Please note changes in access and rules for hiking and camping in the Adirondacks and Catskills during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please act responsibly during this stressful period. Please read the DEC info carefully.
View of Alder Lake in the Catskills
Average read time 6 min

Alder Lake is a beautiful lake nestled between Mill Brook Ridge and Cradle Rock Ridge. It is a moderate to heavily trafficked area located in the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest. It is ringed by a loop trail and many primitive campsites. The lake was once home to the almost 11,000 sq Coykendall Lodge which remains sit near the parking area. The lake was also for a time used by the Boy Scouts as a reservation until it was taken over by the state in 1980.

Featured Photo: View from the lake looking toward the dam. Above from left top clockwise: Panorama of Alder Lake over the dam; Fireplace from Coykendall Lodge; Fire ring at a campsite; Sign at the trail junction on Mill Brook Ridge Trail; Bridge near the Mill Brook Ridge Trail; “Camp here” disk with a bear warning sign; A footbridge on the loop trail; Campsite; View of the lake from the Coykendall Lodge ruins; Coykendall Lodge ruins; Trailhead kiosk.

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Winter notice

The roadway providing access to Alder Lake is closed annually when the roadway becomes covered with ice and snow. The gate is generally closed right before the first big snow of the year.

Trail and Camping

The parking area is found at the end of a one-lane rough access road off Cross Mountain Road. The parking area has room for about 10 cars but many other spots are found along the road as it widens near the parking area and an upper road.

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Cross Mountain Road

Cross Mountain Road for part of its length is a seasonally maintained road which is essentially a single lane. At one point it drops off steeply with no guard rails and some road erosion. Even though it is a beautiful ride, one should question the risk. Other routes coming from route 28/30 such as via Big Pond may make more sense.

Alder Lake Trail Loop
Hiking Distance:1.7-milesRoute Type:Loop
Total climb:203′Hike type:Trail
How hard?EasyTrailhead:Alder Lake

The 1.7-mile trail around the lake is easy to hike and follow (round-trip from the parking area). There are many primitive campsites around the lake. You’ll quickly find that the area has more of a campground atmosphere than wilderness camping. Don’t be fooled. Help is a long way off and even though you are not far from your car, you are far from medical care or other services.

Having said that, this is a great area for first-time campers or families with kids to explore camping and backpacking in the Catskills. With porta-potties at the trailhead and campsites not far it provides an amenity not found elsewhere in these mountains.

The campsites on the opposite side of the lake from the dam are quieter and more secluded. It must have been a great experience for Boy Scouts to have this area as a reservation! If you’d like you can read about the Coykendall Lodge and BSA camp here.

Making this a base camp to hike the surrounding peaks is a great option. Hiking Mill Brook Ridge on the trail or Cradle Rock Ridge by bushwhacking is great for people working on their Catskill 67. Hiking Balsam Lake Mountain from the lake is possible on the Mill Brook Ridge Trail or heading back to the road and taking the Touchmenot Trail to Big and Little Pond and Touchmenot Mountain is also possible and recommended.

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BEAR WARNING

Due to the popularity of the lake as an intense camp area, bear sightings and encounters are common. Please read the section on safety on this page.

Fishing

Fishing and boating are permitted at Alder Lake. It has a maximum depth of 20 feet at its southwest corner. The lake has 1.5-miles of waterfront and is 45 acres in area. See a map of the lake showing depths.

SpeciesOpen SeasonMinimum Length
Brook troutApril 1 through Sept 3010″
Daily limitBaitBoats
3Use or possession of baitfish prohibitedYes. Electric motors. No Gas

Safety and Wellness

Please sign in at all trail registers, here’s why.

BEARS

There are an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 black bears in the Catskills. The following are the recommendations from the DEC on bear management:

  • Use bear-resistant food canisters. These are a highly effective means for preventing bears from getting your food, toiletries, and garbage. Use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry, and are required in Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park.
  • Pack a minimal amount of food. The less food to store the better. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods.
  • Cook and eat before dark. Bears become more active after sunset.
  • Cook away from your campsite. Choose an area at least 100 feet away from your sleeping area.
  • Be neat and clean while cooking. Avoid spills and drippings. Do not pour grease into your fire pit.
  • Keep food in storage containers. Only take out the food you plan to cook. Keep containers nearby and store food immediately if a bear approaches your cooking area.
  • Avoid leftovers. Carefully plan your meals and eat all that you cook.
  • Never leave food unattended. Bears may watch from a distance waiting for opportunities to steal food.

DEC Fact Sheet on Bear Encounters (PDF)

If You Encounter a Bear at Your Campsite

Do:

  • Use noise to scare bears away: Yell, clap, or bang pots immediately upon sighting a bear near your campsite.
  • Stay calm: Walk slowly and speak in a loud and calm voice.
  • Leave slowly: Cautiously back away from the bear and leave the area.

Don’t:

  • Approach, surround, or corner a bear: Bears aggressively defend themselves when they feel threatened. Be especially cautious around cubs as mother bears are very protective.
  • Run from a bear: They may chase.
  • Throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear: This will only encourage bears to approach and “bully” people to get food. By teaching a bear to approach humans for food, you are endangering yourself, other campers/residents, and the bears.

A NOTE ON WATER

Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets, or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.

Map of Alder Lake

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

Alder Lake Loop Trail and Campsites
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Alder Lake Loop Trail and Campsites

DEC Contact

Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz
Office hours: M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM
Phone: 845-256-3000
email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
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

Last Updated on January 25, 2021

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