I feel so lucky because I was able to go on three separate hikes this week, three days in a row! Lucky, because not only did I have the time off work but I also was fortunate enough to have a bout of good, spring-like weather.
With one of my days off, I opted to go on a solo hike. Granted, I did my due diligence and asked all of my friends if they wanted to go, but since it was a random Tuesday, most people had to work and nobody could take the time off to go. Not that I minded – I absolutely love solo hiking. The peace and quiet and mind freedom that I feel during a solo hike is unmatched.
I picked a hike where I knew I would run into minimal snow. I put a lot of effort into researching trail conditions the night before. There were a couple of options that I had been thinking about hiking, but after reading some reviews I decided that they might not be the best hikes to try to attempt alone (or even with someone for that matter – no amount of people on a hike with you can make overflowing stream crossings passable!)
About The Location
I ended up selecting Artists Rock + Sunset Rock via Escarpment Trail from the North-South Lake State Campground in Haines Falls, NY. This is located in the Eastern Catskill Mountains, literally on the edge, overlooking the Hudson Valley to the east.
The trail I chose to do was a loop trail, though there were a lot of different options for ways you could hike the trail. I did the loop counter clockwise, starting at the Escarpment Trail parking lot at South Lake. I was very comfortable with this option because I knew parking at a campground meant the roads would be easily passable and it generally felt safe. Doing the trail this way made the most sense because the campground was closed for the season, so this trailhead parking was the closest one that was open. When the campground is open for the season, there is trailhead parking much closer to the two viewpoints I was seeking.
About The Trail
The hike loop itself was only about 6 miles with about 790 foot of elevation gain according to AllTrails, so the hike itself also felt very doable. I could also tell from the map that there were a ton of different options for how to go about doing the hike, including several bail out points if I decided it wasn’t worth going any further or if I got uncomfortable for any reason. Again, if it was summer, I likely would have chosen the closer trailhead parking which would have reduced the hike by a few miles, but I had a full day to use up, and it was just me making the decisions for just myself, so I was happy with the longer route.
The trail starts off low and in the forest, making a loop around the lake. The trail is fairly close to the lake and you have views of it pretty much the whole time. There are also a ton of spots where you could easily walk down to the lake to admire the view. The forest setting was pretty open and clear. It was obvious to me that it is a heavily used area, and sometimes it was hard to tell where the actual trail was. The trail markers weren’t super close together, so sometimes I had to walk a few yards past a trail marker in order to see the next one way up ahead. This wasn’t really a problem though because it would be tough to get lost, especially if you had studied the map ahead of time and knew you were supposed to be circling the lake.
Eventually you get to the top of South Lake and the trail opens up, bringing you to a beach like area and some bathroom facilities. You walk along the beach until you’re back in a forest setting for a little while. The trail comes to a small point where there are some cool rocks to stand on overlooking the lake. There is even a tree that fell down that made for some great photos.
You then continue along a trail that is basically a sidewalk for a little ways until you come upon another beach and what looks to be one of the main buildings for the campground and day use area. You walk around these buildings, through the parking lot until you cross a small road to go to the escarpment trail.
Once you start up the escarpment trail, then you’re back in the woods again, climbing a little bit of elevation. There seems to either be campsites or day use sites throughout here and if they are campsites then I 100% want to stay at one of them sometime this summer! You start to see open sky off to your right and that is where the escarpment drops off into the Hudson Valley. You’ll know you’ve left the campground when you stop seeing fencing along the ridgeline of the cliff. From here you’ll continue to climb slowly and then you’ll have small sections of steep rock to scramble up.
All along this section I kept finding little ledges that I wanted to go stand out on. I must always stand on all ledges, that’s my rule! I was able to get a few photos, too. Some more climbing, some more walking along the escarpment and then it really opens up and you can see the depths of the cliff. It’s kinda crazy to see because the rock basically cuts off on a really straight line and you just walk along this straight line with the cliff looming directly below you.
You’ll know you’ve made it to Artist’s Rock when you see the flat rock turn into a bigger rock that juts out into the valley below. Yes, I stood on this ledge, too, because, you know, it’s a requirement.
After Artist’s Rock, you cut back into the woods a little bit and eventually you start seeing large rocks/cliffs rise up next to you on your right. Looking at my map, I realized that I was standing directly below Sunset Rock, but it’s too high up to just climb up the side of it. You have to continue walking under and past it for a little ways, until you come to a junction, and then you take a right at the junction and backtrack about .2 miles to get to the viewpoint.
All that backtracking is worth it because the vantage point you stumble upon is a big open rock face with views toward North Lake and the Catskill Mountains beyond. It was stunning, and breathtaking, and I ended up spending almost an hour there because it was just so darn beautiful and I had it all to myself. It was the middle of the day so the sun was bright and I actually got a bit of a sunburn from sitting out there so long. Someday my hope is to come back to this place at it’s namesake – sunset, in order to witness the beautiful colors of the sun sinking into the mountains.
After leaving Sunset Rock, you head back to the junction and go straight to continue climbing and walking through the woods for a little while longer. You’ll come to another cool ledge called Newman’s Ledge, which is worthy in its own right, but I didn’t stay too long here since I spent so much time at Sunset Rock.
After Newman’s Ledge you continue walking through a nice forest setting until you come to another junction. This junction allows you to either take a right to head up to North Point, or you can go left to start heading back to the campground. North Point was on my “maybe” list when I set out that day, but by the time I got to the junction it was nearing 2:30pm and although I had theoretically enough time before sunset, I was starting to get tired, my phone batter was dying, and I wanted to be home in time for dinner. So back to the campground I went, but not without first hitting up Badman’s Cave which was just above the junction.
The way back down was pretty easy and I made good time. I passed by a couple of surprise waterfalls which was a nice way to end the hike, and it made me realize that this area literally had so much to see and do, that skipping North Point wasn’t a loss because I would obviously have to come back again to check out everything I potentially missed.
Heading back out, you come to the campground road which you walk along until you get back to the parking lot on the other side of the lake, so the ending was super easy. I rounded out the day by pulling out my leftover pasta that stayed warm in my Thermos Food Jar and eating it by the lake, before hopping in the car to head home.
Tell me what you think – does this hike look awesome? Have you ever been to this area? Should I try to go camping here this summer? Let me know down in the comments!