McKenley Hollow Lean-to in the Catskills

McKenley Hollow Lean-to in the Catskills
Average read time 5 min

The McKenley Hollow Lean-to (aka McKinley Hollow) located in the Big Indian Wilderness close to the trailhead on the McKenley Hollow Trail makes for a great overnight or a basecamp to hike some high peaks nearby. At one time, the McKenley Hollow Trail was the popular way up Balsam Mountain, but now favor has fallen with the Rider-Mine Hollow Loop. The lean-to is not as busy as it once was, but it is often used with its proximity to the road. With a major renovation in 2002, the lean-to is in good condition.

Top left to right clockwise: Lean-to; Trailhead sign; Chris signing register; Trillium in spring; old foundation near lean-to; Bridge crossing creek near trailhead; stream crossing

The Dirt

The McKenley Hollow Lean-to can be an excellent destination for a quick overnight or perfect first backpacking trip for a young hiker. It is situated only 0.75-miles from the trailhead with only about 240′ of climbing. Only one stream crossing makes this tricky, but mostly during periods of high water flow. A thru-hiker on the Pine Hill – West Branch Trail may consider using it as a place to camp. But it would require approximately 1200 foot descent from the ridge.

The lean-to is in good condition, has a good water source and privy, and the fire pit is fair. There is plenty of downed wood in the area for campfires. It would make an excellent start for your first Catskill Lean-To Challenge camp.

The trailhead is 4 miles south of Big Indian, at the end of McKinley Hollow Road. The parking area has room for about 4-5 vehicles.

Lean-to Specs / Photos

Location:42°04.521′, -74°29.090′
Land unit:Big Indian Wilderness
Elevation:1848′ (563 m)
Year built:1983?
Water:Yes / stream
Open side facing:Southernly
Open away from trail
Distance from trail:20′
Floor dimensions:8′ x 12′
Entrance and peak height:6′ and 6′ 5″
Privy:Yes
Picnic table:No
Secluded:Maybe
Forest:Northern hardwood
Star gazing:Only when leaves are down
Long views:No
Comments:The lean-to had a new roof added in 2002 and is great condition. The floor has one 4-inch hole. Fire pit and privy are in fairly good condition.
Front elevation
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Front elevation
McKenley Hollow Lean-to in the Catskills
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking McKenley Hollow Lean-to in the Catskills
McKenley Hollow Lean-to
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking McKenley Hollow Lean-to
Rear elevation
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Rear elevation
Interior
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Interior

Related post: Hiking Balsam Mountain on the McKenley Hollow Trail

Fire pit
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Fire pit
Privy
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Privy
Catskill Mountain Women restoration sign in lean-to
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Catskill Mountain Women restoration sign in lean-to

Trail data

Distance:0.75-miles (oneway)Route type:Out-and-back
Total climb:240′Hike type:Trail – Red marked
How hard?EasyTrailhead:McKenley Hollow

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

Big Indian Wilderness
Contact Information:DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: r3admin@dec.ny.gov
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.

Trail map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Trail map
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