall and it was beautiful. Just a few more people around when we were there. We got behind the waterfall, with all the ferns around it reminded me of views we saw while hiking in Hawaii. We did go after record rainfalls in the area so Im sure that made it even more incredible.
    Excellent directions as always, its always easy to find the parking and great pictures to find the trails!! Started hiking the hudson valley a few weeks ago and I do my research on this wonderful site where its easy to decide where to go next hiking trip.
    Just a question: Do you use any tick repellent sprays or anything when hiking? I started being a little worried about that.

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    • That’s great to hear you had such a good trip out there! I’m really glad the site has been useful for you.

      As for ticks, I usually just spray my shoes with some DEET and call it done, but that might be a little too cavalier. Lyme is serious business, and this area is famous for it. I’d hate to be responsible for anyone getting it, so please, everyone, dunk yourself in DEET before heading into the woods.

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  9. Great photos, I visited Kaaterskill last year. This one is definitely next for NY waterfalls. Naked people sounds good….

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    • Awesome – hope you enjoy it! Judging from the naked person I saw, though, it’s best if you temper your expectations on that front.

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    • Mark,

      Thanks for the comment! I just started to re-write the trail guide, but then remembered why I left it as 2A in the write-up — Google Maps and GPS devices don’t recognize “Shaft IIA Rd”, but they do find “Shaft 2A Rd.” I also already had this note in the “Directions to the trailhead” section: “In about two miles, turn left onto Shaft 2A (marked Shaft IIA on the road sign)”, so hopefully people will catch that. Please let me know whenever you catch anything on this site that isn’t clear. Hope you had a good day out there!

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      • I added that note into the “Sorta nearby address for your GPS” section, too – there, that’s better. Thanks, Mark!

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