north south lake catskills 01

9 Awesome Things to do in North South Lake NY

The North South Lake NY area is a place I visit several times a year with my friends. It is in the Catskill Mountains and it has many activities you can enjoy and because I’ve seen and done so much here, I’m going to share 9 of the top ones below.

Quick info on North South Lake:

  • Name: North-South Lake.
  • Location: Eastern part of the Catskill Mountains.
  • What is it? 2 beautiful lakes in the Catskills with amazing hikes and stuff to do nearby.
  • Family friendly? Yes! 
  • Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Recommended? Yes! This is one of my personal favorite areas in the Catskills because there’s so much centered around the lakes to check out and whether you come here for camping or not, you can still do a lot of stuff in the North South Lake area regardless.

Here are the 9 things to do at North South Lake:

north south lake catskills 01

  1. Hike the trails around the lakes
  2. Take a kayak across one or both of the lakes
  3. Hike the Boulder Rock trail
  4. Visit Kaaterskill Falls nearby
  5. Camp in the North South Lake region (it’s very popular there)
  6. Hike up the Sunset Rock trail
  7. Check out Ashley Falls
  8. Swimming
  9. Fishing

1) Do the main North South Lake hiking trail:

beautiful views at north south lake

While there are many different hikes around North South Lake, the main one is the Yellow trail which circles around both these lakes. It’s easy to navigate and and is a great way to explore the lakes, the campsites and just the overall area without having to worry about getting lost in the woods. There are several access points to this trail, but the main one is by South Lake. Here is a map:

Note: There are also other yellow trails around North South Lake which lead to entirely different parts of the area and away from it. In this case you will want to make sure you are on the one which circles around both North-South Lake and I’ve added a map below for that (you can also get a detailed map of North South Lake here).

north south lake map 01

2) North South Lake kayak rentals:

kayak adventures in north south lake

Yes there’s kayak rentals in the area and in this case on the South Lake beach so if you enjoy kayaking make sure to park near that area first (they also have paddleboats and canoes). It’ll be about $16 for a 2 hour rental (those were the prices last time I was in the area). For paddleboats and canoes, the prices may be different.

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) Hike to Boulder Rock (another great North South Lake hiking trail):

scenic overlook by north south lake

The Boulder Rock trail in my opinion is one of the top trails to explore in North South Lake. It’s only about 3 miles in and out and the trailhead is near the North Lake area. While on it, you will pass through amazing viewpoints that overlook the eastern ends of the Catskills and you will see the Hudson River from there too.

Additionally, this same Boulder Rock 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 one of the preferred hiking trail I take and it leads further south along the same blue trail (it is known as the Escarpment Trail), and you will find some amazing areas there. Just know that the blue trail (if you keep going south) will loop back around to south lake, but it will require you to walk back a long way to your starting point.

4) Hike to Kaaterskill Falls:

kaaterskill falls near north south lake

The Kaaterskill Falls hike is not just stunning, but this is the biggest waterfall you will find there and I consider it to be one of the best waterfalls in New York. There are a few ways you can access this area which is close to North South Lake but because the trail markers are so often the same color, it can be very confusing so here’s what I recommend:

  1. Just drive outside the North South Lake area to the Laurel House Parking lot. From there the hike to Kaaterskill Falls is very short and easy to see the top. There are also other areas to get to the bottom of it from there too.
  2. If you wish to start in the North South Lake areas to get there, then start at South Lake’s parking lot, take the yellow trail (the loop one mentioned earlier), but when you reach the road (the one you take to South Lake from the entrance), turn left (if you turn right, you’ll continue on the loop trail), and just follow the signs to Kaaterskill Falls. If these directions are confusing, I completely understand but this is why I recommend the first option.

Also know that Kaaterskill Falls is one of many more incredible Catskills waterfalls you should check out! There will be one coming up in this list, but I don’t include it in the “amazing” category (It’s still a nice waterfall).

5) Check out the North South Lake campground

hiking and camping around north south lake

The North South Lake campgrounds are extremely popular and as you visit the area and drive to either North or South Lakes, you’ll see the campgrounds all around and even near the water (see more camping spots in the Catskill Mountains). Because it’s very popular and booked ahead of time, what a lot of people do is they reserve one of the spots in this region, stay for a bit and enjoy the activities on this list that I mentioned. I believe the price for camping there is $20-$40 a night and I also believe it’s seasonal.

