Tuesday, February 17, 2009

North-South Lake State Campground - Catskill Mountains, NY

Looking for a campground in the northeastern Catskills of New York? Want one that has access to hiking trails, a lake to swim in and is close to other Catskill attractions? Check out the state run, North-South Lake Campground in Haines Falls, New York. Situated just about on the eastern escarpment of the Catskills, this campground is located on North and South Lakes and offers access to several different hiking trails, historic sites and is within a short distance of most other Catskill trails, activities and attractions.

This is also a large and busy campground and while the sites aren't exactly on top of one another, during busy weekends and holidays, the place can seem to be overrun with people, especially when you also consider that the campground is accessible as a day-use area for its swimming, boating and hiking trails.

Where do I find North-South Lake Campground?

The North-South Lake Campground is located in Haines Falls at the end of County Route 18.  This road branches off of Route 23A just after it climbs through Kaaterskill Clove into the mountains.  The campground is about 45 minutes or so from the Catskill and Saugerties exits on the New York State Thruway.

When can I go camping?

This is a seasonal campground and camping is generally available from May through October.  When the campground is closed, it's still open for day-use, but you cannot camp in the the campground.

How much camping is going on here?

I think this is one of the largest, if not largest state campgrounds in the Catskills.  It has 7 different loop roads with 219 sites.  The campground doesn't differentiate between tent sites and trailer sites, so they are all available for either tent camping or trailer camping.

The sites aren't huge so the majority of trailers and campers I've seen there are on the smaller side.  As for tents, you can easily fit two tents on the site.

The loops of campsites are not as dense as you'll find at some campgrounds, but they are packed fairly close together and you won't have all that much privacy between sites.

The loops cover a lot of area on the northern side of the two lakes.  Most spots are up from the lake shore area, but there are a few loops that offer sites that are close to the water.

Water is available from centralized water faucets throughout the loops.  There are no electric or sewer hookups at the individual sites, though there is a central dump station for sewage from campers.

Camping amenities?

Besides the campsites and the water faucets, when it comes to basic campground amenities, North-South Lake Campground also has picnic tables and fire pits at each site and there are bathrooms with running water and hot showers located throughout the various camping loop roads.

Campground activities?

I've always been surprised at the number of activities that are available in the campground.  For those who don't want to wander too far, there's a volleyball court, you can play horseshoes and you can play with some friends on the field.

Looking for something a little closer to nature?  With the two lakes, you can go swimming at either of the campground's two beaches, you can go fishing along the shoreline or you could rent a canoe or a kayak and head out onto the lake.

Interested in the history of the area, which was home to the Catskill Mountain House and the Otis Elevating Railroad?  There's so much to explore right in the confines of the campground including the site of the Catskill Mountain House, the top of the old elevating railroad, the old railroad bed for the Huckleberry line, along with a number of other ‘historic' attractions that visitors have been exploring since the time of the Catskill Mountain House.

Even more adventurous?  There are several trails that extend further into the Catskill Park that run through the campground.  The Escarpment Trail follows the eastern escarpment of the Catskills while other trails explore Kaaterskill Falls, South Mountain and North Point.

I'd bet you could spend at least a full day just exploring the campground and all of its nooks and crannies.  I know I lived in the area and even worked as an Assistant Forest Ranger in the area and I still run into places I didn't know about.  I think one of the best is the Catskill Mountain House site, which is located right on the edge of the Catskill escarpment and offers a tremendous view of the Hudson Valley.  It's a great place for a picnic, even if you're not staying at the campground (I take people there whenever they are on their first visit to the Catskills).

There are also some more structured activities that are available in the summertime.  This includes nature walks, crafts, games and live entertainment.

Nearby attractions

North-South Lake Campground isn't too far from most attractions in the Catskills.  The villages of Haines Falls, Tannersville and Hunter are all within a short drive and offer plenty of dining and shopping options.  Hunter Mountain Ski Area, which offers some summertime activities, is also close by.  Windham and Ski Windham are a bit further, but less than 45 minutes away, as are Phoenicia and the attractions to the south.

Camping experiences

Having grown up in the area and worked for the state in the area, I've had plenty of chances to stay overnight and explore the North-South Lake Campground.  I can't say it's my favorite place to camp as I'm not a big fan of really big campgrounds, but even so, the campground is well maintained, kept clean and run well.  The sites I've stayed in have always been further up into the woods, but I've walked through the lake-side sites, which are quite nice, though I would imagine pretty hard to reserve.

I spend more time visiting the campground as a day-user though.  I've made countless hikes from the trailheads in the campground and I've often taken first time visitors to the Catskill Mountain House site and to the beach for swimming in the heat of the summer.

My only real complaint about this campground is that it does get very crowded, especially on holiday weekends.  During those times I tend to stay away because it just gets too crowded for my liking.  However, that doesn't diminish all that this campground has to offer.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a campground in the northeastern Catskills that gives you a lot of bang for your buck, the North-South Lake Campground in Haines Falls might be just want you want.  It offers plenty of camp sites with lots of on-campground activities.  In addition it's close to just about everything in the Catskills and makes it easy explore the area.

If you want to camp in the area, I'd recommend checking out this campground.  While it might get crowded during the busiest times, it really does offer a lot more than a standard campground.

Need More Information on Hiking and  Planning your Outdoor 
Adventures in the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park?

Catskill TrailsCheck out the Catskill Mountain Information Page on Adventures in the Outdoors for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.  Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are some of the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park.  How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region and thAdventures in the Outdoors Bookstore carries many more books and maps for hiking and exploring the Catskill Mountain region.

Guide to Catskill Trails (Forest Preserve, #8) (The Forest Preserve Series)AMC Catskill Mountain Guide, 2nd: AMC's Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the Catskills (Appalachian Mountain Club)

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