Trailhead GPS: Coordinates
(Balsam Lake Mt) N41.42708 W74.75531
(Alder Lake) N42.0497 W74.6825
WARNING: This hike requires a “car shuttle”. You will park one car at Alder Lake and drive the other to the Balsam Lake Mountain parking area. After the hike you will use the car at Alder Lake to retrieve the car at Balsam Lake Mountain.
Getting There: From the east exit State Route 17 at Exit 96W and turn right on DeBruce Road. Drive to the T intersection and turn right on Old Rt 17 toward Roscoe. Drive 1.3 miles to Beaverkill Road on the right. Exit State Route 17 at Exit 96E and turn right on White Roe Lake Road. Drive to the T intersection and turn right on Old Rt 17. Drive 1.2 miles to Beaverkill Road on the right. Turn right on Beaverkill Road and drive 12.2 miles to Alder Creek Road on the left. You will pass through the hamlets of Lew Beach and Turnwood where the road makes and almost 90 degree turn. Drive to the end of Alder Creek Road and bear to the right into the parking area at Alder Lake. Leave one car here and drive back out to the Beaverkill Road. Turn left and drive another 8.2 miles to the end of the Beaverkill Road. At the end of the road turn right into the parking area.
CAUTION: The access road to Alder Lake is NOT always well maintained and the gate may be closed. If you choose to park outside the gate, be sure to park off the side of the road as far as possible. The last few miles of the Beaverkill Road may be in poor shape. An all-wheel drive vehicle is suggested. Avoiding this area in the winter may be a wise choice.
Difficulty: This hike is rated VERY STRENUOUS because it is over 7 miles long and ascends Balsam Lake Mountain, a Catskill 3500 peak, which was steep ascents of over 20%. From the summit it is mostly downhill but there is another ascent to Millbrook Ridge which is on the Catskill Highest Hundred list! There may be wet or muddy areas along the way.
Trail Surface: The trail is a typical Catskills trail with rocks and roots to step over and around. The trail surface at the end near Alder Lake is more of a path and is free of large stones and tree trunks consisting mostly of small stones and dirt. The trail is often wet and muddy in places.
Hike Description: Start your hike by walking north out of the parking area on the blue-blazed Dry Brook Ridge Trail and hike about .9 miles to a trail junction. Turn left on the red-blazed Balsam Lake Trail to begin your steep climb to the fire tower at the summit. The steepest part of the climb lasts for about .5 miles and you will gain almost 700 feet over that distance. Near the top of the climb a spur trail turns right and leads to a Len-to. Just passed this turn there is a spring and the last part of the climb to the summit plateau. At 1.5 miles the yellow Millbrook Ridge Trail turns off to the left. Continue for another .2 miles to the clearing which has a fire tower. The cab is open every weekend during the summer but the view from just below the cab is almost as good. The fire tower at the top offers a spectacular view in all directions. Balsam Lake Mountain is the westernmost in the Catskill Park and the tower offers an unhindered 360-degree view. Walk back the way you came to the point where the Millbrook Ridge Trail turns right or west. After making the turn, the trail descends steeply for .6 miles losing 550 feet in elevation. It then continues west rolling over some bumps. At around 3.5 miles there is a lookout over Beecher Lake at 4.3 miles. Reverend James Beecher owned the land at one time and used it for quiet contemplation. He was a brother of the author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The property is now home of the Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji, Zen Buddhist monastery. You can see the main building of the monastery when there are not too many leaves on the trees. At 4 miles the trail begins to ascend to the highest point on Millbrook Ridge which occurs at 4.4 miles. The rest of the hike is all downhill or flat. At 5.6 miles there is a beautiful beaver meadow to the left of the trail with a lean-to. Continuing on the trail meets the red-blazed Alder Lake Loop Trail. Turn right and walk about .75 miles along the shore of the lake to the “lawn”. The stonework at the top of the hill is the remains of the Coykendall Mansion that was in such disrepair that the state burned it several years ago. When you are done taking in the view, walk up the path passing the stonework and to your car in the parking area.