This short section of the 23.9-mile Escarpment Trail provides great views of North-South Lake and the Hudson River Valley on the ascent up North Point Mountain. The return along Marys Glen is different, also pretty, and there are numerous seeps that feed into small creeks with deep green mosses covering the rocks. During the descent through Marys Glen you'll see the merging of the rivulets into a small gurgling creek that flows over Ashley Falls. Additionally you'll experience the transition of the two main forest types of the Catskill region, the mixed deciduous forest at the lower elevations and the red pine near the top.
The well marked and blue blazed Escarpment Trail follows the Hudson Valley ridgeline as it climbs to North Point. This climb is usually a steady and moderate climb that is occasionally interspersed with a few short sections of easy scrambles when it cuts up and over one of the many rocky glacier carved ledges that line the tops of the mountains. These cliffs provide the many viewpoints, including Sunset Rock, which is often considered the Catskill’s best view. It doesn’t disappoint. Sunset Rock faces south overlooking North-South Lake, and during a clear fall sunset it would provide excellent photo opportunities.
This area was popular for many of the Hudson School artists in the early 1800s due to its natural beauty, which helped the region's popularity grow as a tourist destination. The famous Thomas Cole frequented this area often along with his fellow artists and made some of the most famous early American landscape paintings in this region.
This can be a hard hike even though this isn’t a long hike. It can be steep in places with a few short and easy scrambles where hands are needed for a bit more than just balance. The trail tread going up is good most places except for the scrambles. The descent off of North Point Mountain through Marys Glen has a rougher tread and can be a bit harder on the ankles. There are some sections where high-stepping is required. Watch kids near the many rocky overlooks and short scrambles.
Park at the North Lake Beach Parking lot (42.20967, -74.03622) inside the North-South Lake recreation area of Catskills State Park. The best map for the area is the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, “Northeastern Catskill Trails, Trail Map 141,” 11th edition. The campground closes seasonally from mid-October to mid-May. Though the trails can be accessed from other trailheads outside the North-South Lake Campground and day use area, this trailhead makes a great hike that is shorter and captures the best views.
Go to the north end of the parking lot where there is a trailhead sign and follow the yellow blazed trail for a short distance to intercept the blue blazed Escarpment Trail. Turn left, north, and start the easy climb along the flat cap rock ledge. In about 0.2 miles you will come to the trailhead registration. Sign the book and continue.
The trail gets steeper as you ascend, and it soon reaches the first easy scramble. The breaks in the trees offer quick glimpses of the upcoming views. In less than a half of a mile into the hike you'll reach Artist Rock, the first stunning view to the east over the Hudson River Valley. Stop and enjoy. Imagine how it triggered the imaginations of the Thomas Cole and other early American artists who painted this area.
After Artist Rock, continue north. The trail follows flat cap rock sections along the escarpment ledges until it reaches the trail junction with the yellow blazed trail to Sunset Rock. This about a half of a mile from Artist Rock. Turn right doing almost a 180-degree turn to follow the short spur trail to Sunset Rock.
Sunset Rock sits atop a flat rock ledge top with deep crevices. The view of North-South Lake below with Kaaterskill High Peak, Plateau, and Round Top Mountains fading off in the distance makes a great setting to soak in a view of deep blue skies and lakes surrounded by a sea of green forest. Take your time.
Return to the trail junction with the Escarpment Trail. Go right, north, to continue to Newman’s Ledge in 0.2 miles and North Point beyond. The trail climbs a short steep pitch and then levels off along the flat cap rock around Newman’s Ledge with its broad expansive views to the north and east toward Albany and beyond.
Continue, alternating between flat and steep grades, some with a bit of easy scrambling, until you get to Badman Cave in another 0.6 miles. Here is the trail junction with the yellow blazed Rock Shelter Trail. Go right to stay on the Escarpment Trail with an easy scramble to and through the right side of Badman Cave. Badman cave is more of an overhang than a cave. It allegedly got its name from bad men who hid out in it during the 18th century.
After the cave, the character of the forest changes with the emerging mix of hemlock, pine, and spruce interspersed with rock ledges, wetlands and some open views to the south. In 0.7 miles of pleasant hiking you will reach the trail junction with red-blazed Mary Glenn Trail. This will be your return route after visiting North Point to the right by staying on the blue blazed Escarpment Trail. After another steep ascent with a few short and easy scrambles you will reach North Point in less than half a mile.
If you walk around North Point, it a view exceeding 270-degrees. All directions are great. This is the highest point on the trail at 2,990 feet. Turn around here and retrace your steps down the trail.
When you finish the descent though that final ledge and you reach the Mary Glenn Trail junction, go right to follow the red blazed Mary Glen Trail back to North-South Lake via Ashley Falls. Note the many seeps and trickles of water dripping over the rock ledges. As you descend over the periodic small rock ledges, you will notice the forest reverting back to the mixed deciduous forest of the lower altitudes and the small trickles of water coalescing into the larger creek that tumbles over the small Ashley Falls. When you come to a small yellow blazed trail taking off to the left, take it for about 0.1 miles to get to the base of Ashley Falls.
Return back to Mary’s Glen Trail and turn left. In 0.2 miles you will come to the main campground road that you came into the recreation area on. Go left and follow it back to the parking lot.