Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hiking: North Point via the Escarpment Trail and Mary's Glen Trail | Catskills, NY 6/12/2016

The view from North Point
For as long as people have been visiting the northeast Catskills, North Point has been one of their destinations. Whether it was when the great hotels of the 1800s sat on the eastern Catskills escarpment or it is today as forests reclaim the entire area in the Catskill Park, North Point is a stunning destination no matter when you visit it. Not only that, but it is one of the most accessible, moderate day hikes in the entire Catskill Park. 

Where is North Point?

North Point is located just north of the North South Lake State Campground in the Catskill Park. It can be reached via three different trail heads. Two of the trailheads (Escarpment Trail and Mary's Glen Trail) are located within the North South Lake State Campground and require the payment of a day use fee to use. The third trailhead (Rock Shelter Trail) is located just outside of the campground limits, and does not require a day-use fee.

On the edge!
For our hike, we climbed North Point using the Escarpment Trail. The Escarpment Trail is a 24 mile trail that travels from Schutt Road in the south to Route 23 in the north while traversing some of the most amazing terrain of the Catskills. Our section was significantly smaller - just 2.8 miles between the parking area at North Lake and the summit of North Point.

To get to the North Lake Parking Area, enter the State Campground on North Lake Road, pay the day use fee (which also entitles you to use the beach after your hike) and follow the northern campground road to the parking area for the North Lake Beach and Day Use Area. From the parking area walk east to the edge of the escarpment where the blue marked Escarpment Trail will be running north-south.

Escarpment Trail - North Lake to North Point

After joining the trail at North Lake, head north on the Escarpment Trail (left if you are walking from the parking lot). The trail generally follows the eastern edge (or escarpment) of the Catskill Mountains. Just to the east, the mountains drop away to the Hudson Valley. In places the trail goes right along cliff edges, so be forewarned if you have trouble with heights. If you have children or pets, be sure to keep an eye on them.

A steeper section
The trail heads north and climbs via a series of short steep climbs. Those climbs are interspersed with longer sections of relatively flat trail. This continues almost all the way to North Point as you make your way up by traversing a series of rock layers/shelves that make up the mountain itself. It makes for a very relaxing hike overall and makes it easy to set a nice pace as you work hard on the short, steep climbs, but can amble along and relax on the flatter sections.

After just over a half a mile you reach your first stunning vista at Artists Rock. Here the mountains drop off into the Hudson Valley and you are rewarded with a 180 degree of the mountain fronts and the valley beyond. From here you can see miles up and down the Hudson Valley and across to the Berkshire Mountains, Taconics and the Litchfield Hills. This is just the first of many great views along this hike though, so take in this view, but continue on!

The view from Artists Rock
Continuing past Artists Rock, the trail again includes short, steep climbs, followed by longer relatively level stretches. Just before you travel another half a mile, you will start noticing a large rock to your right rising out of the forest. Called a puddingstone, this conglamorate rock looks like thousands of pebbles have been glued together! While it might be tempting to take some of the herd paths to the right to climb this rock, instead continue on the Escarpment Trail until you reach the trail junction with the Sunset Rock Side Trail. This 0.2 mile yellow blazed side trail is well worth your time.

The view from Sunset Rock
Almost as soon as you start down yellow trail, you will come across Lookout Rock, which offers a view much like Artists Rock earlier. Continue on the yellow trail and you will come to Sunset Rock, which offers an iconic view of North and South Lakes below, the eastern escarpment of the Catskills and the mountains to the south and west. This spot is where many of the Hudson River School artists visited to paint their scenes of the Catskills and today is the spot where some of the most iconic photography of the region is made.

Follow the yellow trail back the 0.2 miles to the trail junction with the Escarpment Trail and once again head north on the Escarpment Trail.

Newman's Ledge is another 0.2 miles north on the Escarpment Trail and offers a similar view to Artists Rock and Lookout Rock, though the cliff is much higher in the case of Newman's Ledge. From here the trail travels to the northwest, leaving the edge of the escarpment and instead heading across the forested mountainside. You'll also pass by several small bogs, which create unexpected openings in the forest and a chance to witness some different wildlife who frequent those areas.
Badman Cave

At about six tenths of a mile from Newman's Ledge (0.6 miles), the Escarpment Trail intersects with the yellow blazed Rock Shelter Trail at Badman Cave. Badman Cave is a large rock overhang that can provide some protection from the weather during inclement weather. The trail climbs past the cave and then begins a more steady climb towards the intersection with the Mary's Glen Trail and eventually North Point.

