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Harding Road Trail

harding road trail

Overview of this Hike:

Distance - Route #1: 5.05 from parking lot at South Lake dam to Palenville Parking Lot.
Distance - Route #2: 5.58 from parking lot on Scutt Road to Palenville Parking Lot.
Time: 3.5 hours round trip (hiking time)
Elevation Loss: 1,366' loss from NSL parking lot to Palenville parking lot
Side Trips: Visit Kaaterskill Hotel site or Boulder Rock
Best Time to Hike: When the leaves are not on the trees
Difficulty: Easy if hiked from South Lake to Palenville
VO Map No: #18 - Nat Geo Maps: #18
Catskill Highest: N/A
Highest Elevation: 2,466'
Digital Mapper: Topo Terrain Satellite
Attractions: Good views along most of the Harding Road Trail.
Attractions: Easy and steady downhill hike for most of the hike
Unattractions: May not be appropriate for small children.
Unattractions: You will be walking along ledges most of the day.
Unattractions: Lots of people visit this trail
Dangers: At high water, you may not be able to cross one of the streams that runs across the trail. Ledges will be present most of the trip down the Kaaterskill Clove.
Risky Animals: Rattlesnakes and Copperheads (Low), Bears (moderate)
Access Methods: Foot.



Maps, Profile, and GPS files

map of the hike of Harding Road Trail in the Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskill Mountains
elevation profile of the hike of Harding Road Trail in the Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskill Mountains
Click here to download the GPS file in gdb format (Garmin Version 3)




Directions to Trail Head from New York State Thruway (Easist, not the shortest):

  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 21 (Catskill).
  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road.
  • Go approximately 1/4 mile
  • Take a right onto Route 23 West
  • Go approximately 6.6 miles to Cairo, NY
  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 32. McDonalds Rest. on corner.
  • Go approximately 7.7 miles on Rt 32
  • Take a RIGHT onto Rt 23A
  • Go approximately 2.6 miles to park your FIRST car in the DEC Palenville Parking Lot
  • Go appoximately another 4.25 miles to North Lake Road.
  • Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road (DEC sign on corner of road).
  • Follow North Lake Road until you reach the DEC booths.
  • Stay RIGHT after going thru DEC booths
  • Park at the parking lot by the outflow of South Lake
  • NOTE: You can park inside North-South Lake Campgrounds for free in the Winter.
  • NOTE: In the summer you have to pay to go into North-South Lake Campgrounds to hike OR you can park in the DEC Scutt Road Parking Lot (just before DEC booths for free.


  • Mile Post Chart for South Lake to Palenville

    Mile PostAltitudeNotes
    0.002,186Parking - by South Lake outflow - Walk past South Lake and up the asphalt road
    0.122,201'Cross Country Ski Trail on right - Continue up the asphalt Road.
    0.252,239'Take a RIGHT onto non-DEC trail - old Kaaterskill Hotel Service Road
    0.462,352'3rd Ledge Trail (east) on LEFT - Continue on old Kaaterskill Hotel Service Road
    0.522,381'3rd Ledge Trail (west) on RIGHT - Continue on old Kaaterskill Hotel Service Road
    0.762,466'Trail Junction to DEC Trail - Go RIGHT towards old Kaaterskill Hotel site
    1.022,471Trail Junction to Kaaterskill Hotel - Go LEFT (right/right takes you to Kaaterskill Hotel site).
    1.522,224Trail Junction - Go LEFT (right will take you to the southern escarpment)
    1.692,150Trail Junction - Go RIGHT (left will take you to Palenville Overlook)
    4.78978DEC Registration Box - Go STRAIGHT after registering.
    5.05820DEC Palenville Parking Lot.

    Mile Post Chart - Scutt Road to Palenville

    Mile PostAltitudeNotes
    0.002,360Parking - Scutt Road DEC Parking Lot. There are TWO ways to the trail head. You can walk down the DEC trail across the street from the parking lot, OR you can walk down Scutt Road and take the old rail road tracks. For the purpose of this hike we will walk down the road at the start of the hike, and use the trail on the way back. Walk down Scutt Road
    0.292,212'Take a LEFT and walk past the 6x6 wood barrier. This is the old rail road tracks.
    0.332,210'Take a RIGHT back onto the trail (Blue markers)
    0.372,182'Go across wood bride over Spruce Creek - rocks below bridge are slippery!
    0.432,190'After walking across second wood bridge, you will come to a major trail intersection - Take a RIGHT and continued down the hill.
    0.512,309'Registration Box - Trail head
    0.722,388Trail Junction - Right is the old Laurel House Road bridge (now gone) - Straight will take you to the top of the Kaaterskill Falls - Left will take you to Escarpment Trail. Go LEFT up the hill.
    1.552,471Trail Junction - Straight goes to site - Right (and continue straight) goes to Harding Road Trail
    2.052,224Trail Junction - Go LEFT (right will take you to the southern escarpment)
    2.222,150Trail Junction - Go RIGHT (left will take you to Palenville Overlook)
    5.31978DEC Registration Box - Go STRAIGHT after registering.
    5.58820DEC Palenville Parking Lot.

