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Escarpment Trail - Southwestern Section

North and South Lake

Overview of this Hike:

Distance: 4.79 round trip from parking at bridge to Monument, Sunset Ledge, and Insiration Ledge and back.
Time: 2.5 hours round trip (hiking time)
Elevation Loss: 396' loss from parking lot
Side Trips: Laural House Site, Kaaterskill Falls, Kaaterskill Hotel Site, North/South Lake, and Mill House
Best Time to Hike: Anytime of day - best when leaves are not on the tree - not recommended in Winter.
Difficulty: Easy most of the hike - moderate climb after Layman's Monument
VO Map No: #12 - umarked - #12
Catskill Highest: 100+
Highest Elevation: 2,482'
Digital Mapper: Topo Terrain Satellite
Attractions: Spectacular views from Insiration Ledge.
Attractions: Nice view of water falls on the Kaaterskill Mountain Range (Viola, Wildcat, Buttermilk, Santa Cruz, and Haines Falls)
Attractions: Nice views of Kaaterskill Clove
Attractions: Lots of ledges and good views along the Escarpment Trail
Unattractions: Parking lot is in a lousy place - Adds an extra mile to the hike.
Unattractions: Easy to get lost - 30% of the people get lost here. Many unoffical trails that are not marked on maps.
Unattractions: Lots of people visit this trail
Dangers: Falling off the trail. Trail goes along many cliffs. Not recommended for children.
Dangers: Black bears walk up and down this trail during the night. You can sometimes see them at dusk and dawn, so keep this in mind. Make sure that you are up-to-date on bear encounters.
Common Animals: Coyotes, bears, birds, Hawks, frogs, butterflies (whites & swallowtails), and deer.
Risky Animals: Rattlesnakes and Copperheads (none known), Bears (high)
Access Methods: Foot. Skiing on some trails.



Maps, Profile, and GPS files

Catskill Mountains Escarpment Trail
Catskill Mountains Escarpment Trail
Catskill Mountains Escarpment Trail
Click here to download the GPS file in gpx format
Click here to download the GPS file in gdb format (Garmin Version 3)
Click here to download the GPS file in text format




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 appoximately 7-8 miles to the intersection of Rt 23a and North-South Lake Road.
  • Climb up the windy mountain road (Rt 23A). When you reach the top, you will then be in Haines Falls.
  • Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road (DEC sign on corner of road).
  • Follow North Lake Road until you almost reach the DEC booths.
  • Take a RIGHT onto Scutt Road.
  • Take a RIGHT into the DEC parking lot. The parking lot fills up quickly. If the parking lot is full, you can park on the side of the road. Do NOT park down by the two houses.


  • Mile Post Chart

    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.
    0.552,138'Registration Box - Trail head
    0.592,121Trail 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.
    1.081,965Frank Layman's Monument - Trail now turns East
    1.152,026Un-named Ledge #1 (views of Santa Cruz Ravine/Falls & Buttermilk Ravine/Falls)
    1.222,025Un-named Ledge #2 (small ledge - views of Santa Cruz Ravine/Falls & Buttermilk Ravine/Falls)
    1.252,060Rock Squeeze.
    1.352,106Un-named Ledge #3 (views of Buttermilk Ravine/Falls)
    1.472,220Trail Branch - Left will take back to the parking lot - Continue STRAIGHT on the Escarpment Trail
    1.582,246Sunset Rock (view of Buttermilk Ravine/falls & Wildcat Ravine/falls)
    1.722,167Inspiration Rock (view of Buttermilk Ravine/falls & Wildcat Ravine/falls).
    1.872,192Un-named Ledge #4 (views of Viola Ravine/Falls, Poet's Ledge, Palenville, Indian Head Ledge)
    2.492,246Trail Branch - Left will take you back to the parking lot VIA the Horse Trail - Right will continue on the Escarpment Trail - Take a RIGHT)
    2.542,245Trail Branch - Straight will take you to Palenville, Palenville Overlook, and Indian Head - Left will continue on the Escarpment Trail - Go LEFT and go up the easy grade
    2.952.475Trail Branch - Straight for 50' (left to parking lot / right to Kaaterskill Hotel Site) - Right will continue on the Escarpment Trail - Go RIGHT
    3.232,462'Trail Branch - Left will take you down to North/South Lake - Straight will continue on the Escarpment Trail to Boulder Rock and the old Catskill Mountain House site - Go LEFT (notice - horseshoe turn has some very slippery rocks - trail branch on horseshoe - stay left)
    3.742,256Trail Branch - This trail ends on North Lake Road - Go LEFT
    3.882,220Trail Branch - Cross-Country ski trail - Take LEFT - leave road, and continue on ski trail.
    4.262,155Return to Major Trail Branch - take RIGHT over wood bridge
    4.292,155150' after going over bridge, the trail branches. Right will take you on an old unoffical trail to the old Mill Pond Building - Left will take you back to the parking lot - Go LEFT.
    4.322,142Go over wood bridge (over Spruce Creek)
    4.352,168Trail Junction - Left or Right takes you down the old rail road tracks - Continue STRAIGHT on the Blue marker trail
    4.792,310Return to Parking Lot

