Catskill Mountaineer

Southwestern Escarpment Trail

inspiration point
Inspiration Point on the Southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail
Hudson River can be seen in the distance on a clear day
 
 

OVERVIEW

  Type of Trail: 100% DEC Trails
  Distance: Approximately 4.04 miles round trip from Laurel House Road DEC Parking Area and back
  Distance: Approximately 4.58 miles round trip from Scutt Road DEC Parking Area and back.
  Distance: Approximately 4.58 miles round trip from South Lake Parking Area and back.
  Notes: Parking Area on Laurel House Road is often full, so use Scutt Road Parking Area if needed
  Notes: Trail runs along the very edge of ledges - Those with a fear of heights may not like this trail
  Time: Average 2-3 hours round trip
  Best Time to Hike: Any time of day in Spring, Summer, or Fall. Too dangerous to use in Winter.
  Difficulty: Moderate
   
  DEC Trail Map: DEC Kaaterskill Wild Forest Map (free)
   
  Digital Mapper: Topo      Terrain      Satellite
   
  Access Methods: Foot only

Maps

map of the southwestern escarpment trail in north-south lake



 

DIRECTIONS TO TRAIL HEAD from Exit 21 (Catskill)

  NOTE: We do NOT recommend swimming in the middle pool of Kaaterskill Falls. If you would like to swim, get a Day-Use Pass at the Entrance Booths to North-South Lake Campgrounds. There are two beaches located inside the campgrounds that are quite nice. You can also park at the South Lake Parking Area and hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

 
  • Laural House Road Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.19575, -74.063433 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Laural House Road Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 11 44, W74 03 48 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Laural House Road Parking Lot GPS: N 42 11.745, W 74 03.806 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Laural House Road Parking Lot UTM: 18N 577326 4671935 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.200817 -74.058417 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 12 02 W74 03 30 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot GPS: N 42 12.049 W 74 03.505 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot UTM: 18N 577734 4672502 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.196467, -74.0511 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 11 47, W74 03 03 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot GPS: N 42 11.788, W 74 03.066 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot UTM: 18N 578344, 4672026 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 21 (Catskill).
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  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road.
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  • Go approximately 1/4 mile
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  • Take a right onto Route 23 West
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  • Go approximately 6.6 miles to Cairo, NY
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  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 32. McDonalds Rest. on corner.
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  • Go approximately 7.7 miles on Rt 32
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  • Take a RIGHT onto Rt 23A
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  • Go approximately 7.4 miles to the intersection of Rt 23a and North Lake Road.
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  • Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road (DEC sign on corner of road).
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  • Go approximately 1.7 miles to Laurel House Road.
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  • Take a RIGHT onto Laurel House Road
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  • Go approximately 0.4 miles to Laurel House Road Parking Area.
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  • Do NOT park on the side of the road. Your car will be TOWED if you do.
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  • NOTE: if the parking area on Laurel House Road is full, then return back to North Lake Road.
        NOTE: Take right onto North Lake Road - Go 0.4 miles.
        NOTE: Take a RIGHT onto Scutt Road. Parking is near the top of the road.
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  • Do NOT park on the side of the road. Your car will be TOWED if you do.
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    DIRECTIONS TO TRAIL HEAD from Exit 20 (Saugerties)

     
  • Laural House Road Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.19575, -74.063433 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Laural House Road Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 11 44, W74 03 48 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
  •  
  • Laural House Road Parking Lot GPS: N 42 11.745, W 74 03.806 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Laural House Road Parking Lot UTM: 18N 577326 4671935 - Elevation is approximately 2,081 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.200817 -74.058417 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 12 02 W74 03 30 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot GPS: N 42 12.049 W 74 03.505 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • Scutt Road Parking Lot UTM: 18N 577734 4672502 - Elevation is approximately 2,240 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot WGS84 (DEC): 42.196467, -74.0511 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot Deg/Min/Sec: N42 11 47, W74 03 03 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot GPS: N 42 11.788, W 74 03.066 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • South Lake Parking Lot UTM: 18N 578344, 4672026 - Elevation is approximately 2,128 feet
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  • Take New York State Thruway to Exit 20 (Saugerties).
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  • Take a left out of the NYS Thruway entrance road - Move to RIGHT lane.
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  • Go approximately 0.20 miles
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  • Take a right onto Route 32
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  • Go approximately 5.9 miles to a Y intersection
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  • Take a LEFT (straight) onto Rt 32A (Gas Station on left side of road).
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  • Go approximately 1.8 miles on Rt 32A
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  • Take a LEFT onto Rt 23A
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  • Go approximately 5.2 miles to the intersection of Rt 23a and North Lake Road.
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  • Climb up the windy mountain road (Rt 23A). When you reach the top, you will then be in Haines Falls.
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  • Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road (DEC sign on corner of road).
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  • Go approximately 1.7 miles to Laurel House Road.
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  • Take a RIGHT onto Laurel House Road
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  • Go approximately 0.4 miles to Laurel House Road Parking Area.
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  • Do NOT park on the side of the road. Your car will be TOWED if you do.
  •  
  • NOTE: if the parking area on Laurel House Road is full, then return back to North Lake Road.
        NOTE: Take right onto North Lake Road - Go 0.4 miles.
        NOTE: Take a RIGHT onto Scutt Road. Parking is near the top of the road.
  •  
  • Do NOT park on the side of the road. Your car will be TOWED if you do.


