Know the New Hiking How-tos
Catskill Escarpment Loop (North) from Scutt Road (North/South Lake)
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 20 (Saugerties). Beyond the toll booths, turn left at the traffic light, cross over the Thruway, then turn right onto Route 32 North. Follow Route 32 for 6.0 miles, then continue ahead on Route 32A. In 1.9 miles, turn left onto Route 23A and follow it up Kaaterskill Clove. At the top of the climb, in the Village of Haines Falls, turn right onto North Lake Road. In 2.1 miles (just before reaching the entrance to the North/South Lake Campground), turn right onto Scutt Road and follow it for 200 feet to a parking area on the right.
Cross to the east side of the road and follow the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail (co-aligned with a yellow-blazed horse trail) into the woods. The trail heads south and descends through a mixed forest of hemlocks and deciduous trees.
In half a mile, the trail crosses two old railroad rights-of-way and a bridge over the outlet of North/South Lake. After crossing another bridge, you’ll reach a four-way junction. Here, you should continue ahead, now following the red-blazed Schutt Road Trail, which climbs gradually along an old carriage road. In a quarter mile, a yellow-blazed connector trail begins on the right, but you should continue ahead on the red-blazed Schutt Road Trail.
About a mile from its start, the Schutt Road Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail, which comes in from the right. Continue ahead, now following the Escarpment Trail along a level, well-graded road (in places, you can see stone retaining walls that support the road on the right).
In 0.6 mile, you’ll reach a junction. A red-blazed short-cut trail proceeds ahead, but you should turn right (towards “Boulder Rock”), continuing to follow the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail. A short distance ahead, you’ll come to a deep fissure in the rock to the right of the trail, known as “Split Rock.” Just beyond, you’ll reach a huge boulder perched on an open rock ledge. Known as “Boulder Rock,” this rock was a popular destination of guests at the Catskill Mountain House. From the base of the rock, there are panoramic views over the Hudson River valley.
The Escarpment Trail now turns left and climbs to reach a second junction with the red-blazed short-cut trail. Turn right at this junction and continue to follow the blue-blazed trail. After a short level stretch, the trail begins to descend and continues through hemlocks. Soon, you’ll come an open rock ledge to the right of the trail which affords spectacular views over the Hudson River valley.
The trail continues to descend, steeply in places. At a trail register, it curves sharply to the right and soon emerges onto an open grassy area. This is the site of the Catskill Mountain House, built in 1824. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, this hotel was a favored destination of rich and famous people, including several Presidents of the United States. As automobiles became the preferred means of transportation in the first part of the twentieth century, the hotel declined, and it closed its doors in 1941. The State of New York acquired the property in 1962, and it soon burned the remains of the wooden hotel, which had deteriorated and become a hazard. Today, nothing remains of the hotel structure, but several signs mark the historical significance of the site, and many historic carvings can be seen in the rocks at the edge of the escarpment.
After taking some time to explore this historic site and enjoying the views, follow the Escarpment Trail as it heads west along a road that once led to the hotel. Soon, you’ll come to a junction, where you should turn right, following the sign for “North Lake.” The road now descends and, after passing a locked gate, reaches a large parking area for the beach at North/South Lake.
Continue ahead across the parking area (do not turn right onto the road), and you’ll see a trail that heads into the woods on the right. (At this writing, this turn is poorly marked). Watch for the blue blazes of the Escarpment Trail to make sure that you are following the correct route. The trail proceeds through a picnic area and soon begins to parallel an ugly chain-link fence on the right (interrupted in one spot by a wooden viewing platform).
After traversing this heavily impacted area, the Escarpment Trail passes a trail register and enters a more pristine environment. Soon, it ascends a steep rock ledge, with a viewpoint on the right at the top of the climb. The trail now proceeds through a beautiful area of pitch pines growing out of slabs of bedrock.
A short distance ahead you’ll reach a spectacular east-facing viewpoint over the Hudson Valley, known as Artists Rock (this rock ledge was a favorite spot from which artists of the Hudson River School of Painting would paint scenes of the Hudson River valley). This location (marked by a sign) is another place where you’ll want to take a break and enjoy the panoramic views.
From Artists Rock, the trail ascends steeply. Soon, you’ll notice a massive outcrop of conglomerate rock to the right of the trail. The trail parallels this rock outcrop until it reaches a junction where a yellow-blazed trail begins on the right. Turn right and follow this side trail, which leads through pitch pines to Lookout Rock, which affords a magnificent east-facing view. The yellow-blazed trail continues to Sunset Rock, which offers a panoramic west-facing view over North/South Lake – considered to be one of the finest views in the Catskills. Be careful as you head to Sunset Rock, as there are many deep crevices in this area!
After taking in the view, return to the trail junction and turn right onto the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail, which climbs steeply, then levels off. Soon, you’ll emerge on another open rock ledge, this one known as Newman’s Ledge. The views from here over the Hudson Valley are spectacular, and the ledge itself is actually an overhang. The drop from the ledge is precipitous, so be exceptionally careful if you choose to approach the edge.
Past Newman's Ledge, the trail continues to climb, steeply in places. It continues through a spruce forest and passes a boreal bog on the left. A short distance beyond the bog, you’ll reach a junction with the Rock Shelter Trail.
Just above, on the right, is Badman’s Cave – supposedly the location out of which a group of bandits once operated. Turn right and climb to this interesting overhanging rock, which is another good place to take a break. After visiting this “cave,” return to the junction and bear right, now following the yellow-blazed Rock Shelter Trail.
The Rock Shelter Trail descends on a rocky footpath. In half a mile, it reaches a junction with the red-blazed Mary’s Glen Trail. Turn right and briefly follow the joint Rock Shelter/Mary’s Glen Trail, with both red and yellow blazes. A short distance ahead, the trails diverge, and you should bear left and continue on the yellow-blazed Rock Shelter Trail.
The next section of the Rock Shelter Trail is relatively level, with some minor ups and downs. It traverses a rocky area, and it will probably take you at least 45 minutes to cover the 1.2 miles to North Lake Road. When you reach the road, turn left, then immediately turn right onto Scutt Road and follow it for a short distance until you reach the parking area (on the right) where the hike began.