North Lake is the kind of place that reminds me why I love the Hudson Valley. It’s an ideal spot for a day trip or nearby vacation – beautiful, affordable and a wide variety of activities that will please everyone in the family.
North-South Lake Campground offers over 200 tent and trailer campsites along with two beaches on interconnecting lakes, hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing, boating and swimming. There are also volleyball nets and a small playground to enjoy.
North Lake Picnic
After arriving and paying a $10/car day fee, the road forks off towards either North or South Lake. We chose to visit North Lake first for picnicking and hiking before heading to South Lake for more activities.
There are plenty of picnic tables spread throughout the park and we chose a shady nook across the parking lot from the beach. Despite visiting on a picture-perfect summer weekend, it was far from crowded. The kids collected sticks and played tag and hide-and-seek in the woods. We marveled at the steep slide while exploring the small playground near the picnic areas.
You’ll likely find an ice cream truck hanging around the beach so carry extra cash for a cold treat!
Catskill Mountain House Trail
After lunch and playing, we made our way towards the Catskill Mountain House trail. The entrance is at the far end of the North Lake parking lot and it’s a short trek up to the site of the old Catskill Mountain House hotel. Our two year old was able to walk for some of the climb and we held him for the rest. A carrier would be helpful if you have an infant as some parts of the path aren’t stroller-friendly. The kids loved snacking on wild blackberries along the trail!
The view at the top of the path is nothing short of spectacular. It’s said that on a clear day five states are visible from this overlook – and a view like that is hard to come by on a short, kid-friendly hike. We savored the scenery for as long as we could stand wrangling our toddler so he didn’t run off the cliff. When he’s a bit older (or even just as a mother-daughter trip or date), I’d love to carry a lunch with us and spend an hour picnicking while soaking it all in.
South Lake Swimming & Boating
Once we were good and hot, we hopped back in the car for the short drive over to South Lake for swimming. While the water is clean and refreshing, the mountain backdrop is my favorite part of the experience. The swimming area is sectioned off into shallow and deeper parts and my six year old was still able to stand at the far end of the shallow area so it was an ideal stopping point for my kids. Our two year old spent most of his time playing in the sand and attempting to run into the lake like his sisters, only to make his falling splash at about four inches deep. E for effort, kid!
My favorite part of the day was the canoe ride with my daughters. We took off on our own mini girls’ adventure while my husband played at the beach with the munchkin. Our nine-year-old helped row for the first time and couldn’t stop talking about what a great day it was, the beautiful scenery and how much she enjoyed spending this time together. As a mom, it melts my heart when my children fully appreciate nature and family time.
We floated through water lillies, past families fishing and around a little island which the girls named “Wildflower Island”. Our six-year-old wanted to get back to swimming after a little while so we dropped her off with dad and journeyed back out, this time rowing all the way to North Lake and back. Canoe, rowboat and kayak rentals are for the day so visitors can spend as much time as they want exploring the park by boat.
Tips for visiting North-South Lake:
- Driving there: Route 23A has a lot of foot traffic by people visiting Kaaterskill Falls – drive with caution.
- Ask for a trail map at the entrance to the campground.
- Bring cash, especially if you plan to rent boats because cards are not accepted. Rowboats are $25/day; Canoes and Double Kayaks are $20/day; Single Kayaks are $15/day and Paddle Boats are $6/hour. You’ll also need to provide a license (so don’t leave it in your car like I did!)
- Expect there to be little to no cell phone service.
- Both beach areas have restrooms and changing rooms.
Kaaterskill Falls Viewing Platform
Just down North Lake Road from the entrance to the campground is a turn-off onto Laurel House Road which leads to the Kaaterskill Falls viewing platform trail. This expansion was recently built as a safer, wheelchair and stroller accessible alternative to the main Kaaterskill Falls trail. This is a big win in my opinion, because Kaaterskill Falls is a magnificent natural landmark that I wanted my kids to experience without the danger of a steep trail. It’s a fairly short walk down from the parking lot and then – awe inspiring beauty.
About the author: Sarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.
Have you been to North Lake or the Kaaterskill Falls overlook? Tell us about your experience in the comments!