Circuit of South Mountain (Hike #3)

‘Hike #3: Circuit of South Mountain’ is from the ‘Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide’ by Robert Gildersleeve.

June 6, 2012

Article was updated on June 23, 2022
“Rain begins to fall. The thunder overhead is loud. It may be time to take cover.”

Perhaps not the rock in the 1874 Harry Fenn engraving but an effort to capture the spirit of the wondrous area known as Druid Rocks.

‘Hike #3: Circuit of South Mountain’ is from the ‘Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide’ by Robert Gildersleeve.

The photographs below are from 2 different days due to stormy weather on the first.

Locations include:

  • Former Catskill Mountain House water tank
  • Druid Rocks
  • Pudding-Stone Hall
  • Lemon Squeezer
  • Fairy Spring and nearby bog
  • Star Rock
  • Boulder Rock
  • Boot Jack Rock
  • Aligator Rock.

This was a fun short hike, especially with the very helpful information found in Robert Gildersleeve’s book. I highly recommend the book.
My brother accompanied me on the hike and we just missed Robert by a few days as I noticed he signed in at the trail register and explored the same area we visited.

It should be noted this hike was off the trail so caution should be used. On both days we did not see anyone that was off the marked trail.

Please advise if any of the information in the descriptions of the above photographs is incorrect or needs to be amended.

Recommended Book

Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide: In the Footsteps of the Hudson River School
State-of-the-art trail guide, including new maps and GPS locations, to America’s first recreational mountain trails, which inspired the Hudson River School artists.

Notable Quotes:

Druid Rocks:

“Illustrated Guide to the Catskill Mountains with Maps and Plans” by Samuel Rusk (1879)
“At the top of the second ledge it separates to the right and winds along below the third ledge, through the forest, nearly half a mile to Druid Rocks. These Rocks are some blocks of conglomerate, on the left of the path; one piece, about a dozen feet high, being called the Great Bear, as it somewhat resembles a large animal in a sitting posture.”

Pudding-Stone Hall/ Fairy Spring/ Lemon Squeezer/ Elfin Pass:

Chapter 17- Directions For Visiting The Scenes Of The Mountains
From “The Catskill Mountains And The Region Around”, By Rev. Charles Rockwell (1867)

The path leading up the South Mountain begins near the Mountain House, and just south of it, not far from the eastern face of the mountain range. Two-thirds of the way up the mountain, one enters Pudding-Stone Hall, where are large masses of this kind of stone, and a narrow opening in the rocks, caused by the action of frost and water. Beyond the hall, turning a little to the east, the path then leads towards the west, under a cliff, through a region of moss and fern, by the Portico Rocks, to the Fairy Spring, a lonely and beautiful retreat. Returning a short distance, and then inclining to the south, through a narrow pass, in the rocks known as the Lemon Squeezer, or the Elfin Pass, the summit of South Mountain is soon reached, from whence a large rock may be seen to the south, where there is a fine view of the Clove, directly below-the Highlands, the Hudson River, and distant mountains in New England, New Jersey, and New York.

“Illustrated Guide to the Catskill Mountains with Maps and Plans” by Samuel Rusk (1879)
On, a ways farther the path is near the ledge, but then it turns and ascends it, and by quite a circuit to the left reaches a ledge above and turns to the right underneath it, through a fissure— the Lemon Squeezer, or, the Elfin Pass—passing Fairy Spring. It soon ascends the ledge to Star Rock. The return is made by way of Pudding-Stone Hall, the same as in the walk by direct path to the top.

Notable Links:

Harry Fenn

Harry Fenn (1845–1911) was an English-born American illustrator, primarily of landscapes. His illustrations/ engravings of Pudding-Stone Hall and Druid Rocks appeared in “Picturesque America” (edited by William Cullen Bryant, 1872).

Picturesque America

Picturesque America was a two-volume set of books describing and illustrating the scenery of America, published by D. Appleton and Company of New York in 1872 and 1874 and edited by the romantic poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878).

Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide (highly recommended)
Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide by Robert Gildersleeve

North-South Lake Official Campground Website

Historic Hike Around North-South Lakes: 6.39 mile round trip from the parking lot on Laurel House Road to multiple historic sites and back. Sites include Kaaterskill Falls, Laurel House Site, Kaaterskill Hotel Site, Boulder Rock, Eagle Ledge, Spinx, Puddingstone Hall, Old water towers of Catskill Mountain House, Pine Orchard, Mill House, Kaaterskill Hotel Laundry House

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