Seven tenths of a mile north of the intersection with the Rock Shelter Trail, the Escarpment Trail intersects with the Mary's Glen Trail. From this intersection it is only a quarter of a mile to the top of North Point, but in that quarter of a mile, much elevation is gained and the trail is steep in places.

The trail climbs up through one final set of stone ledges and emerges at the top of North Point where you are treated to a view down (South) to North and South Lakes and High Peak and Round Top Mountains beyond and east out across the Hudson Valley.

Views from North Point
From here, the Escarpment Trail continues another 16.7 miles to its terminus on Route 23 in Windham. The summit of North Mountain, on which North Point sits, is another 0.55 miles north on the Escarpment Trail. For us, our destination was North Point and we enjoyed having lunch and taking in the view. It's a view I've seen many times, but one that never gets old for me.

Escarpment Trail to Mary's Glen Trail Intersection to North South Lake Campground Road

For our return trip, we traveled back down the Escarpment Trail (south) to the intersection with the Mary's Glen Trail. The trail junction is only 0.25 miles below North Point. At the trail junction we turned right (west) onto the red blazed Mary's Glen Trail. The trail descends slowly through a series of wet areas and descends over several rock ledges as it makes its way to the North South Lake Campground Road.

At Mary's Glen
At 0.8 miles from the intersection with the Escarpment Trail, the Mary's Glen Trail intersects the yellow blazed Rock Shelter Trail. It's at this point you are also in "Mary's Glen" which is a rock ledge that has various rivulets of water cascading down its face (depending on the time of the year and wetness). Be sure to stay on the red blazed Mary's Glen trail at the intersection and continue heading downhill towards the North South Lake Campground Road.

After about another half a mile of descending, the trail crosses a small stream on a log bridge. Just downstream you can see that the stream cascades over a ledge. This is Ashley Falls. Instead of going to the edge of the falls at the top, stay on the Mary's Glen Trail and descend steeply through the rock ledge. At the bottom, a yellow blazed side trail runs to the base of Ashley Falls, offering a much more enjoyable view of the falls then from the top.

To reach the North South Lake Campground Road, stay on the Mary's Glen Trail and continue downhill. You'll soon come to the side of a small stream and skirt around a wet area. The trail then exits the woods and ends on the shoulder of the campground road. Just to the east is a small parking area for the Mary's Glen Trailhead, but it can only hold a few cars and on most busy weekends, fills quickly.

For us, we followed the campground road to the east about three quarters of a mile back to our car at the North Lake Beach and Day Use Area parking lot.

All told our hike was just over 5 miles and included an 800 vertical foot climb (and descent). The hike is shown on Map 141 (Northeastern Catskills) of the Trail Conference's Catskill Trails Map Set. That map set, along with all guidebooks for Catskills trails include a mileage guide and description of this hike. I would consider this a moderate hike, though there are a few steep sections in both the Escarpment Trail and the Mary's Glen Trail. However, those short steep sections are interspersed with longer almost level stretches, giving you a chance to recover from the climbs. Hikers of almost any ability should be able to complete this hike.


MORE CATSKILL PARK, HIKING, PLANNING AND VISITOR INFO


Read up on the Catskill Park at our Catskill Mountains Information Page for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.   We have a Guide to Hiking in the Catskills available.

Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park. The Catskill Center offers a regional map of the Catskills that provides an excellent overview of the region, it's roadways, attractions and trails.  National Geographic Trails Illustrated also produces a map for the region that is useful for trip planning and road navigation. How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region . 

If you are looking for more information about the extensive history of the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park, we would suggest reading one of the following: The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock; The Catskill Park, Inside the Blue Line; or The Catskills, It's History and how it changed America. For the most comprehensive natural history of the Catskill Park and the Forests of the Catskill region, we recommend reading The Catskill Forest, a History by Michael Kudish.
 

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