Fir Mountain Hike and Quick Overnight in the Catskills

Biscuit Brook Trailhead
Average read time 5 min

In the Big Indian Wilderness sits Fir Mountain, a 3630′ trail-less peak. The mountain located about 1-mile NW of Spruce Mountain and 1.5-miles SE of Big Indian Mountain makes for a great multi-peak bushwhack. Fir straddles the Catskill Divide the east slopes drain into the Hudson or Delaware River and Bay. The summit does have Fir trees on it, hence its name. Camping at the Biscuit Brook Lean-to makes for a pleasant overnight!

Hike Length: 6.6 miles

Route Type: Out-and-back

Total Ascent: 1840' (total)

How Hard: Difficult (bushwhack)

Click on map for interactive viersion

Big Indian Name

The Big Indian name based on local Indian legend has it that a man named Winneesook who stood seven-foot-tall fell in love with a local woman named Gertrude Molyneux. Eventually, she developed a passion for him. They eloped as her parents arranged a marriage to another man (another version says she married the man and ran away with Winneesook). Years later, the other man had lost his cow and accused Winneesook of stealing the animal. When he and others located Winneesook, they shot him and left him to die. The shooting was supposedly at the location of the current Hamlet of Big Indian.

Fir Mountain Hike and Overnight at Biscuit Brook lean-to

The hike to the summit of Fir from the Biscuit Brook Parking Area is about 3.3-miles one-way, and with all the ups and downs, you’ll climb about 1840′. If you’re looking for a quick overnight with a wilderness feel, then hiking into the Biscuit Brook lean-to may do the trick!

Sign near trailhead as trail enters woods
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign near trailhead as trail enters woods

When one looks at the map, the first thing you may notice is that you’ll climb over a ridge before descending again to the lean-to. The ridge you ascend will be a massive ridge the comes from the SW side of the mountain. Your climb to the height of land will be about 380′ in 0.7-miles.

After you reach the top of the hill, you begin a gradual descent losing about 125′ in the next 0.5-miles (1.25-miles from the TH). The trail will then undulate with the brook about 200′ down in the woods on your left.

Level section of trail before lean-to
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Level section of trail before lean-to

Up above, through tiny openings in the trees, you can get glimpses of the prominent southern ridge of Big Indian Mountain.

South ridge of Big Indian Mountain
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking South ridge of Big Indian Mountain

You’ll cross a deep tributary on a single log bridge.

Single Log Bridge over deep tributary
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Single Log Bridge over deep tributary
Bridge showing its height from the stream!
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Bridge showing its height from the stream!

As you get closer to the junction with the lean-to, the trail will swing up and then drop quickly to the spur path on the left. The lean-to is about 150′ down the path. There is also camping for tents in the area. Water is plentiful, even in dry conditions. This is reached at about 1.85-miles.

Camping at the Biscuit Brook Lean-to site
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Camping at the Biscuit Brook Lean-to site

Years ago, there were no “no camping” disks at the lean-to; today, it may be different. Today, there is a designated site nearby. While we camped here years ago, the rush of the brook well below us and the wild countryside made us feel as if we were in deep wilderness!

Bushwhack to Fir

From the lean-to, it is about 300-400 yards on the path and trail to the bushwhack point just past the tributary for the Biscuit Brook. It may be hard to cross this in times of high water. But when streamflow is low, it should be no problem.

Crossing Tributary of Biscuit Brook
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Crossing Tributary of Biscuit Brook

Your bushwhack is after this stream, and a cairn may mark the start. As with most Catskill bushwhacks, the goal is to stay on the ridge and head uphill! Depending on your route, you may come across cliffs, especially if you wander into either one of the drainages. This is more likely to happen on your way down.

Fir’s summit elevation is 3630, but it is a fairly flat summit, and you’ll have to poke around to find the canister at about 1.45-miles from the trail or 3.3-miles from the trail-head.

Chris at the Summit of Fir Mountain in the Catskills
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Chris at the Summit of Fir Mountain in the Catskills

If you do head off the ridge on your way down, you’ll down climb through some steep but beautiful terrain. On this route, you may see Doubletop over the ridge coming off of Big Indian.

A view of Double Top coming off of Fir's steep west face
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking A limited view of Doubletop coming off of Fir’s steep west face

Beware, when you reach the stream, you will battle for every inch of ground as it is strewn with downed trees from flooding.

Extending your hike

Many people opt to hike Fir and Big Indian in one long day. Most climb Big Indian first to gain as much elevation on the trail and then cross over to Fir with much less off-trail climbing! If you attempt this, be good with a map and compass!


Big Indian Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
Location: Towns of Denning, Shadaken and Hardenburgh in Ulster County
Map: Big Indian Wilderness Map
Amenities:Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Fleischmanns, Livingston Manor and Pine Hill.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Margaretville and Livingston Manor.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Margaretville and Pine Hill.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Oliverea and Pine Hill.
Weather:Big Indian Mountain Forecast
Cell Service:Never count on your cell phone for rescue. There are many spots in the Big Indian Wilderness that service is poor.

Map of Fir Mountain Bushwhack

Click on the map or here for an interactive version of the map

Fir Mountain Hike Map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Fir Mountain Hike Map
Join the Trailhead Newsletter, it’s Free!
The latest trips, tips, stories, news, and more, broadcasted to your inbox!
We respect your privacy. We will not sell or give your info to anyone!