Mill Brook Ridge rises above the Alder, Beecher, and Balsam Lakes and gives access to Balsam Lake Mountain and Woodpecker Ridge. The summit gets its name after its most prominent point on the ridge and the highest of the Catskill 67 missing the 3500′ mark by a mere few feet. It can be climbed by trail on the Mill Brook Ridge Trail or bushwhacked, especially from Kelly Hollow. A great overnight is also possible!
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.
|Hiking Distance:||7.0-miles||Route Type:||Out-and-back|
|Total climb:||1450′||Hike type:||Trails|
|How hard?||Moderately-difficult||Trailhead:||Alder Lake|
Alder Lake Trailhead for parking to access Mill Brook Ridge Trail. Click on the map for directions.
Note: Cross Mountain Road is seasonally maintained for part of its length. It is also a single lane route with room for one vehicle at times. If you are coming from State RT 30 you may want to drive on Big Pond Road.
Also the first several hundred feet of the access road to Alder Lake parking area is single lane and rough in spots.
The hike to Mill Brook Ridge from Alder Lake is scrappy and full of interesting features. Starting with the beautiful Alder Lake, a quick visit or overnight at a worn but well-situated lean-to (read about the lean-to here), and the final climb in a first growth forest to a windswept Catskill high peak will make this a hike to remember.
Bear Warning for campers
Due to the popularity of the lake as an intense camping area, bear sightings and encounters are common.
The trailhead at Alder Lake is large enough for at least 10 cars. Many people will park along the road side and other side areas. There’s not a problem with space to park.
At the north end of the lot is a kiosk, register, and porta-potties. Please use the trail register, here why.
Leaving the register you follow RED-markers for the Alder Lake Loop. The wide path follows a stone wall leading a couple of hundred feet to the ruins of the Coykendall Lodge. There are picnic tables overlooking the lake.
Quickly at 0.1-miles you will reach the junction where the loop meets. You’ll turn right to head across the spillway for the dam which is reached in about 200-300 feet from the junction. From the lodge ruins to the dam there are wonderful views of Alder Lake.
From the spillway the trail will turn right and head away from the lake, it can be quite wet at times. The trail will follow near or above the lake passing several primitive campsites.
At about 0.85-miles from the trailhead you’ll reach a large bridge which you cross and meet the junction of the YELLOW blazed Mill Brook Ridge Trail which is reached at 0.9-miles. Continuing on the loop trail will take you 0.7-miles back to the parking area.
From the junction you’ll head up into what was once called the Big Woods along the Alder Creek and following an old road that once headed to Beecher Lake before turning south on what is now Beecher Lake Road to Hardenburg.
The Mill Brook Ridge area high in beaver activity and you pass several past and active beaver ponds on your way to the Beaver Pond Lean-to which is reached at 2.4-miles from the trailhead.
The Beaver Meadow Lean-to is perfectly situated but in need of some TLC as its roof and privy are less than desirable.
For those who wish to camp without the lean-to problems there is a designated campsite nearby.
After the lean-to, the trail begins a more steady climb to Mill Brook Ridge’s high point.
After the lean-to the trail is not well-marked at times. In Autumn when the trail tread is covered with downed leaves or at night always know where your next marker is!
At about 0.7-miles from the lean-to or 3.1-miles from the trailhead you reach the col between the high point of Mill Brook Ridge and a 3250′ lower summit. You’ll find a small rock overhang in the col which is a good place to sit and get out of the wind.
From the col, climbing resumes more steeply. The trees become more windswept and stunted. The trail winds its way around small rock outcrops as it makes its way to the top.
After about 330′ of climbing and 0.5-miles from the col you’ll reach the summit bump at about 3.6-miles from the trailhead at Alder Lake.
From the summit back track down the Mill Brook Ridge trail to the Alder Lake Loop and walk the final 0.7-miles out completing the loop making your day about a 7-miles out-and-back.
Map of Mill Brook Ridge
Click the map or here for an interactive version of the 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|
Got any stories on this hike? Leave them in the comments!
Last Updated on January 26, 2021
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, 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.