    Hike to the Southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail in the North/South Lake Region

    North and South Lake
    You can park in the DEC parking lot. The parking lot does fill up, so you can also park on the side of the road of Scutt Road.

    From the parking lot there are several possible directions you can go. (1) You can walk across Scutt Road and take the Blue Trail. Unfortunately, the Blue trail is boring, full of roots, and had an odd path. It is 0.44 miles this way; (2) You can walk directly down Scutt Road and pick up the Rail Road Track trail and meet up the Blue Trail. It is 0.33 miles this way.

    For the purpose of this instruction, we are going to walk down the road at the beginning of the hike, and return back on the Blue Path.

    Walk down the road for 0.29 miles (1,500 feet). Just before you get to the second house, you will see the entrance to the old Rail Road Track Trail on the LEFT side of the road. It will have a 6x6 pressure treated barrier blocking the path. Take a LEFT onto the old Rail Road Track Trail (there are no longer any rails or rail road ties)
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 0.29, you will encounter the firest barrier. Walk around the barrier (6x6 pressure treated timbers), and walk about 200 feet (0.04 miles).

    At mile post 0.33, you will come to a trail junction. This is the Blue Trail. Take a RIGHT onto the Blue Trail
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 0.37, you will come to a wood bridge over a creek (overflow from North/South lake). After walking down the hill about 0.04 miles (200 feet) you will encounter your first wooden bridge.

    Please note: The rocks in the stream are very slippery.

    At mile post 0.43, you will come to a major trail junction. After walking another 0.06 miles (300 feet), you will encounter a second wooden bridge. After the bridge, you will come to a major trail intersection. Going left will put you on the cross-country ski trail. This trail will take you to North/South Lake (0.38 miles to North Lake Road). Going Straight will take you to the old Kaaterskill Hotel Site (1.17 miles). Going Right will take you to Kaaterskill Falls, Layman's Monument, and the Escarpment Trail. Go RIGHT down the hill.

    At mile post 0.55, you will encounter the DEC registration box.
    North and South Lake
    Escarpment Trail Laurel House Kaaterskill Falls
    At mile post 0.59, you will encounter a Trail Intersection. You can also get to this point from Laural House Road, which will save you 0.40 miles of hiking. You CANNOT get to this point from Laural House Road if the creek is running strong.

    Going Right will take you to the top of the old bridge over Lake Creek. The old bridge is now gone. In the past, it would take you to the old Laurel House (New York State burned down the hotel).

    Going Straight will take you down to Lake Creek, and if you follow the creek several hundred feet, you will come to the top of Kaaterskill Falls (167' high on the first drop - 64' on the second drop). There is a trail on the other side of the creek that will take you to the top of the falls.NOTICE: Many people have been sweep over the falls, or have fallen off the falls over the years. If you fall off the falls, you WILL be killed. Do not stand in the water near the top of the falls - it is VERY slippery - Use caution!

