5 Awesome Things to do in North South Lake in Upstate NY

North South Lake is an area I visit several times a year with my friends. It is in the Catskill Mountain region and if you go:

Here are the 5 things I recommend doing at or near North South Lake:

  1. Hike the trails around the lakes.
  2. Take a kayak across one or both of the lakes.
  3. Hike to a beautiful overlook near the lakes.
  4. Visit Kaaterskill Falls nearby.
  5. Camp in the North South Lake region (it’s very popular there).

I’ve done all of the activities on this list at North South Lake with the exception of the last one (camping), and that’s because I dislike that. Most of the time, whenever I am in this area, it’s only to do the following 5 hikes in the Catskills, and it all is done in a day.

Here is where you’ll find North South Lake (it’s in upstate NY):

As you can see from the other general reviews on the map above, they are ALL very high and that’s because of the many things you can do here, the most popular of which I’ll be listing, so let’s begin:

What is North South Lake?

It’s a popular camping and hiking area in the Catskill Mountains. It’s 2 lakes (north and south) connected together which have hikes, camping, boating and more around them people can explore

Where is North South Lake located?

what to do at north south lake in the catskill mountains

North South Lake is located a top one of the many mountains in the Catskill Mountain area.

Once you enter the park which leads to both spots, you’ll cross the camping areas and enter one of the two parking lots.

From there, you’ll have access to the hikes, swimming, kayaking and other activities, but for this specific location, you will have a lot of opportunities to take plenty of pictures.

Regardless of which lake you park near, you’ll be able to walk to the other areas.

But before you do, take some time to look at the scenery of one or both lakes, as there is definitely some awesome scenery to take in!

It is very peaceful there (most of the time) and if you’re someone who like me lives in NYC and wants to do day hikes, then this place offers it, but the silence of this place is something to stop and marvel at.

1) Hike the trails around both North and South Lakes:

beautiful views at north south lake

There are at least 3-4 different hiking trails that take you around the lakes and just as well, there’s hikes that lead away from them and deeper into the Catskills, one of which I’ll talk about later which I think is well worth doing.

But the hikes near the lakes themselves are marked by trail colors and they are:

Yellow: Takes you to Kaaterskill Falls and to the famous overlook near North South Lake.

Green: A very short but scenic trail that goes around South Lake.

Blue: A major hiking trail (several miles) that leads you away from the lakes and into other adventures but I’ll cover that one further below.

2) Kayaking North South Lake:

kayak adventures in north south lake

You’ll find a rental area on the southern area of this region, so if you enjoy kayaking, make sure to park near that area first.

If you choose to rent kayaks in North South Lake, it’ll be about $16 for a 2 hour rental and you can also rent paddle boats as well as canoes:

If you own you own kayaks or boats, you can drop them off on the north lake area.

I have seen people drop off their own boats here and do things like fishing. You will also find small swimming areas and beaches in this area.

For me personally, I don’t enjoy the beach at North South Lake due to how restrictive it is for swimming, but it is good for kids so if you plan on going with family there, it might be good for them.

3) Check out an amazing Boulder Rocks trail (blue trail):

scenic overlook by north south lake

Of the 3 major trails I know about near the lakes, the Blue one is the one I highly recommend checking out. It is known as the Boulder Rock trail.

The reason why is because it takes you up to the top of the mountain that’s near North South Lake and to the highest points in this whole region, giving you access to some of the most amazing viewpoints, especially the one you see to the right.

Additionally, this same trail will take you to the Boulder Rock overlook, and subsequently other connecting trails, which I highly recommend you Alltrails for or some similar app to ensure you don’t get lost.

I typically head close to Boulder Rock when hiking here, then walk back down to North South Lake before continuing to other trails I explore in this area.

Now this outlook is actually not listed on Google maps, but I’ve included a screenshot where you can find this spot you see to the right. Here it is:

map of north south lake and overlook area

Now this is the preferred hiking trail I take and it leads further south, and you will find some amazing areas there, but the further you go, the less outlooks you’ll see, so what my friends and I do is head back once we reach the outlook area. 

This usually has us complete 2 of the 5 main hikes we do when we travel to the Catskills.

When you get to this area, take the time to enjoy it, just like North South Lake when you get there first, because it is also very quiet there.

The height and all the places you can see when you’re up there is also pretty spectacular and I’ve certainly seen my share of amazing overlooks, but this one still takes my breath away every time I visit this spot!

How this overlook area by North South Lake looks from another view:

4) Check out Kaaterskill Falls (yellow trail):

kaaterskill falls near north south lake

Kaaterskill Falls is stunning and I consider it to be one of the best waterfalls in all of New York State.

There are a few ways you can access this area which is close to the lakes:

A) You can take one of the trails (yellow) that leads to it.

B) You can head out of the park via the only road that goes out of it which is road 18, and head down it, until you see a sign for Kaaterskill falls. This will take you to a parking area and a short hike to Kaaterskill Falls Overlook. 

If you enjoy hiking, try option A. And if you’re tight on time or injured and can’t really hike much, use option B.

Also see these other waterfalls in the Catskills as this area has many beautiful ones to offer!

5) Camping at North South Lake (good luck with reservations): 

hiking and camping around north south lake

One of the most popular attractions of North South Lake is it’s camping which is all over the parking areas and even near the water.

What a lot of people do is they reserve one of the spots in this region, stay for a bit and enjoy the activities I mentioned. I believe the price for camping there is $20-$40 a night and I also believe it’s seasonal.

And it is very cheap. Unfortunately, the odds of you reserving a spot, especially on long weekends is highly unlikely. If you are very much looking forward to staying here, you are going to have to reserve a camping area MONTHS in advance. That is how popular this region is.

But for specifics, go here and you can see and even reserve a spot. Even if you can’t, there’s other camping areas not far from this spot and/or hotels where you can stay at.

Either way, I personally do not like camping and if I ever go to this region, it’s on weekdays. If you do enjoy camping, but want to improve the odds of reserving a spot, don’t just reserve in advance, do it during none holiday periods and on weekdays (during weekends, these areas are usually very crowded).

On weekdays, there will always be less people here.

My recommendations for visiting North South Lake:

Camping is probably the hardest thing to find when you’re here, but other than that, you’ll be able to access the park and enjoy the other 4 activities I listed.

If you are interested in recommendations for things to do in and outside North South Lake, I have a list of the best hiking trails in the Catskills you can explore.

These activities are much more adventurous and challenging so if you’re not into hiking, getting wet, swimming and that sort of stuff, I would not do it, but if you are, you will probably really enjoy these. 

And if you are someone who frequently visits North South Lake like I do and can relate to the places I listed and/or can recommend other spots to check out while here, I would love to know more and hear your personal reviews of the area! 

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