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.

Mill Brook Ridge from Alder Lake

Sign at junction with Alder Lake Loop and Mill Brook Ridge Trail
Average read time 9 min

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!

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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.

The Dirt

Hiking Distance:7.0-milesRoute Type:Out-and-back
Total climb:1450′Hike type:Trails
How hard?Moderately-difficultTrailhead: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.

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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.

Busy parking area at Alder Lake
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Busy parking area at Alder Lake

At the north end of the lot is a kiosk, register, and porta-potties. Please use the trail register, here why.

Kiosk, register, and porta-potties at Alder Lake
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Kiosk, register, and porta-potties

Trail Description

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.

Coykendall Lodge ruins at Alder Lake
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Coykendall Lodge ruins at Alder Lake
Fireplace at the Coykendall Lodge ruins at Alder Lake
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Fireplace at the Coykendall Lodge ruins at Alder 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.

View of Alder Lake from the Coykendall Lodge ruins
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking View of Alder Lake from the Coykendall Lodge ruins
View from the spillway
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking View from the spillway
People camping near dam
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking People camping near dam

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.

Foot bridge on Alder Loop Trail
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Foot bridge on Alder Loop Trail
Direction sign for campsite
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Direction sign for campsite
Campsite on east side of the lake
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Campsite on east side of the lake

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.

Large bridge near Mill Brook Ridge Trail
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Large bridge near Mill Brook Ridge Trail
Sign at the junction with the Mill Brook Ridge Trail and Loop Trail
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Sign at the junction with the Mill Brook Ridge Trail and Loop Trail

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.

First beaver meadow now growing in
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking First beaver meadow now growing in
View across beaver pond toward lean-to
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking View across beaver pond toward lean-to (left)
Beaver Meadows Lean-to
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Beaver Meadows Lean-to

The Beaver Meadow Lean-to is perfectly situated but in need of some TLC as its roof and privy are less than desirable.

"Privy" at the Beaver Meadows Lean-to
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking “Privy” at the Beaver Meadows Lean-to
Several holes in roof!
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Several holes in roof!
Tarp on the roof.
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Tarp on the roof.

For those who wish to camp without the lean-to problems there is a designated campsite nearby.

Campsite near the Beaver Meadows Lean-to
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Campsite near the Beaver Meadows Lean-to

After the lean-to, the trail begins a more steady climb to Mill Brook Ridge’s high point.

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Trail Alert

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.

Small rock over hand in the col
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Small rock overhang in the col
View of the 3250' summit hiking out of the col.
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking View of the 3250′ summit hiking out of the col.

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.

Rock outcrop
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Rock outcrop
Trail climbing through some minor ledges
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Trail climbing through some minor ledges

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.

Small summit ride of Mill Brook Ridge
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Small summit ride of Mill Brook Ridge

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.

Mill Brook Ridge
Scott L. | copyright Challenged Hiking Mill Brook Ridge

DEC Contacts

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

Got any stories on this hike? Leave them in the comments!

Last Updated on January 26, 2021