CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Catskill Forest Preserve Catskill 3500 Club Finger Lakes Trail Eastern/Catskill Section
Hiking in Catskill Park

Balsam Lake
Mountain Wild Forest

 

 Follow CNYhiking on Twitter

 

The 13,500 acre Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest is located in the southwest corner of the Catskill Park.  This wild forest has an extensive trail network with over 20 miles of hiking trails.  The area is ideal for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, backpacking, canoeing and cross-country skiing.

Location

The Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest is located 8 miles south of Margaretville (NY 28) and 18 miles north of Livingston Manor (NY 17).  It lies mainly within the western Ulster County town of Hardenburgh, with small appendages in the towns of Middletown and Andes in Delaware County.

Terrain

The terrain is a combination of high mountain ridges, steep sided valleys, numerous brooks and ponds, with elevations ranging from a low of 1,740 feet along Mill Brook to a high of 3,723 feet at the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain.

Alder Lake Accessible Picnic Area

Alder Lake provides opportunities for picnicking. There are accessible picnic tables, accessible parking, an informational kiosk and a seasonal accessible port-a-john. The panorama above features Alder Lake.

Directions to Alder Lake

Alder Lake is located in Ulster County. Take exit 96 off of NY 17 and go to the "T" intersection near Livingston Manor. Turn right, go approximately 1 mile and make a right onto Johnson Hill Road (Sullivan County Route 151/Beaverkill Road). At the steel bridge in Turnwood, turn left onto Alder Creek Road (Ulster County Route 54). Go past the Beaverkill Fish Hatchery and continue until the road changes to dirt. Make a right onto Access Road to Alder Lake. About 3 miles north of Turnwood. Drive the access road to the large parking area at the end of the road. The GPS coordinates of the parking area is N42 02.986 W74 40.932 for those who have a GPS devise in their vehicle.

 

Trailheads in Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest

Several trailheads and parking areas provide developed access to the area.

Dry Brook Ridge Trailhead is on Mill Brook Road in the Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County, 8 miles south of Arkville. The GPS coordinates are N42 04.188 W74 34.446.

Kelly Hollow Trailhead is on Mill Brook Road in the Town of Middletown, Delaware County, 13 miles southeast of Margaretville. There are two parking area's for each spot the trail reaches the road. The GPS coordinates of the eastern parking area is N42 04.735 W74 39.055.

Alder Lake Trailhead is at the end of Alder Creek Road (County Route 54) in the Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County, 18 miles north of Livingston Manor (2.6 miles north of Turnwood). The GPS coordinates are N42 02.986 W74 40.932.

Hardenburgh Trailhead is on the Beaverkill Road in the Town of Hardenburgh, 6 miles east of Turnwood.

Balsam Lake Mountain Trailhead is at the eastern end of the Beaverkill Road in the Town of Hardenburgh, 8 miles east of Turnwood. The GPS coordinates are N42 01.431 W74 35.977.

View from along Mill Brook Ridge Trail near Balsam Lake Mountain

 

Hiking Trails

There are more than 22 miles of hiking trails in the area.

Alder Lake Loop Trail (1.5 miles, red markers) - This is an easy hike around the scenic lake. There are numerous primitive campsites along the trail on the lake. A nice short backpacking trip.

Mill Brook Ridge Trail (5.9 miles, yellow markers, 1520-feet elevation gain) - Accessed either from the Alder Lake Loop on the west or the Balsam Lake Mountain Trail on the east, this trail is a challenging route through the heart of the wild forest, providing access to the Beaver Meadow Lean-to (2.25 miles from the Alder Lake Trailhead). The Finger Lakes Trail coincides with the Mill Brook Ridge Trail. Those looking to complete the Catskill 67 use this trail to access Woodpecker Ridge.

Balsam Lake Mountain - The most direct route is from the Balsam Lake Mountain Trailhead on Beaverkill Road. Follow the blue-marked Dry Brook Ridge Trail north 0.9 miles to its junction with the red-marked Balsam Lake Mountain Trail, turn left and follow it northwest 0.8 miles, passing a lean-to before reaching the summit. Total distance: 1.7 miles (3.4 miles round-trip). Elevation gain: 1,200 feet.

The most popular route begins at the Dry Brook Ridge Trailhead on Mill Brook Road. Follow the blue-marked Dry Brook Ridge Trail south 2.25 miles to its junction with the Balsam Lake Mountain Trail, turn right and follow this red-marked trail southwest 0.75 miles to the summit. Total distance: 3.0 miles (6.0 miles round trip). Elevation gain: 1120 feet.

The most ambitious route begins at the Alder Lake Trailhead and follows the Alder Lake Loop and Mill Brook Ridge Trails eastward to the summit. Total distance: 6.7 miles (13.4 miles round trip). Elevation gain: 1520 feet.

Kelly Hollow Loop Trails - These yellow marked trails explore the scenic Kelly Hollow area which includes a secluded lean to, waterfalls, a beautiful small pond and rushing streams. The short loop is about 1.7 miles and long loop 3.6 miles. The lean to is located near the pond on the long loop. There is also a designated primitive campsite along the eastern part of the short loop trail.

Be Prepared-Even on a day trip, take along a rain shell with a hood, a flashlight with spare batteries, a whistle, matches, map and compass, first aid kit, small tarp and extra, quick-energy food and water. Regardless of the season, dress in layers of non-cotton and wear sturdy hiking boots. Leave Word-Spell it out! Leave a copy of your itinerary and map with a responsible third party.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed at sites marked with round, yellow, DEC markers or throughout wild forest lands at least 150 feet from any trail, road, spring, stream, pond, lake, or other water source. Camping is prohibited above 3500 feet in elevation from March 22 until December 20 each year to protect the fragile summit environment. A camping permit is required for groups of ten or more people. A permit is also required to camp at the same site for more than three consecutive nights.

Campfires are permitted below 3500 feet in elevation, but only dead and down fuel may be used. In an established campsite, use the existing fire ring. Before you leave, completely extinguish the fire. Never leave a fire unattended. The use of camp stoves is encouraged.

Alder Lake has eight designated primitive campsites along the trail.

Fishing

Fishing opportunities exist throughout the wild forest, including:

Alder Lake, a 45-acre impoundment with a maximum depth of 22 feet, supports a high quality wild brook trout fishery and is one of only a few ponds to provide such a fishing experience in the Catskills. A minimum size limit of 10 inches and a possession limit of 3 fish per day are currently employed to maintain this quality fishing experience. In addition, the use of any fish as bait is prohibited to prevent the establishment of species that would compete with native brook trout.

Many perennial streams provide excellent brook trout fishing as well, including Alder Creek, Black Brook, Balsam Lake Brook, Mill Brook, Gulf of Mexico Brook and the headwaters of the Beaverkill. Please note, however, that the lower part of the Beaverkill is in private ownership. There is no roadside public access to the Beaverkill along Beaverkill Road. To access the Beaverkill one must begin at the end of Beaverkill Road at the Balsam Lake Mountain Trailhead and hike east, following the Neversink-Hardenburgh Trail for 2.1 miles to reach the publicly owned Beaverkill.

Above map courtesy of Andy Arthur

CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Catskill Forest Preserve Catskill 3500 Club Finger Lakes Trail Eastern/Catskill Section

contact CNY HIKING by email at contact@cnyhiking.com
(c) 2006-today CNY Hiking - All rights reserved.  Any use of information from this site without permission is strictly forbidden.