    Hike for the Harding Road Trail from South Lake

    parking at South Lake
    This is the Parking Lot at the outflow of South Lake in the North-South Lake Campgrounds. In the Winter you can park there for free. In the summer you can park there, but you must pay to park and hike in the Campground. If you do not want to pay, you can park at the DEC parking lot on Scutt Road (road on the right just before the DEC booths to the North-South Lake Campground.
    North and South Lake
    From the South Lake Parking Lot, this is the view. Once you park, you want to walk across the dam and up the road. At 0.12 miles you will see the Cross-Country Ski Trail on your Right. Continue straight up the road.
    old kaaterskill hotel service road
    Find the entrance to the old Kaaterskill Hotel Service Road can be difficult. It is 1/4 mile from the parking lot. In the picture, the asphalt road in on the very left of the picture, and the old hotel road is in the center of the picture. In the summer you can see a boulder blocking the road.

    Walk up the road. The old road is not maintained so you will see trees across the trail.
    old kaaterskill hotel service road
    3rd ledge trail
    As you walk up the road a little ways, you will see the 3rd ledge trail on the left. Continue around the horseshoe turn. Please Note: The horseshoe turn has ice flows in the Winter and slimy algae in the Summer. Be very careful.

    A little ways up further, is the other side of the 3rd Ledge. Some people miss the trail. Continue up the road.
    3rd ledge trail
    escarpment trail
    When you come to the end of the old Kaaterskill Hotel Service Road, you will come to a DEC Trail. The picture on the left shows the trail looking backwards. You need to take a RIGHT and the end of the old road.

    After walking a short distance, you will come to a new trail junction. You want to take a LEFT and head down the hill. You can take a short side trip by going Right and right again. This will take you around the Kaaterskill Hotel site. This is the highest point during the hike.
    trail junction at the kaaterskill hotel site
    trail junction to southern escarpment and the harding road trail
    After walking down the hill you will come to a new Trail Junction. You want to take a LEFT.

    This is a picture of the trail you want to take.
    top of the harding road trail
    trail junction to palenville overlook and the harding road trail
    After a short distance, you will come to a new trail junction. Take a left will take you to Palenville Overlook. You want to take a RIGHT. This will take you down the old Harding Road Trail.

    This is the view at the beginning of the Harding Road Trail.
    top of the harding road trail
    trail junction to palenville overlook and the harding road trail
    Typical view of the trail. Lots of straight sections with nice views over the valley.

    View over the Kaaterskill Clove from the upper part of the trail.
    top of the harding road trail
    trail junction to palenville overlook and the harding road trail
    A little further down the Harding Road Trail

    About half way down the Harding Road Trail. You will start to enter a region with conifer trees. You will also be able to see Indian Head from this location.
    top of the harding road trail
    view of indian head from harding road trail
    As soon as you round the corner you will be able to see Indian Head towering above you. In the summer it is much harder to see. But, when the leaves are not on the tree you can see Indian Head quite well.
    view of the stream that runs across the trail on the harding road trail
    This is the stream that crosses the trail. Parts of the road have been washed away, but you should not have a problem crossing it. During high water, you may not be able to cross this stream. Do not take un-necessary risk if the water is too high.
    harding road trail below the ravine
    A little further down the Harding Road Trail

    Fireplace at one of the good view points over the Kaaterskill Clove. You can also hear the waterfalls below and see Rt 23a.
    fireplace on the harding road trail
    view point from the harding road trail over the kaaterskill clove
    View Point from the Harding Road Trail. This view point is right by the fireplace.
    lower section of the harding road trail
    Lower section of the Harding Road Trail.

    DEC Registration Box near the beginning of Harding Road Trail.
    dec registraion box on harding road trail
    side trail by the dec registration box
    On your left is a trail that goes up the hill. You do NOT want to go up this trail unless you parked in the other parking lot. You want to continue STRAIGHT after the registration box.

    Continue straight after the registration box. Some sections along this short trail are private property, so stay on the trail.
    trail to the parking on in palenville
    North and South Lake
    Gate at the DEC Palenville Parking Lot. If you see the gate open, please do not drive up the road.

    DEC Palenville Parking Lot.
    North and South Lake
    Links and References:
    CatskillMountain.com Forum - Ask questions or tell us about your experience with this hike
    New York State DEC North/South Lake
    Kaaterskill Hotel

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