In the Balsam Lake Wild Forest is a trail loop that doubles as a ski and hiking trail. It is also a gem for people who wish to hike and have some solitude away from the crowds on the more popular high peak trails. Even though there are primitive campsites very close to the road, the prize spot to camp is the wonderful Kelly Hollow Lean-to situated at the farthest part of the hollow near a beautiful beaver pond in a bowl surrounded by the Mill Brook Ridge.
Featured Photo: Kelly Hollow Lean-to. Above clockwise from top left: East trailhead sign on Mill Brook Road; Tall pines found along the trail; Woods road with ski and trail markers; Beaver pond near lean-to with Mill Brook Ridge; Beaver pond with a dead tree; Beaver pond looking across to dam; Beaver pond; Mushrooms near lean-to; Junction at short and long loop; Primitive campsite near the road.
The Kelly Hollow Lean-to can be a great destination for a quick overnight or perfect first backpacking trip for a young hiker. It is situated only 2.0-miles from the east trailhead near the height of land on the trail. With only about 560′ of climbing through a beautiful and fascinating area, all hikers should enjoy the trek to the lean-to!
The lean-to is in generally good condition and comes with a bonus of having a picnic table (most lean-tos don’t). It has a good water source and privy, and the fire pit is in good condition. There is plenty of downed wood in the area for campfires. It would make an excellent start for your first Catskill Lean-To Challenge camp.
Kelly Hollow Trail parking area is on Mill Brook Road in the Town of Middletown, Delaware County, 13 miles southeast of Margaretville. There are 2 parking areas; we recommend the east if heading to the lean-to and exiting to the west—just our preference.
- West: (42.079585°N, 74.654504°W) Google Maps (leaves website)
- East: (42.078800°N, 74.649756°W) Google Maps (leaves website)
Note there are also numerous primitive campsites near the road at both parking areas.
Related post: Kelly Hollow Trail Loop
Lean-to Specs / Photos
|Location:||42°04’00” N, -74°39’16” W|
|Land unit:||Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest|
|Elevation:||2239′ (682 m)|
|Water:||Yes / stream|
|Open side facing:||SW (sun in the evening)|
Open to trail
|Distance from trail:||Trail passes in front of lean-to|
|Floor dimensions:||8′ x 12′|
|Entrance and peak height:||6′ and 6′ 4″|
|Star gazing:||Excellent (from pond)|
|Comments:||Roof is made of wood shingles which have moss growing on them. The roof seems in tacked. One small opening at the rear of the lean-to at the base of the back wall about 1″ wide. Fire pit in fairly good condition. The lean-to also has a “counter” next to it. Being so close to the beaver pond bring your mosquito spray!|
From east parking to lean-to
|Total climb:||567′||Hike type:||Trail – yellow marked|
|How hard?||Easy-moderate||Trailhead:||East parking|
Lean-to back to east parking area
|Total descent:||567′||Hike type:||Trail – yellow marked|
|How hard?||Easy||Trailhead:||East parking|
Rules for Lean-to Camping
- Tents are not allowed inside lean-tos and must be at least 150 feet from the lean-to.
- Lean-tos are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved.
- Lean-tos should be shared by multiple parties until filled to capacity (normally 8 people).
- Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided.
- Campfires must be less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter.
- Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Use only dead and down wood for fires.
- Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch.
- Get your firewood from a local vendor (within 50 miles of your destination) and ask for a receipt or label that lists the firewood’s local source.
- Use pit privies provided near popular camping areas and trailheads. If none are available, dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6″-8″ deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites
- Carry out what you carry in.
- Camping for more than three nights or with 10 or more people requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.
Contact and Map
|Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 3 New Paltz
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
|Location:||Towns of Andes and Middletown, Delaware County; Town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County|
|Map:||Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest Map - PDF (3.15 MB)|
|Amenities:||Food and gas can be found in the towns of Arkville and Margaretville, both are the north along Route 28.|
|Weather:||Balsam Lake Mountain Weather|
Click the map or here for an interactive version of the map
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and exploring the wilds of the Catskills and Adirondacks in New York. A Catskill 3500 Club Member and Adirondack Forty-Sixer. Climbed Mount Rainier. Professionally an Exercise Physiologist.