Backpack the Catskill’s Escarpment Trail

BY- CHRISTOPHER ZAJAC

The 23 mile Escarpment Trail offers sweeping views and challenging hiking along the northeastern border of the Catskill Mountains in New York. Several prominent American artists found inspiration for their paintings from the vistas on the trail.

The Escarpment Trail runs the length of the Catskill Escarpment. The Escarpment rises steeply from the valley below forming the northeast corner of the Catskill Mountains. It offers great views toward the Adirondack Mountains to the north and the great Hudson River to the east. The trail is moderately challenging with diverse scenery.

You can comfortable complete this backpacking trip in 3 days and 2 nights. I took a moderate pace so that I would enjoy everything the trail had to offer. My trip began at the trailhead at NY 23 and Cross Road in Windham, NY and ended at the DEC parking lot on Schutt Road near North-South Lake campgrounds. My GPS logged a total trek of 32.4 miles with 8,000 feet of elevation gain. (This included a small side jaunt on the Blackhead Mountain Range to Black Dome Mountain.)

I hiked the trail north to south. I parked my car at Schutt Road and called a taxi service (Smiley’s) to shuttle me up to the trailhead on NY-23. I waved to the driver as he left me realizing, my only way back to my car was to walk. It was quite motivating.

Some of the views you shouldn’t are from the west shoulder of Blackhead Mountain, Stoppel Point, North Point, Newman’s Ledge, and Sunset Rock. There are many other vistas along the way. Each one offers a different perspective the surrounding mountains and Hudson River Valley.

The trail is well marked and well maintained. Sources for water are scarce, so be sure to have enough carrying capacity. On my trip, I used maps by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which I highly recommend. There are a few intersecting trails that offer a way to civilization should you need to bail out early.

If you are interested day hiking through the region from a base camp, I recommend checking out the North-South Lake Campground run by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.

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