The Beaver Meadow Lean-to is one of the most perfectly placed lean-tos in the Catskills. With the front-facing a beautiful beaver pond and spur ridges from Mill Brook and Cradle Rock Ridges as the backdrop, it provides the camper with a wonderfully serene spot to camp. The absence of trees between the lean-to and the pond allows for spectacular stargazing by the shelter fireplace. With that said, the lean-to constructed in 1997 requires some serious TLC and a new privy. It seems that the lean-to is a popular camping destination, and one should plan to camp at the primitive campsites as a back-up.
Featured Photo: Beaver Meadow Lean-to. Above clockwise from top left: Footbridge on the Alder Loop Trail; Primitive camping disk and bear warning sign at Alder Lake; Primitive campsite near the Beaver Meadow Lean-to; Panoramic view of the beaver meadow from near lean-to; Trail sign at lean-to showing direction to spring; Alder Creek hiking on the Mill Brook Ridge Trail; Alder Lake parking area; Alder Lake trailhead sign; Alder Lake from lodge ruins; Trail sign at the junction with the Alder Lake Loop and Mill Brook Ridge trails.
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.
Located in the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, the Beaver Meadow Lean-to is about 2.4-miles from the Alder Lake trailhead. It is an excellent place for people to camp through-hiking on the Finger Lakes Trail or doing a quick overnight and hiking the Mill Brook Ridge area. With the option of camping at many other campsites in the area, the backpacker can take a chance on getting a spot in the lean-to and, if full, easily find camping elsewhere.
Related reading: Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest a Complete Guide
With all the positives the lean-to has to offer, the condition of the lean-to itself is not so great. The roof of the structure needs work as we counted at least 4 holes. When one pushes or probes the roof’s underside, you can feel the softness, indicating wood rot.
The privy is… well… really not. There is a good water supply via a pipe-fed spring. Finally, with the high usage, the area has a fair amount of trash but is odd given its distance from the trailhead.
Dated June 12, 2021: we received an email from a reader stating that there is increased beaver activity in the area of the lean-to.
Lean-to Specs / Photos
|Land unit:||Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest|
|Water:||Yes / Pipe-fed spring|
|Distance from trail:||100-150′|
|Floor dimensions:||8′.5″ x 12′|
|Entrance and peak height:||81″ and 74″|
|Privy:||Not really (see photos)|
|Comments:||The roof is in need of repair. Part of the roof is tarped to waterproof. Some of the sidewall joints have gaps. Privy is essentially a toilet seat with a hole in the ground.|
From Alder Lake
|Distance:||2.4-miles (4.8-miles RT)||Route type:||Can be varied|
|Total climb:||640′||Hike type:||Trails|
|How hard?||Easy-moderate||Trailhead:||Alder Lake|
|Return to TH||2.4-miles (4.8-miles RT)|
From Balsam Lake Mountain Trailhead
|Distance:||5.4-miles||Route type:||Can be varied|
|Total climb:||1850′||Hike type:||Trails|
|How hard?||Difficult||Trailhead:||Balsam Lake Trailhead|
|Return to TH||5.4-miles (10.8 RT)|
|Point-to-point to Alder Lake||7.8-miles|
Related post: Mill Brook Ridge from Alder Lake
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.