A hike up a Catskill 3500 peak in a deep glacially carved valley with steep and beautiful scenery
The hike on the McKenley Hollow Trail to Balsam Mountain is rugged and more challenging than it looks on your map. The distance out and back to the Balsam Mountain Overlook is 5.6-miles. With over 2,000 feet of climbing, this hike is a real thigh buster. In one sustained section, the maximal grade is 36%, one of the steepest in the Catskills! A lean-to, beautiful streams, first-growth forest, and a boreal summit make this a great day in the woods. On lovely days the view from the Balsam Mountain Overlook is inspiring. The vista is best when the leaves are down but can be enjoyed any time of the year.
|Distance:||5.6-miles RT||Total climb:||2060′|
|Hike type:||Trails||Trailhead:||McKenley Hollow|
Balsam Mountain on the McKenley Hollow Trail step by step
- From the trailhead, cross a bridge to the trail register and walk across a ridge at 0.25-miles descend to the junction where the original trail came in (stay left).
- At 0.38-miles, reach your first of two stream crossings fording McKenley Hollow Brook. It can be tricky during high water.
- Climb gradually and reach the McKenley Hollow lean-to at 0.75-miles from the trailhead.
- Quickly after the lean-to a second brook crossing. It can be tricky during high water.
- After the stream crossing, the steep climbing begins gaining almost 1,200-feet to the col.
- At 1.2-miles from the trailhead, you reach an extensive section of rock stairs and some switchbacks to help control erosion with the steep terrain.
- After the switchbacks, the grade lessens, and the valley widens.
- Just before the col, on the left is an at-large campsite.
- At 1.8-miles, you reach the col between Haynes and Balsam Mountains.
- Heading north on the blue marked Pine Hill – West Branch Trail, it is 0.8-miles to the summit with about another 600’ climbing.
- The actual summit is reached by a short path off the trail with a small monolith marker.
- Walk another two-tenths of a mile on the trail to the overlook. You’ll lose about 40’ elevation.
Dig Deeper: The Big Indian Wilderness a Comprehensive Guide
NYSDEC contact and other information
|Big Indian Wilderness|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
|Location:||Towns of Denning, Shadaken and Hardenburgh in Ulster County|
|Map:||Big Indian Wilderness Map|
|Amenities:||Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Fleischmanns, Livingston Manor and Pine Hill.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Margaretville and Livingston Manor.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Margaretville and Pine Hill.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Oliverea and Pine Hill.
|Weather:||Big Indian Mountain Forecast|
|Cell Service:||Never count on your cell phone for rescue. There are many spots in the Big Indian Wilderness that service is poor.|
Click on the map or here for 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.