Hike to the base of Kaaterskill Falls—the 260-foot, two-tiered inspiration to generations of poets, artists, and, of course, hikers—by taking the official trail from the Route 23A horseshoe (rocks are slick and mossy all year around, so wear good hiking shoes), past the smaller Bastion Falls, and up the half-mile, steep incline (locals call it “StairMaster hike”). For a more impressive (read: terrifying) view, drive four miles north to Laurel House Road and take the quarter-mile stroll from the parking lot to the edge of the overlook. Check out the names carved into the stones—some date back to the nineteenth century.
Escape the beached hordes at North-South Lake and rent a kayak ($10 a day), canoe ($15 per day), or paddle boat ($5 per hour) from the recreation center near the parking lot. Paddle to the far side of the lake and take in the green slopes rising straight up from the water's edge—at 2,250 feet above the valley floor, you can look down over five states in clear weather.
Channel your inner-daredevil by driving the treacherous but scenic Platte Cove Road, located off Route 16, outside of Tannersville. There are no guardrails, so drive carefully as you peer into the precipitous gorge below. Or park in the lot just beyond the old stone bridge and scale down the massive boulders (at your own risk) to get a view of the secluded Devil’s Kitchen Falls.
For less life-threatening thrills, go tubing on the Esopus Creek, in Phoenicia, fifteen miles southwest of the falls. For $20, the Town Tinker, on Bridge Street, will set you up with river-appropriate shoes (a.k.a. an old pair of Adidas), a life vest, and a quick, crowded bus ride up the river (request a wet suit for an extra $10). The beginners' course and the white-knuckle course are both two and half miles long.