North-South Lake from the Escarpment Trail

Escarpment Trail Hike from North Lake to North Point and Mary’s Glen Trail

Lowdown on North Lake to North Point
Difficulty:
6 of 10... Not a killer, but don't underestimate it.
Features:
Views, some steep climbing, Badman's Cave, ever-changing forest, lots of hikers, views, views, and more views...
Best time to go:
Any, just go.
Red-tape:
Charge for parking in-season at the day-use parking area.
Total mileage:
A loop including Mary's Glen Trail is about 5.5 miles
Map set
Catskill map set NYNJTC

This is the northern loop of the North-South Lake area which includes the most dramatic section of the Escarpment Trail. I can’t find words worthy to express its beauty. For many hikers, they will stop and return to the campground after reaching Lookout and Sunset Rocks, this is a mistake. The hike to North Point, even though a bit longer and somewhat rougher, is worth the effort and time. A return on the Mary’s Glen Trail provides the hiker with a change of pace and a visit to Ashley Falls which is wonderful when the water is plentiful. It may be underwhelming during dry spells.

We will start our hike at the North Lake parking area. If you want to read about the southern section of the Escarpment Trail in this area do so here.

Sign to North-South Lake Campground on Rt 23a
Sign to North-South Lake Campground on Rt 23a Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Almost year-round you will find hikers on this trail. During summer it is crowded given its awesome views and proximity to one of the states largest campgrounds and day use areas. We usually attempt to provide people with the quietest time to go for many hikes. Given the beauty and history of this place, go, do not wait! Having so many great views, this hike will take longer than most.

North Lake day use parking area sign
North Lake day use parking area sign on a crowded Sunday Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From the North Lake parking area head to the north end and you’ll find the yellow connector trail to the Escarpment Trail. There will be a trail register please sign it. It is short (0.1-mile) and you’ll notice old fire pits in the woods.

Trail head sign at North Lake
Trail head sign at North Lake Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Old fire pits along connector trail
Old fire pits along connector trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Once on the blue blazed Escarpment Trail head north (left). You will quickly come to a limited view into the Hudson Valley; this is a foretaste of what is to come.

Limited view down to the Hudson Valley
Limited view down to the Hudson Valley Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Your walk will be on a trail worn to the bedrock with many shrubs and stunted trees. Unlike many hikes in the Catskills, this hike has a good amount of sun exposure.

Chris on the well worn trail
Chris on the well worn trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Chris walking next to the steep drop
Chris walking next to the steep drop Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
To Artist Rock the going will be generally level and will border the campground property. You will be walking at the edge of the Escarpment as the land will drop perceptibly on your right. Along the way you may see some informal footpaths that lead to the road to North Lake.

You'll see these and other sign indicating the campground boundary
You’ll see these and other sign indicating the campground boundary Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
At about 0.65-miles from the parking lot you will reach Artist Rock which offers great views of the Hudson Valley. If you are in awe –  more is to come. You may now get a feel of why this hike can take so long – the views are second to none.

Panorama from Artist Rock
Panorama from Artist Rock (Click enlarge) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Much of the forest in the area you are hiking has experienced many forest fires over the centuries. This is reflected in the diverse and ever-changing forest you’ll be walking in. Berries will be found trailside in-season.

Lookout and Sunset Rocks and Newman’s Ledge

The trail will start to climb, but very gradually. At approximately 0.70-miles you will notice a rock cliff to the right of the trail. This is the rock ledge that Lookout and Sunset Rocks sit. It is another two-tenths of a mile to the connector trail and then you’ll need to hike back to the views. For experienced scramblers there are cracks in the ledge that one may climb to avoid the hike back on the connector trail. However, this is harder than it looks and once on top there are may crevasses that one could fall into – beware.

Looking down into one of the cracks
Looking down into one of the 30-foot cracks Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Trail junction to connector trail to Lookout and Sunset Rocks
Trail junction to connector trail to Lookout and Sunset Rocks Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Climbing to the junction you make a U-turn and take the yellow blazed trail to lookout and Sunset Rocks which offer outstanding views of the lakes, surrounding mountains, and one of the Hudson Valley from another view point.

View from Sunset Rock
View from above the crack (click to enlarge) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Chris on Lookout Rock
Chris on Sunset Rock Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Chris walking the yellow connector trail
Chris walking the yellow connector trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Hudson Valley from the connector trail
Hudson Valley from the connector trail (click to enlarge) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From the junction you will begin a climb to Newman’s Ledge which is reached at 1.35-miles.

Climbing toward Newman's Ledge
Climbing toward Newman’s Ledge Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The view along the cliffs is inspiring.

Sign indicating Newman's Ledge with cliffs on left
Sign indicating Newman’s Ledge with cliffs on right and Escarpment Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The view into the Hudson valley is stunning.

Looking north from Newman's Ledge along the steep cliffs
Looking northeast from Newman’s Ledge along the steep cliffs Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Newman’s Ledge to North Point

From the ledge you continue to climb in a mature forest.

Chris on the Escarpment Trail climbing after Newman's Ledge
Climbing after Newman’s Ledge Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
After a short time, you’ll enter a level section through an open hemlock forest.

Entering a level Hemlock stand
Entering a level Hemlock stand Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The trail will turn south west and the northwest and continue some climbing eventually through some large glacial erratics.

Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail
Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail
Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail
Large glacial erratic on the Escarpment Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Eventually the trail will make a U-turn and you will reach Badman’s Cave and the junction with the Rock Shelter Trail at 1.95-miles from the parking area. This cave is purported to be a place that criminals would hold-up. Today it provides a nice place to break in a Hemlock forest. Above the cave is the first time since the campground that you can legally camp (not at the campground) if you are backpacking on the Escarpment trail. Given all the views and what’s to come, don’t rush take a few minutes and rest at this nice spot looking down on the trail.

View looking up at Badman's Cave
View looking up at Badman’s Cave Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Sitting under the rock overhang in Badman's Cave
Sitting under the rock overhang in Badman’s Cave Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Looking down to the trail from Badman's Cave
Looking down to the trail from Badman’s Cave Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
After Badman’s Cave the trail will be level in another hemlock forest and then begin climbing again. You will pass through an open meadow and then enter a wonderful hemlock section walking on rocky terrain.

Chris climbing above Badman's Cave
Chris climbing above Badman’s Cave Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Small meadow
Small meadow Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Chris walking in another Hemlock section.
Chris walking in another Hemlock section. Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Trail exiting Hemlock into a deciduous forest
Trail exiting Hemlock into a deciduous forest Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
At 2.55-miles you will reach the junction with the Mary’s Glen Trail from which you will turn sharp right and climb steeply to North Point which you will reach at 2.85-miles from the parking area.

Mary Glen trail junction
Mary’s Glen trail junction Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Chris climbing above junction toward North Point
Chris climbing above junction toward North Point Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The views from North Point are outstanding! Along the way you will reach a small view over looking the lake and Hudson Valley.

Limited view before North Point
Limited view before North Point Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Just before North Point you will have one last rock scramble before your rewarded with some of the Catskill’s finest vistas.

Your final ledge before North Point
Your final 20-foot ledge before North Point Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Views are had in all directions but west from various points.

Panorama from North Point
Panorama looking over North-South Lake from North Point (click enlarge) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From North Point
From North Point (click to enlarge) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From North Point looking to the northern Escarpment
From North Point looking to the northern Escarpment Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

North Point to North Lake on Mary’s Glen Trail

One could return to the campground on the Escarpment and completely enjoy the views again. This would be wonderful. However, if you are looking for a change of pace the Mary’s Glen Trail may be an option.

Retracing your steps on the Escarpment Trail and dropping 250+ feet from North Point you reach the Mary’s Glen Trail junction.

Mary's Glen Trail sign after dropping off of North Point
Mary’s Glen Trail sign after dropping off of North Point Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From the trail junction the trail goes on the level for a bit then begins to drop again.

Chris navigating a small ledge on the Mary's Glen Trail
Chris navigating a small ledge on the Mary’s Glen Trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Generally, the Mary’s Glen Trail will gradually descend and can be quite wet in spots and you will be aided by rocks on the trail, but in spots expect to get your boots muddy.

Rock stepping stones on trail
Rock stepping stones on trail Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
At 0.8-miles from the junction you will reach the Rock Shelter Trail. You will now have hiked 3.95-miles from the start. The Mary’s Glen Trail is pretty and moves through extensive hemlock with small sections of swampy meadow along the way.

At 4.2-miles you will reach a bridge which crosses the stream the feeds Ashley Falls.

Chris on the bridge that crosses the stream that feeds Ashley Falls (if not dry)
Chris on the bridge that crosses the stream that feeds Ashley Falls (if not dry) Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Cutting into the woods here you can see the upper tier of the falls

The mossy upper tier of the falls
The mossy upper tier of the falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
Descending on the trail for another tenth of a mile will take you to a red marked side path to the base of the falls. In dry conditions, the falls will be a “drip”.

Chris dropping from the bridge to the connector trail to the base of the falls
Chris dropping from the bridge to the connector trail to the base of the falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
The lower tier of the falls completely dry
The lower tier of the falls completely dry Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking

Sign marking the base of Ashley Falls
Sign marking the base of Ashley Falls Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking
From the falls it is a quick 0.2-miles to North Lake Road where you will turn left and walk about 0.5-miles back to the parking area. You’ll have hiked about 5.5-miles on the loop.


North-South Lake Campground & Day Use Area
Contact Information:Campground Phone: (518) 589-5058
Location: Address: County Route 18, Haines Falls, NY 12436 (Alternate for GPS Tannersville, NY 12485)
Map: Campground map
Amenities:7 camping loops; 219 tent and trailer sites; 2 lakes; 2 beaches; Two picnic areas: one on North Lake with two picnic pavilion rentals a 20' X 32' and a 44" X 24' (the larger of the two with electricity) and one on South Lake with a 40' X 60' picnic pavilion rental.; 2 picnic areas with tables and fireplaces or charcoal grills; playground; flush toilets; hot showers; boat launch (no motorized vessels); rowboat, canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals; firewood sales; volleyball; horseshoes; fishing; playing field; trailer dump station; recycling center.
Weather:North Mountain Weather
Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 4 Stamford
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: (607) 652-7365;
Email: r4.ump@dec.ny.gov
Backcountry Emergency: (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): 518-408-5850 or dial 911
Location: Towns of Cairo, Hunter, Jewett, Windham and Durham in Greene County
Map: View Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness Map - PDF (2.82 MB)
Amenities:Dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Cairo, Windham and Palenville.
Weather:Blackhead Mountain weather

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