Platte Clove: Off-Trail in the Catskills

Platte Clove in the northeast Catskills is among the wildest sections of the range. It’s a deep ravine created by ice age glaciers that drops about 1500 feet in little over two miles. The clove contains 17 separate waterfalls and is home to some of the Catskills’ most primeval terrain.

Platte Clove waterfalls
Lower waterfall

I joined my friend Bruce on the Friday before Labor Day weekend for an exploration of the southwest corner of the clove. As a frequent hiker through the clove, Bruce is an excellent guide — happy to point out areas of interest and equally as happy to explore remote corners of the clove. It’s potentially dangerous terrain, but with Bruce leading the way, I was in good hands.

We started at the bottom of the clove, just inside the state land boundary and began our trek upstream. Upstream along the Plattekill, we encountered the first waterfalls. With the drought, water flow was low, but still amazingly scenic. The low flow allowed for exploration into areas that would otherwise not be accessible.

The Flume
The Flume

We continued upstream along the Plattekill until we reached the junction with the Flume. The Flume is tributary stream, rising to the south of Plattekill. It’s very steep – vertical in spots, and loaded with huge boulders and debris. We started up the Flume, climbing rocks, making our way through thick outwash debris until we came to the first ledge. Under normal circumstances, the ledges would be full waterfalls, but on Friday they were just a trickle.

We climbed our way out and around the first ledge, and continued with the rock scramble up the Flume. At this point, Bruce was looking for the remains of an old woods road that would take us across to the Cold Kill. We continued up, passing what looked like an old road, or at least a level route out of the Flume, but we weren’t certain if that was the route we were seeking.

Platte Clove view
Looking across Platte Cove

Continuing up, we reached a second ledge, which was set deep into the wall of the clove, creating a mini-canyon. The canyon walls here were vertical and at least 25 feet high. There was no way to proceed up the Flume at this point.

We headed back down a bit and found the level area that we thought may be the gateway to the woods road. Sure enough, it was what we were looking for. We headed across the clove wall in an uphill trajectory towards the Cold Kill – our next destination. The Flume was exciting and exhilarating. It was a tough bushwhack that provided a close look at an almost vertical stream on the wall of the clove. The bushwhack kept us focused on what was in front of us. When we turned around and headed down looking for the woods road, we were treated to a great view across Platte Clove.

Cold Kill
Cold Kill

At Cold Kill, we started hiking upstream. Cold Kill is a bigger stream than the Flume, and not quite as steep. The stream bed was littered with huge boulders, some as large as small trucks, deposited in place by a combination of gravity and water flow. The trek up Cold Kill was not as difficult as the Flume, and we maintained a good pace towards our next destination, Black Chasm, which was soon to appear.

As we approached Black Chasm, we could see a bit of the black-grey cliff wall behind the trees. As we got closer, we were just amazed by the scale of the massive cliff wall of the Black Chasm. The Black Chasm is in the deep-dark Catskills. During our late-summer visit, the sun was shining over the cliff wall, but you can see how that area would get so little sunlight in the deep winter.

Black Chasm

Black Chasm is known as a destination for ice climbing. We took some time in the chasm to enjoy the view, have some lunch and just be in the place. While the waterfall on the chasm wall was barely a trickle, sitting there you could feel the damp, cool moisture, and know that place must be very special in the winter.

After enjoying and experiencing the chasm, we climbed out and bushwhacked to our next, final destination. Climbing out of the chasm was steep, with many loose rocks under foot. We took our time and eventually returned to “normal” Catskill woods. We traversed across the top of the clove wall, through the woods, past an old bluestone quarry area and arrived at the bluestone seats of Panther Point. At Panther Point we enjoyed an outstanding view down the Platte Clove, past the Hudson River, all the way out to the Taconics of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Platte Clove panorama

From Panther Point, we found the Long Path and continued out to the Platte Clove Preserve and our car at the hiker’s parking area. In all, it was an amazing adventure, with the perfect amount of difficulty, potential peril, outstanding views and the deep woods experience found in the Catskills. One note, this is a potentially dangerous area to explore, and I recommend doing so with a healthy degree of caution and a guide that is familiar with the area.

Steve Aaron has adventured the Catskills his entire life. He’s an avid skier, hiker, cyclist and photographer, always armed with a camera. Steve’s landscape photos have appeared in Backpacker Magazine, Hudson Valley Magazine, NY Newsday and the Albany Times Union. His work is also featured in pieces for Ulster County Tourism, Scenic Hudson, The Trust for Public Land and other outdoor oriented organizations. Every August, Steve publishes a wall calendar featuring beautiful landscape images from the Catskills and Shawangunks. For more information on the calendar, join Steve’s mailing list.