    If you go Left, this will continue you on the Escarpment Trail.

    You want to go LEFT up the hill on the narrow trail.
    Council Bluff
    Layman's Monument was built to commerate Frank Layman who died fighting a forest fire that started in the clove between Bastion Falls and Kaaterskill Falls. 200 men fought the fire that day. Frank Layman was only 25 years old when he died on August 10, 1900. He was paid $5/day to fight the fire. He was working with another worker who jumped off a ledge into jagged rocks to escape. Frank Layman was engulfed in flames before he could get to the ledge. Twilight Park Association paid for the monument to be built. During the summer of 1900, the Summer was hot and exceedingly dry. There was only 18 inches of water left in South Lake. Frank Layman's monument was built where his charred body was found. He had to be indentifed by his wrist watch. After leaving Layman's Monument, you will start to uphill ascent as seen in the picture on the left.

    At mile post 1.15 (elevation 2,026'), you will encounter Council Bluff. From this ledge you will be able to see Haines Falls, Twilight Park, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, Cruz Ravine/Falls, and Buttermilk Ravine/Falls.

    At mile post 1.22 (elevation 2,025'), you will encounter a continuation of Council Bluff. This is a much smaller ledge then the first ledge. You will get essentially the same view as the first ledge #1.
    Council Bluff
    Haines Falls Angel Falls
    The following picture shows you Haines Falls. It is on the right of Twilight Park. Many people who come the Catskill Park know and remember Kaaterskill Falls. But, few know about Haines Falls and the Five Cascades. It is just as beautiful, if not better then Kaaterskill Falls. It is three times higher. Today it is on private land. Few know that many of the famous paintings from people like Thomas Cole were actually of Haines Falls, and not Kaaterskill Falls. While Thomas Cole did paint Kaaterskill Falls, he often preferred to paint Haines Falls. The biggest problem of Haines Falls, is actually getting there. It is exceedingly hard to get to. Thomas Cole and his friends often used ropes and ladders to get to the base of the falls. It can be accessed by parking south of Bastion Falls and hiking down Lake Creek, and then hiking up Kaaterskill Creek. Please note: This is a dangerous hike.

    In the Winter, you can find a 100 foot mound of ice below the Falls. People used to hike near the top of the falls to view this exceedingly large ice mound. Today, you cannot see the Falls because they are on private land.

    SAFETY NOTE: Hiking up to the bottom of the Five Cascades & Haines Falls is exceedingly dangerous. If the creek is raging, you should not hike in this region. Kaaterskill Creek is a Class V rapids with a moderate amount of rain. With a large amount of rain, it is unpassable under all conditions. If you fall in, you will die. There are a lot of cliffs, very large rocks, and exceedingly danagerous ledges. There are also Timber Rattlesnakes in this region.
    North and South Lake
    At Mile post 1.25 (elevation 2,060') you will encounter the Rock Squeeze. Here is a picture of it in the Fall time with the leaves falling.

    At Mile post 1.35 (elevation 2,106) you will encounter an un-named Ledge. From this ledge you can best see Buttermilk Ravine/Falls

    At Mile post 1.47 (elevation 2,220) you will come to a Trail Junction. You will continue straight on the Escarpment Trail. If you did turn left on the Yellow Marker Trail, it will take you back to the Scutt Road parking lot.
    North and South Lake
    At Mile post 1.58 (elevation 2,246) you will encounter another Ledge. From left-to-right you will see Poet's Ledge, Viola Ravine/Falls, Wildcat Ravine/Falls, and Buttermilk Ravine/Falls. At the top of the Kaaterskill Mountain Range, you can also see the summit of Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top Mountain.
    North and South Lake
    At Mile Post 1.72 (elevation 2,167') you come to Sunset Ledge. Sunset Ledge is one of the nicest ledges on the southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail. The picture shows the view westbound towards Haines Falls later in the afternoon. Sunset Ledge can be very nice in the early morning when the sun is shining up the valley.
    North and South Lake
    At Mile Post 1.87 (elevation 2,192') you will encounter Inspiration Point. Some maps call this point Inspiration Point (Inspiration Ledge), but that is not correct. This spot is also very nice, so it is easy to confuse. Inspiration Ledge is a rather big ledge, where this one is small.