And while it is very cheap, unfortunately the odds of you reserving a spot, especially on long weekends is highly unlikely (unless you literally reserve at least 6 or more months beforehand). That is how popular this region is.

But for specifics on the North South Lake Campgrounds, go here and you can see the availability and even reserve a spot. Even if you can’t, there’s other camping areas I linked to above in the Catskills that are 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).

6) Sunset Rock (the most scenic North South Lake hiking trail):

sunset rock catskills near north south lake

North South Lake actually has 2 Sunset Rock areas but the one I am highly recommending is located 1 mile north or North Lake. Not only is the viewing area there very beautiful (as good as the Boulder Rock hike if not better), but the trail itself is also stunning.

  1. To get to Sunset Rock, you’ll need to park at North Lake first.
  2. Then find the Yellow Trail (it’s located right by the entrance to the parking lot).
  3. Take it for about 500 feet, then turn right which will put you on the blue trail (That’s the Escarpment Trail).
  4. Take that blue trail north for about 1 mile until you pass another fork to a yellow trail (it’s a completely different yellow trail), but that one will take you to the overlook above. Then you can return the same way or continue further north on the blue trail (that is not a loop and continues for over 20 more miles).

7) Hike to Ashley Falls:

north south lake hiking trail ashley falls 01

Ashley Falls is a small but nice waterfall located near North Lake. The hike to get there is short, but it involves taking a Red Trail to reach. Before you start this or any other trail in the area, I strongly recommend getting the map of the area I linked above or grabbing a physical map which you can ask for when you pass the gate to the entrance to North South Lake.

The problem however with the physical maps is that in colorless and it’s easy to mistake a trail. I would recommend downloading the digital map above because is has color and the listings for each trail is marked by what the trail color (For example: B = blue trail).

8) Swimming:

north south lake swimming new 01

I see a lot of people who ask if you can swim in North South Lake and the answer is yes. Each area has it’s own beach where there is a limited area allowed for swimming. Typically this activity is better for kids as there are lifeguards in both lakes (summer only though I believe), but if you’re into serious swimming, then this might not be that fun. Just as well, both these lakes also have bathrooms available. 

9) Fishing:

north south lake fishing 05

Yes fishing is also allowed in North South Lake but you do need to get a permit for that. I’m not sure if you can also rent a boat to do that but there are many people who come here to camp who bring their own boats to do this. There is 1 boat launch ramp and it’s located on North Lake, at the end of the parking lot there. 

Other questions about North-South Lake:

What is there to do at North-South Lake campground?

Aside from camping, you can do one of many hiking trails around North South Lake including to beautiful overlooks of the Catskills and the Kaaterskill Falls trail.

Can you fish in North-South Lake?

Yes you can do fishing in both North and South Lake.

A list of other North South Lake hiking trails to consider trying:

Before I give you a list, I want to mention that a majority of the trails I’m about to show you are actually different spots on a main blue trail which I mentioned earlier as being the Escarpment Trail which is 20+ miles and because it’s so long what a lot of people who visit North Lake Lake do is they just walk along the blue trail in either direction to reach those specific areas and I’ve listed how far the best ones are and the distance they are from each lake.

2 last things to note:

  1. Some of these North South Lake hiking trails were already mentioned above.
  2. Anything with the blue trail mention is the Escarpment Trail.

Here are the top spots to hike to in North South Lake:

  • Inspiration Point (Blue trail, about 1-2 miles from South Lake).
  • Ashley Falls (Red trail, About 0.5 miles from North Lake).
  • Sunset Rock (Blue Trail, 1.5 miles from North Lake).
  • North Point (Blue trail, 4.5 miles from North Lake).
  • Boulder Rock (Blue trail, 1.5 miles from South Lake).
  • Kaaterskill Falls (Yellow trail, 0.3 miles from South Lake).
  • Batman Cave (Blue trail, 3 miles from North Lake).
  • Catskill Mountain House (Blue trail, 2 miles from South Lake).
  • Newman’s Ledge (Blue trail, 2 miles from North Lake, another great overlook).

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