15 comments on “Platte Clove: Off-Trail in the Catskills

  1. Fascinating, thanks! I’m one of those ice climbers, and I’ve always wondered what lay below the chasm, deeper into the clove. You’ve inspired me to go down and find out!

  2. Beware! Venomous snakes guard the swimming holes. Known as the wildest tract of land in the Northeast, you guys are the real deal for shwacking through there!

  3. Thank you for a trip report of one area I never got to explore while growing up in the Catskills.

    I’m writing to learn more about the naming of the Platte Clove wilderness area. As a native of West Hurley, NY, I have driven or biked the scenic Plattekill Clove road many times. Before the internet, local literature always referred to the area as Plattekill Clove. I find it confusing for the scenic area to be named Platte, as the area refers to the gorge, or clove formed by the Plattekill: Hence, Plattekill Clove. I’m sure you are aware the Dutch word for stream or creek is “Kill”.
    Furthermore, a literal translation of Platte from Dutch means “flat”, somewhat unusual for this vertiginous area although it may refer to the area East of the escarpment to the Hudson.

    I’ve fished in the Sawkill and Beaverkill and have also enjoyed hiking Kaaterskill High peak and Kaaterskill Falls, located along Rte 23 in Kaaterskill Clove. To my knowledge it is not called Kaaters Clove, nor is the valley surrounding the Sawkill known as “Saw” valley. Likewise for the Beaverkill. Most area natives hikers, hunters, and hard core fishermen would find the name separation from “Kill” unusual. We don’t say Cats Kills….Some even call the hills: Kaatskills.

    Unfortunately the internet has now offered two names for these valleys created by their, perhaps well-meaning, separation of Kill from the creeks’ name. One may wonder how Kill has been separated from Platte in this stunning natural area. I would be very interested if you could to shed some light on what may be considered a marginalization of the original and historic Dutch name “Plattekill”.

    Looking forwards to seeing if you have any future hikes planned. I’ve been to the slide on Friday mountain and the Eastern escarpment cliffs, visible 1/4 mile below the fire tower, on Overlook Mtn. A great place to see hawks and the sunrise.

  4. Just wondering what type of venomous snakes that Ripitz is referring to in his comment. Copperheads, timber rattlers or both? Great story and excellent pictures. Thanks!👍

  5. Well done Steve. That is indeed a rugged area. You can really feel like you step back in time there.

    Mike Powers, I grew up in Saugerties (55 years) and have always known this area as Platte Clove. I’m sure it’s a simple abbreviation without thought of the Dutch definitions. I live less than a mile from the base and never hear anyone refer to it as Plattekill Clove.

    Bob Poplis, Timber Rattlesnakes for sure and possibly Copperheads as well. I hear more reports of the rattlesnake sightings but that may be because of the warning they give if you’re near and their size being much larger.

  6. Mike Farrell: Really appreciate the local knowledge! Thank you. Goes a long way towards explaining naming variations all over the internet.

    Regarding snakes: The Catskill Mountineer has a nice listing of poisonous snake sightings about 2/3 through this page.

    Regards, Mike

  7. Thanks everyone for the comments and the conversation. It was quite a hike. Not sure if I’m ready to lead a hike through there, but I know a guy (LOL). As for the name of the clove, I had always known it as Platte Clove. After reading the comments from Mike Powers, I looked at a few maps (my go-to source for place-names). The maps showed the stream valley as Plattekill Clove, the road as Platte Clove Rd. and the community at the head of the valley as Platte Clove and the preserve as Platte Clove Preserve. Fortunately, I haven’t seen snakes on my visits there. And finally, it was great to meet Ripitz on Saturday as he was “Rippin” through the SRT on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run, while I was out hiking and shooting pics of the trail runners.

  8. Do not go here, it is dangerous and not worth it due to safety, parking tickets, etc. Bad news. Reading about it is good enough.

  9. I live on the bottom and hike bottom to top multiple times a year, from Saugerties water district up to the red cabin. there are no snakes anywhere in this valley. there are many snakes on the way up overlook mountain but none here. “guard the water” i’m usually naked in these swimming holes 4 days out of the week and i’ve never seen a single snake so that is a made up story. beware guys this valley can be dangerous so always take others with you.

    Now that i think of it, i feel like people are saying there are snakes here just to keep others out lol. good idea. stay out!!

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