    At Mile Post 2.49 (elevation 2,246') you will encounter another Trail Junction (unmarked). Left will put you on the Horse Trail back to the Scutt Road Parking Lot. Right will continue on the Escarpment Trail, Palenville Overlook, Indian Head, Old Kaaterskill Hotel Site, Boulder Rock, and the Old Catskill Mountain house site. You want to go RIGHT.
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 2.54 (elevation 2,245'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. Going Straight will take you to Palenville Overlook, Indian Head, and Palenville. Going Left - up the hill - will take you to the old Kaaterskill Hotel Site and the Escarpment Trail. You want to go LEFT.

    At mile post 2.95 (elevation 2,475'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. Going Straight will take you to the old Kaaterskill Hotel Site. Going Right will continue you on the Escarpment Trail. go RIGHT.

    If you want to visit the Kaaterskill Hotel Site, continue about 50', then go right, continue about 50', then go left. There is a loop around the site, and you will come out the same place you entered the site on. There is also a pond and well cistern near the hotel site. There use to be a trail from near the cistern which would follow the overflow down to the cross-country ski trail. This trail is now completely overgrown, and is not traceable. If you follow the overflow, you will essentially be on the trail.
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 3.23 (elevation 2,462'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. Going Straight will take you to Boulder Rock, the old Catskill Mountain House site, Escarpment Trail, Going Left (unofficial trail - but widely travelled) - will take you to North/South Lake. You want to go LEFT.

    Please Note: About half way down you will encounter a horseshoe turn. There is expose bedrock on the sharp turn, and the bedrock is very slippery (in the Winter it is very icy)! Some people get lost here. If you take a right, you will be on another unofficial trail that will take you into Pine Orchards. It is no longer much of a trail. It sort of comes out near the Catskill Mountain House. It is very hard to follow the trail. You want to go LEFT on the horseshoe corner. At mile post 3.74 (elevation 2,256'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. This will put you on the South Lake Road. You want to go LEFT.

    The picture on the Right shows the entrance to this unofficial trail from South Lake Road. It is hard to find in the Summer. Look for the Rock blocking the entrance. This is important if you plan on hiking the trail in reverse.
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 3.88 (elevation 2,220'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. Going Straight will take you to the outlet of South Lake, and the entrance of North/South Lake Campground. Going Left will take you down the cross-country ski trail. You want to go LEFT.

    At mile post 4.26 (elevation 2,155'), you will encounter a Major Trail Junction. This is where you entered the Escarpment Trail. Left will take you to the Old Kaaterskill Hotel Site. Straight will make you repeat this hike again - Yikes!. Right will take you back to the Scutt Road Parking Lot. You want to go RIGHT over the wooden bridge.
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    At mile post 4.29 (elevation 2,155'), you will encounter another Trail Junction. Approximately 150' after going over the bridge you will come to the trail junction in the picture. Most people continue straight, which gets them very lost. The trail used to go straight, and the trail was diverted by the DEC a number of years ago. If you go Straight, you come to the old Mill House (Thankfully, the old stone walled Mill House is still standing because the DEC could not burn it down - side building is now gone). The DEC refuses to maintain this trail. The building is historic, and should be maintained. Going Left will take you back to the Scutt Road Parking Lot. You want to go LEFT, and should encounter the second wooden bridge 150' later.

    At Mile post 4.35 (elevation 2,168') you will encounter another Trail Junction. Going Left will take you to Scutt Road. Going Straight will take you back to the Scutt Road Parking Lot. You can go either direction. Going Left is 0.33 miles back to your car, and is an easier hike. Going Straight is 0.44 miles back to your car, and more difficult. If you go left, you want to go Right after reaching the Road 200' later.
    Links and References:
    CatskillMountain.com Forum - Ask questions or tell us about your experience with this hike
    New York State DEC North/South Lake
    Information about Layman's Monument - The Daily Mail

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