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

North-South Lake from the Escarpment Trail
Average read time 15 min
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

The North Lake to North Point is the northern loop of the North-South Lake area, including the most dramatic Escarpment Trail section. I can’t find words worthy of expressing its beauty. Many hikers will stop and return to the campground after reaching Lookout and Sunset Rocks; this is a mistake. Even though a bit longer and somewhat rougher, the hike to North Point 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 lovely 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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign to North-South Lake Campground on Rt 23a

Almost year-round, you will find hikers on this trail. During summer, it is crowded, given its fantastic views and proximity to one of the state’s 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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking North Lake day use parking area sign on a crowded Sunday

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Trailhead sign at North Lake
Old fire pits along connector trail
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Old fire pits along connector trail

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Limited view down to the Hudson Valley

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris on the well worn trail
Chris walking next to the steep drop
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris walking next to the steep drop

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking You’ll see these and other sign indicating the campground boundary

At about 0.65-miles from the parking lot, you will reach Artist Rock which offers excellent views of the Hudson Valley. If you are in awe –  more is to come. You may now understand why this hike can take so long – the views are second to none.

Panorama from Artist Rock
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Panorama from Artist Rock (Click enlarge)

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. The hiker will find berries 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.

Related hike: Best Hikes: Catskills Escarpment Trail to North-South Lake

There are cracks in the ledge for experienced scramblers 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 many crevasses that one could fall into – beware.

Looking down into one of the cracks
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Looking down into one of the 30-foot cracks
Trail junction to connector trail to Lookout and Sunset Rocks
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Trail junction to connector trail to Lookout and Sunset Rocks

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 viewpoint.

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

From the junction you will begin a climb to Newman’s Ledge which is reached at 1.35-miles.

Climbing toward Newman's Ledge
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Climbing toward Newman’s Ledge

The view along the cliffs is inspiring.

Sign indicating Newman's Ledge with cliffs on left
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign indicating Newman’s Ledge with cliffs on right and Escarpment Trail

The view into the Hudson valley is stunning.

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

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Climbing after Newman’s Ledge

After a short time, you’ll enter a level section through an open hemlock forest.

Entering a level Hemlock stand
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Entering a level Hemlock stand

The trail will turn southwest and the northwest and continue some climbing eventually through some large glacial erratics.

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

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.

Recommended reading: Places to Camp on the Catskills Escarpment Trail

Above the cave is the first time since 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 pleasant spot looking down on the trail.

View looking up at Badman's Cave
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking View looking up at Badman’s Cave
Sitting under the rock overhang in Badman's Cave
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sitting under the rock overhang in Badman’s Cave
Looking down to the trail from Badman's Cave
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Looking down to the trail from Badman’s Cave

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 an excellent hemlock section walking on rocky terrain.

Chris climbing above Badman's Cave
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris climbing above Badman’s Cave
Small meadow
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Small meadow with lone erratic
Chris walking in another Hemlock section.
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris walking in another Hemlock section.
Trail exiting Hemlock into a deciduous forest
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Trail exiting Hemlock into a deciduous forest

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Mary’s Glen trail junction
Chris climbing above junction toward North Point
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris climbing above junction toward North Point

The views from North Point are outstanding! Along the way, you will reach a small view overlooking the lake and Hudson Valley.

Limited view before North Point
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Limited view before North Point

Just before North Point, you will have one last rock scramble before you are rewarded with some of the Catskill’s finest vistas.

Your final ledge before North Point
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Your final 20-foot ledge before North Point

Views are had in all directions but west from various points.

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

North Point to North Lake on Mary’s Glen Trail

One could return to the campground on the Escarpment and thoroughly 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.

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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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Mary’s Glen Trail sign after dropping off of North Point

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
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris navigating a small ledge on the Mary’s Glen Trail

Generally, the Mary’s Glen Trail will gradually descend and can be quite wet in spots, and rocks will aid you on the trail, but in spots, expect to get your boots muddy.

Rock stepping stones on trail
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Rock stepping stones on trail

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)
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris on the bridge that crosses the stream that feeds Ashley Falls (if not dry)

Cutting into the woods here you can see the upper tier of the falls.

The mossy upper tier of the falls
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The mossy upper tier of the falls

Descending on the trail for another tenth of a mile will take you to a red marked side path to the falls base. In dry conditions, the falls will be a “drip.”

Chris dropping from the bridge to the connector trail to the base of the falls
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris dropping from the bridge to the connector trail to the base of the falls
The lower tier of the falls completely dry
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking The lower tier of the falls completely dry
Sign marking the base of Ashley Falls
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign marking the base of Ashley Falls

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
Cell Service:Never count on your cell phone for rescue. Cell service in the Windham-Blackhead Wilderness is okay and one may have problems in ravines. We have not had problems with service.