By Matthew Young
Denton Falls & Mullet Falls
Rock Hill, NY
Roundtrip approx. 4.5 miles
Many of the area’s most beautiful hikes also tend to be the most crowded. As mentioned in a couple previous posts, on summer weekends you’re often likely to find yourself fighting for a parking space. However, not every New York outdoor experience has to be this way. There are still countless natural spaces that offer solitude and one-on-one time with nature.
Denton Falls & Mullet Falls are perfect for those searching for something a little further off the beaten path. This is a hike where you are unlikely to see more than a couple fellow hikers, if you even cross paths with any at all. The parking area is at the very end of Katrina Falls Road, in the small hamlet of Rock Hill, NY. The hike lies within the Neversink River Unique Area, which is composed of 4,866 acres of forest, rivers, and waterfalls.
The trail begins just after the gate which marks the end of the road for vehicles. Though it may seem unusual for a hike, you will start off by descending down into the river valley. In the distance the river makes its presence known, creating constant white noise of rushing water in the background.
For the first portion of the hike you will follow the blue markers along a fairly wide trail. This initial path can be somewhat rocky.
On the left hand side shortly after the entrance gate, you will notice the trail register attached to a large tree.
A layer of pine needles and October leaves carpet the path. The sound of the Neversink grows slightly louder as you continue to make your way downhill. What may seem like a luxury now, will make for an uphill trek on your return journey.
At certain points the river is visible through the branches just off the edge of the small bank on the left. The scent of pine and spruce is intense at times. There is a nostalgic aspect to that smell, both comforting and refreshing. For me it conjures up memories of past holiday seasons.
At the first “Y” shaped junction, stay to the left and follow the blue trail markers. There will be five yellow-marked side trails over the duration of the hike. Two of them will lead to Denton Falls and Mullet Falls, while the others provide access to the river. Shortly after the “Y” fork in the trail you will come to a small stream crossing. The wooden bridge that spans the stream has begun to rot in certain areas, so watch your footing when attempting to cross. The sun beams of early afternoon shine through the maples and pines, and reflect off the water. It is a peaceful spot on the trail to take a breather and enjoy the moment.
After the bridge you will start heading uphill for the first time. You’ll notice a red trail splitting off to the left. You will loop back around on that trail after visiting Mullet Falls, but for now keep straight and follow the blue trail which provides a more direct route to Denton Falls.
The woods in the Neversink Unique area are strangely quiet and still. What sounds like light rain on a clear day is actually the sound of leaves and needles dropping from the trees, landing softly on the forest floor. Because of the abundance of pine trees, much the land here seems less dense than other hikes, without the leafy branches blocking out the sun.
As you begin to break away from the pines, you’ll enter a vastly different section of the trail. Rhododendron and Mountain laurel line the path, making it seem as if you’re walking amidst a jungle. It is a truly beautiful sight when these bushes are in bloom, boasting beautiful light pink flowers.
As the foliage thins out, and you continue uphill, you can once again catch glimpses of the Neversink River. There is a steep drop off to your right as the land slopes towards the waters edge.
A second yellow trail breaks off to the right towards the river. Continue straight and once again follow the blue markers. The rhododendrons get extremely thick at this point. You can barely see ten feet into their branches on either side of the trail. You’ll curve to the right and end up on a newly built bride over another small stream.
After crossing this bridge the uphill climb continues. I spotted a few snakes on this part of the trail, so always keep an eye out. Also keep your eye out for a small yellow side trail on your right hand side. This is the foot path that leads to Denton Falls. If you’ve been keeping track, this is the third yellow side trail. Take this detour before continuing on to Mullet Falls.
The path is much narrower as it heads downhill. It follows the sloping mountain side and winds between the trunks of trees. It can be difficult to follow this path at times, so make sure you keep the yellow trail markers in sight. This section is where sturdy footwear comes in handy.
Denton Falls is a small waterfall, resembling large rapids, but that doesn’t mean it is any less beautiful. The trail opens up to large flat boulders along the rivers edge. Just peering out at the Neversink as it meanders through the foothills of the Catskills is worth this side trip. You can explore the river bank and get a good view of the smaller rapids upstream.
After a break, retrace your steps and follow the yellow trail back up the hill towards the blue trail. It is a steep climb, so take your time. Once back at the blue trail, turn right and continue onwards. When you reach the next “Y” intersection just a little ways from the yellow trail detour, stay to your left and meet up with the red trail. Continuing straight on the blue eventually leads to High Falls. I didn’t allow time for High Falls on my last hike, but I know I’ll be back.
The red trail is narrow and rocky as it climbs up through the mountain laurel. At the next yellow side trail (number four), follow it to the left towards Mullet Falls. Venture under a canopy of rhododendron as the sound of the falls grows louder. You’ll end up near the base of the falls. This is the true highlight of the hike.
The air is significantly cooler, with a slight mist. Carefully make your way over the boulders for an up close look at the falls. Moss hangs like curtains, almost touching the ground, dripping endlessly into the small pool. Mullet falls is a little oasis, a paradise whose delicate beauty rivals any popular hiking destination. Spend some time here simply relaxing and taking in the surroundings. When you are ready to leave, retrace your steps back to the red trail and make a left to complete the red loop. You’ll cross over another, slightly older, wooden bridge. Its the autumn calmness that draws me back to this unique area year after year.
There are remnants of the past scattered along the trail in the form of old stone walls. At first glance they may seem like a natural occurrence, though these walls once served as property lines and were used to corral livestock during the 18th and 19th centuries. They are the long lasting ruins of a time long past.
At the junction with the final yellow side trail, stay to your left to follow the red markers and wind up back on the original blue trail near the first decaying wooden bridge. Turn right on the blue trail and follow your steps back to the parking area.
Mullet Falls and Denton Falls are only two examples of places left relatively untouched by people. Upstate is full of these natural treasures, places where the crowds thin out, traffic doesn’t exist, and the only conversation is between the winds and scattered leaves.