  • MILEAGE CHART

      Mile PointAltitudeNotes
      0.00 2,081 DEC Parking Area - At the end of Laurel House Road. If full use the DEC Parking Area at the top of Scutt Road.
      0.16 2,025' Trail Junction - Turn LEFT and go over bridge (Lake Creek).
      0.23 2,017' Trail Junction - After going over the bridge - Turn LEFT and walk parallel to Lake Creek.
      0.39 2,090' Trail Junction (4-way intersection) - Register at the box on the left. Then take a right and walk up the hill.
      0.64 2,214' At the Trail Junction - Take a RIGHT onto the Old Hotel Road
      0.71 2,209' Horse loading station and backcountry campground - Continue STRAIGHT.
      0.91 2,216' Trail Junction - Short-Cut Trail to Sunset Ledge - Continue STRAIGHT.
      1.80 2,198 Trail Junction - Turn RIGHT onto the Southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail.
      2.45 2,106 Between 2.35 and 2.45 miles you will see multiple view point. At 2.45 miles is Inspiration Point
      2.58 2,050' Sunset Ledge
      2.82 2,120 Trail Junction - On the right is the Short-Cut Trail - Continue STRAIGHT
      3.11 1,898 Council's Bluff (The first small ledge isn't it - The large ledge is Council's Bluff.
      3.19 1,890 Council's Bluff - Where Mohawk Indians performed ceremonies prior to year 1650
      3.28 1,836 Layman's Monument
      3.66 2,073 Trail Junction - Left will take you to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls (250' elevation drop) - Continue STRAIGHT
      3.81 2,017 Trail Junction - Go LEFT over the bridge - Follow path back to the Laurel House Parking Area
      4.04 2,081' DEC Parking Area - Laurel House Road

    Hike the Southwestern Escarpment Trail near North-South Lake Campground

    Laurel House Road DEC parking area
    This is the LAUREL HOUSE ROAD DEC PARKING AREA.

    If this Parking Area is full, do NOT park on the side of the road. The Town of Hunter WILL tow your car! Instead, drive back to North Lake Road. Take a RIGHT onto North Lake Road. Drive about 1/4 mile. Take a RIGHT onto Scutt Road. There is another DEC Parking Area near the top of Scutt Road.

    The Trail Head starts at the bottom middle of the Parking Area. Skip over the next two section to start your hike.

    Do not leave trash in the Parking Area or outhouses!
    scutt road dec parking area
    This is the SCUTT ROAD DEC PARKING AREA.

    The picture shows the upper part of the Scutt Road Parking Area. There is also a lower Scutt Parking Area. There is an outhouse located in the lower lot.

    To get to the trail head you need to walk to the lower lot. Across the street to the entrance to the Scutt Road Parking Area is the Trail Head. Look for the BLUE Trail Marker across the street. Walk down the trail 0.50 miles (1/2 mile) until you reach the DEC Registration Box and 4-way intersection. Skip down a few section to start at the 4-WAY INTERSECTION.

    Do not leave trash in the Parking Area or outhouses!
    South Lake Parking Area
    This is the SOUTH LAKE PARKING AREA inside the North-South Lake Campgrounds.

    It is located by the South Lake outflow pipe on the western side of the campgrounds.

