Hiking: North and South Lake Loop | Catskill Mountains, NY | 3/9/2011

One of the benefits of all this snow and the sleet and rainstorms that we have been having is that the snow that is on the ground has the consistency of cement. That means you can basically walk anywhere on top of the snow without snowshoes without falling through and post holing. Those were the conditions when I headed out yesterday for a walk around North and South Lakes in the northeastern Catskills.

There is no specific loop trail around these lakes and through the surrounding NOrth & South Lake State Campground. However, in the winter months, many of the roads are closed and that makes it easy to put together a loop all the way around the lakes if you start at the parking lot at the South Lake dam.

From the parking lot you follow the road to the to the South Lake Pavilion and from there you can head up to the trail to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House (Pine Orchard). Then you drop down to the parking lot for the South Lake Beach area, travel around the North Lake and then pick up and follow the old railroad grade around the rest of the lake and South Lake where it brings you back to the parking lot for the South Lake dam area.

The whole trip is about 2 1/2 miles or so, depending on exactly where you go and if you go up to the Catskill Mountain House site and back down.

We were able to walk the entire way without snowshoes, though crampons or at least yaktrax would have come in handy in a few places since the snow was very icy in places and in some places like the Mountain House Site and the South Lake Beach parking lot, the entire area is just a sheet of ice.

The ice in the trees was pretty incredible as we got closer to the edge of the escarpment. I would guess that the last storm put at least half an inch of ice on just about everything. That made it easy to walk on the snow and made the entire woods look like you were walking through an ice palace.

The walk up the South Lake Pavilion road was okay. It looked like some people had tried to ski it and while there is almost 2 feet of snow on the ground, there was maybe half an inch of loose snow on top of that consolidated 2 feet. From the end of that road up to the Mountain House site, the going was a bit rougher thanks to more ice on top of the snow. The Mountain House site looked a bit like a thin glacier. Thanks to most of the snow blowing away, all that was left was a sheet of ice that covered 90% of the open area and even flowed down over the cliffs there, which kept us from getting close to the edges.

We headed down to the South Lake Beach parking lot, which was also very icy and then cut around the shore until we connected with the trail/old railroad grade to make our way back along the lakes to the South Lake dam parking area. We did stop along the way to check out the old water tower for the railroad and wandered a bit here and there to check some stuff out.

All told the trip was probably about 2 1/2 to 3 miles in length and there was no real elevation gain or loss (there's a slight climb up to the Moutain House site). Took about 2 hours or so to make the complete loop.
More Info

For More Information on Catskills Hiking and Outdoors

Check out our Catskill Mountain Information Page for hikes, advice and planning information.  Need a hiking map for the Catskills?  The Trail Conference publishes the Catskills Trails Map Set, which is the best set of maps available for hiking in the Catskills. How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish Trail Guides to the Catskill Region

Guide to Catskill Trails (Forest Preserve, #8) (The Forest Preserve Series)AMC Catskill Mountain Guide, 2nd: AMC's Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the Catskills (Appalachian Mountain Club)Catskill Trails