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Hiking in Catskill Park



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On the 23.9 mile Escarpment Trail, which rides a thin lip of stone above the picturesque Hudson River Valley, it can truly be said that a hike imitates art. These are the fabled mountains where Rip Van Winkle slept. Rip Van Winkle Hollow, at the south end of the Escarpment Trail, is where legend holds that the drowsy Dutchman dozed undisturbed for 20 years. Artists and Sunset Rocks above North Lake, also along the Escarpment Trail, are where nineteenth century artists Thomas Cole and Frederick Church found inspiration for art masterpieces that now hang in the world's leading museums.

From a hiker's perspective, the Escarpment Trail is challenging terrain over ever changing scenery with mixed hardwood forests, dark hemlock groves beside swift-flowing creeks, hardscrabble pitch pine at southern-facing outcrops, and a spruce-fir cap on the higher peaks. The Escarpment Trail forms a link in the 340 mile Long Path.

The Escarpment Trail can be hiked end to end in a weekend, but be sure you have a vehicle at both ends of the trail or arrange a shuttle. Pad your hiking schedule, though, because Catskill miles are not regular miles. The soft sediments underlying these ancient mountains were carved vengefully by glaciers some 22,000 years ago, creating elevation changes both sudden and steep. Around here, it's not the elevation extremes that count, but the cumulative gain in between.

Also, allow extra time to come down off the high ridge, and fill up water bottles at perennial springs in nearby coves (the Escarpment is pretty dry). Many hikers sidetrack across the Blackhead Mountains to summit Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountain. From these and other vantage points, you can make out the southern Adirondacks and Green Mountains, the Berkshires and Taconics, the Hudson Highlands around West Point, and the chalky white Shawangunks.

Trail Information: The blue marked Escarpment Trail is 23.9 miles long and makes for a great 3 day backpacking trip or the trail can be hiked in a really tough, weekend trip. The trail travels along some of the Catskill Mountains most scenic territory. It is 3940 feet at its highest point on the summit of Blackhead Mountain. It crosses seven summits over 3000 feet on some of the most rugged terrain in the Catskills. The North-South Lake area to North Point is full of history as it was the birthplace of hiking in the Catskills.

You will find many day hikers in the North-South Lake Campground area. Popular day hikes from the campground include hike the Escarpment Trail to Boulder Rock, Catskill Mountain House Site, Artist Rock and Sunset Rock. Those looking for a more challenging day hike can try the North-South Lake Loop utilizing the Escarpment Trail as well as side trails.

Camping: The Escarpment Trail provides the backpacker with excellent camping opportunities. Note that at-large camping is NOT allowed in the North Lake area (see guide books). One may camp at-large after North Mountain. In the North Lake area one may camp at the North-South Lake State Campground. Camping at-large is permitted 150 feet away from a trail, water source or road after North Mountain below 3,500 feet.

There are two Lean-tos along the trail, but these are in the northern section. The Batavia Kill Lean-to is located at the 14.6 mile point on the trail (lean-to is 0.25 miles on the Batavia Kill Trail). The Elm Ridge Lean-to is located at the 22.0 mile point about 0.1 mile to left of the trail.

Special Regulations & Considerations: No Camping on the trail before North Mountain except at the North-South Lake State Campground. At higher elevations water is scarce. Be ready to drop down and find reliable water at lower elevations. No camping anywhere above 3500 feet except in an emergency or between December 21 and March 21.

Boulder Rock

Hikers on a rock scramble near Artist Rock

Escarpment Trail Description - South to North

0.00 From the parking area on Schutt Road, cross road and follow blue discs.
0.50 Junction with the red blazed Schutt Road Trail.
0.65 Trail register.
1.20 Layman Monument.  Trail turns sharply left.
1.65 On your left is a yellow blazed trail that leads 0.5 mile to the Schutt Road Trail.
1.75 Sunset Rock.
1.90 Inspiration Rock.
2.70 Trail joins Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail briefly, then meets Long Path and turns left and ascends.
3.15 Junction with the red blazed Schutt Road Trail which leads to the Kaaterskill Hotel site.
3.80 Junction with red blazed short cut trail that bypasses Boulder Rock.  Escarpment Trail turns right here.
4.00 Boulder Rock
4.10 Junction with red blazed short cut trail.
4.50 Catskill  Mountain House site.
4.75 Parking area at North Lake State Campground.  Follow blue discs along cliff edge.
5.25 Artists Rock with its excellent views of the Hudson Valley.
5.75 On your right is a yellow blazed side trail that leads to Lookout Rock and 0.2 mile to Sunset Rock (panorama above).  This is another Sunset Rock.
5.95 Newmans Ledge.  Excellent view of Hudson Valley.
6.60 Badman Cave and the junction of the yellow blazed Rock Shelter Trail on your left.
7.30 Junction with the red blazed Mary's Glen Trail.
7.55 North Point (elevation 3000 feet).  Spectacular views.
8.10 Summit of North Mountain (elevation 3180 feet).
9.30 Stoppel Point (elevation 3420 feet).
10.40 Milt's Lookout.  Views to the northeast.
11.60 Junction with the yellow blazed Dutcher Notch and Colgate Lake Trails.
12.90 Height of land known as Arizona.
13.00 Short side trail on left leads to a viewpoint.
14.40 Summit of Blackhead Mountain (elevation 3940 feet).  Junction of yellow blazed Blackhead Mountain Trail that leads 0.4 mile to a viewpoint and continues toward Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountains.  Escarpment Trail turns right.
15.30 Junction of the yellow blazed Batavia Kill Trail on your left that leads 0.25 mile to Batavia Kill Lean To.
17.20 Acra Point (elevation 3100 feet).
17.80 Junction with the red blazed Black Dome Range Trail.
18.20 Burnt Knob.  Excellent views to the south
19.20 Viewpoint to southwest from rise.
19.80 Begin the ascent of Windham High Peak.
20.50 Summit of Windham High Peak (3524 feet).  Excellent views to the north.
22.80 Side trail on left leads to the Elm Ridge Lean To.
22.85 Junction with yellow blazed Elm Ridge Trail.
23.90 Northern Terminus of the Escarpment Trail at NY 23.  Parking area across the highway.


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