    After parking your car, walk on the paved road. In the direction that goes OVER the overflow pipe (southerly direction). Walk on the paved road 0.12 miles (600 feet). On the right side of the paved road you will see a path with a wooden bar across the path. That is the Cross-Country Ski Trail. You want to take a RIGHT and Walk down the cross country ski trail 0.38 miles until you come to the 4-way intersection. At the 4-way intersection, take a LEFT and hike up the hill. Look at the map to get yourself oriented. Skip down a few section to start at the 4-WAY INTERSECTION.

    Do not leave trash in the Parking Area or outhouses!
    Trail head for this hike of southern escarpment trail and kaaterskill falls
    beginning of hike to kaaterskill falls and the escarpment trail
    trail junction for the escarpment trail and kaaterskill falls viewing platform
    After 0.16 miles (600 feet) you will come to this Y-Trail Junction. You want to go LEFT and go over the steel bridge.

    Right will take you to the view platform to the top of Kaaterskill Falls (0.14 miles one-way)
    bridge over lake creek
    On your left is the bridge that goes over Lake Creek. You want to walk across the bridge

    On your right you can see a trail junction just after you leave the bridge.
    bridge over lake creek and trail junction to the Escarpment Trail
    trail junction near the bridge over lake creek
    At the trail junction, you want to go LEFT.

    The trail on the right will take you to the trail that takes you the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls.

    When you come to the end of your hike of the southern Escarpment Trail, you will return to this trail junction, and return to your car.
    4-way intersaction trail junction for scutt road, cross-country ski trai, kaaterskill hotel road
    THIS IS THE 4-WAY INTERSECTION

    On your RIGHT is the trail that will take you to the start of the Southern Escarpment Trail. If you parked in the Laurel House Road Parking area, GO RIGHT.

    On your left is the Hike Registration Box. This path will also take you up to the Scutt Parking Area. If you are parked in from the Scutt Parking Area, you want to go STRAIGHT.

    Straight ahead is the Cross-Country Ski Trail. This trail will take you to the South Lake Parking area. If you parked at the South Lake, you want to GO LEFT.

    North and South Lake
    After hiking 1/4 mile up the hill, you will come to this trail junction.

    You want to go RIGHT onto the old Hotel Road.

    Straight will take you to the Kaaterskill Hotel Ruins and the Southeastern part of the Escarpment Trail.
    Horse loading station on the old hotel road and camping site
    Shortly after you get on the Old Hotel Road, you will see a horse loading platform. Just after the platform is a trail leads to a backcountry camp site and outhouse.

    Important Note: Horses have the right of way in the forest. Horses are only allowed on certain marked trails. They are not allowed on the Southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail.

    trail junction to the short-cut trail to the southern escarpment trail in the catskill mountains
    This the camp site. behind the horse loading platform. There is also an outhouse there. This camp site can accommodate a couple small tents. Make sure you put out your campfire before you leave. Do not leave it unattended.
    trail junction to the short-cut trail to the southern escarpment trail in the catskill mountains
    This Trail Junction is about 1/4 mile down the Old Hotel Road. You want to continue STRAIGHT.

    This is a Short-Cut Path to the middle of the Southern Escarpment. Some hikers use this short trail to skip Layman's Monument. The trail down to Layman's Monument is steep and rocky, and sometimes hikers want to skip that section. But, you do not want to take this path because you would skip the best parts of the Southwestern Escarpment Trail.
    North and South Lake
    After traveling 1.80 miles down the Old Hotel Road, you will come to this Trail Junction. You want to take a RIGHT here.

    Going straight will take you to Palenville Overlook and the Southeastern Escarpment Trail.

    The Southwestern part of the Escarpment Trail is rocky and rooty in section. Other sections are easy walking. You will also be walking next ledges where there is exposure. So, take your time and pay attention to your footing. Take time to stop and enjoy the view. Some people are tempted to hike off the trail to downward sloping ledges. It is easy to slide off the ledge, so try to stay on the trail.

    In the Spring, this trail is often muddy. In the colder months, it is icy and dangerous. In the summer, there is a lot of vegetation. During the second half of July, there are lots of flowers and mushrooms.
    North and South Lake
    These two images will give you and idea of what the easier sections of the trail looks like. Exposure you see in the image on the right is fairly common.

    In the Fall season, fallen leaves give you more views, but are also slippery.
    North and South Lake
    North and South Lake
    This is Inspiration Point. The views are best in the early morning and later in the afternoon.

