Site #7 Sunset Rock

Introduction by Kevin J. Avery, Senior Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

At least three major Hudson River School painters—Thomas Cole, founder of the School, and his followers, Jasper Cropsey, and Sanford Gifford—painted the spectacular view south along the eastern Catskill escarpment from the massive platform of conglomerate called Sunset Rock (or from Newman's Ledge or North Point not far beyond).  Not simply the dramatic terrain of Round Top, Kaaterskill High Peak, South Mountain, North and South Lakes, and the vast Hudson River Valley attracted them, but the distant highlight of the Catskill Mountain House hotel, built and opened in 1824.  The Mountain House began drawing thousands of guests each season from all over the country as well as from abroad, offering not simply its higher, cooler, healthier climate but among the most renowned of natural panoramas in the early United States: the valley 1,600 feet below, stretching east to the Taconic Mountains and the Berkshires, with the silvery thread of the Hudson visible for sixty miles from north to south.  Cole's and Cropsey's morning views intimate the prized daily performance (in good weather) of sunrise offered guests who, in Cole's 1844 picture, are detectable on both the hotel's roof catwalk and the ledge on which it stood (until 1963).  Cole painted his view about the time that the hotel proprietor began making improvements not only to the building but to the surrounding trails, including the one from the Mountain House to Sunset Rock—a fact testified to by the caped artist with portfolio who, in the foreground at left, steps from the shadow of a boulder into the light to share in the sun's arrival.

Plan Your Trip

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(518) 589-5058


Free Lot 


Not Accessible 
Meets no ADA standards and has major barriers. Most people with disabilities, even with assistance, will be unable to access

Open all seasons 
No restriction

Distance: 2.4 miles  
Hike time: 2.5 hrs


Map & Directions

Driving Directions: We recommend Google Map . Site coordinates: 42.205063 Lat., -74.030685 Long.

Location Notes: Sunset Rock is reached by foot from the North-South Lake State Campground, accessible from Rte. 23A and County Route 18 (North-South Lake Road) in Haines Falls, New York.  Admission is required for day use at the campground, and the visitor should ask the rangers at the entrance for a trail map and directions to the North-South Lake Beach parking lot.  From the parking lot, the visitor may walk east (away from the lake) taking a path that runs along the right side of the small building that holds the bathrooms. A few yards behind this building is the escarpment ledge and a scenic overlook. Crossing here is the Escarpment Trail trail marked with circular blue blazes.  Walk north (left) on the Escarpment Trail for one mile, looking for the yellow-blazed side trail on the right, normally with a sign for Sunset Rock posted.  Walk the trail 0.2 miles to the edge of Sunset Rock, where all of the terrain in Cole's painting—minus the long-gone Catskill Mountain House—will come into view.  The trail to Sunset Rock is not strenuous but sturdy footwear is recommended. There is one steep section in the beginning that requires some scrambling.

Photography / Painting Credits

Thomas Cole. Catskill Mountain House: The Four Elements. Oil on canvas, 1843-44. Private Collection.

Elizabeth Jacks. View from Sunset Rock. Photograph, undated, 4 ¼ x 2 ½ in. Photo © Thomas Cole House.

Sanford R. Gifford. Catskill Mountain House. Oil on canvas, 1862, 9 5/16 x 18 ½ in. Private Collection.

Hardie Truesdale. View from Sunset Rock Today. Photograph. Photograph © Hardie Truesdale.

Jasper Cropsey. Catskill Mountain House. Oil on canvas, c. 1855, 29 x 44 in. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Bequest of Mrs. Lillian Lawhead Rinderer in memory of her brother, William A. Lawhead, and the William Hood Dunwoody Fund.

Thomas Cole. A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning. Oil on canvas, 1844, 35 13/16 x 53 7/8 in. Brooklyn Museum. Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 52.16.

William Henry Bartlett. The Two Lakes and the Mountain House on the Catskill. Engraving, undated. Collection of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.