    Before you reach Inspiration Point, you will see a number of nice view points. The one in the picture is the best one, and also the last view point before you come to Sunset Ledge.
    sunset ledge in the kaaterskill clove of the catskill mountains.
    About 650' past Insipration Point, you will encounter Sunset Ledge.

    The ledge is actually much bigger then what you see in the images.

    Many consider Sunset Ledge the best part of the hike, so take some time to enjoy this view point.

    After you get done here, you need to hike up the rocky and moderately steep section to continue you hike.
    sunset ledge in the kaaterskill clove of the catskill mountains.
    North and South Lake
    From several view points along this hike, you will be able to enjoy a wide view of the Kaaterskill Mountain Range. The peak on the left is Kaaterskill High Point, and the peak on the right is Round Top Mountain.

    The Kaaterskill Clove has over 55 waterfalls in it. While most people only see Kaaterskill Falls, Kaaterskill Falls isn't the tallest, nor is it best one. Buttermilk Falls has 9 drops for a total of 549 feet. Many of the waterfalls are very difficult to get to. Some are exceedingly dangerous.
    North and South Lake
    After enjoying the views at Sunset Ledge, you will climb up a steep and rocky hill. About 1/4 mile later you will come to this Trail Junction.

    Go STRAIGHT. It will lead you to Council's Bluff, Layman's Monument, and the trail junction to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. The next 1/2 mile is the most difficult part of the hike. It goes down a steep and rocky path to Layman's Monument, and then climbs back up a steep and rocky path.

    Some people will take a right onto the Short-Cut Path to exit back to their car. Look at the map for how to return back to your car.
    views of the kaaterskill clove of the catskill mountains.
    Along the way you will come to this small ledge that gives you a nice view of the Kaaterskill Clove.

    A little further down you will come to Council's Bluff. This is where the Mohawk Indians would perform ceremonies in the years prior to 1650. The North-South Lake was abandon by the Mohawk Indians between the years 1650 and 1825. Some Mohawk Indians did live in the general region during that time period. After 1825, the Catskill Mountain House was built.
    council's bluff in the kaaterskill clove of the catskill mountains.
    layman's monument on the escarpment trail in the catskill mountains.
    At the bottom, you will come to Layman's Monument. It states, "IN MEMORY OF FRANK D LAYMAN, OF HAINES FALLS, WHO LOST HIS LIFE ON THIS SPOT AUG 10, 1900, WHILE WITH OTHERS FIGHTING A FOREST FIRE WHICH THREATENED TO DESTROY THE HOMES AND BUSINESS INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE OF THIS PLACE BY THOSE GRATEFUL FOR HIS DEVOTED SERVICES THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED."

    In recent years, people have been defacing the monument. Please do not do that. It is disrespectful.

    200 men fought the fire that day. Frank Layman was 25 years old when he died on August 10, 1900. He was paid $5/day to fight the fire. 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 indentified by his watch.
    layman's monument on the escarpment trail in the catskill mountains.
    trail junction to the bottom of kaaterskill falls
    After you leave Layman's Monument, you will hike up a steep and rocky hill before it levels out. You will encounter this Trail Junction about 4/10 of a mile later. This Trail Junction is for going to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls.

    For this hike, you want to continue STRAIGHT.

    If you want to do a side trip, then you can go left down to the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls. It has several hundred steps and decends down 250-300' in elevation. This is a difficult side trip. You can also do a side trip to the viewing platform at the top of Kaaterskill Falls. If you choose the later choice, then continue straight.
    trail junction for the escarpment trail
    About 750 feet later, you will come down the steps in this picture.

    If you parked at the Laurel House Road DEC Parking Area, take a LEFT. About 1/4 mile. Also, if you want to see the Kaaterskill Falls from the viewing platform, take a left, and look for the sign that points you to the viewing platform.

    If you parked at Scutt Road DEC Parking Area, you want to take a RIGHT. When you encounter the 4-way Trail Junction, you then want to take a left (Look for the Registration box). Then follow the trail back to your car. Look at the map. About 2/3 mile.

    If you parked at the South Lake Parking Area, you want to take a RIGHT. When you reach the paved road in the campground, then take a left back to your car. About 2/3 mile.

    LINKS & REFERENCES

    USGS Maps of Kaaterskill Mountain Range
     
    DEC Trail Map
     

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