Hike to Balsam Mountain in the Catskills



5.4 miles

Elevation Gain

2910 ft

Route Type


Added by Aellon Krider

Night hike to camp and trek to Balsam Mountain the next day. Bring a picnic and take in the view from 3500 feet.

Timeline: Weekend, though can easily be done as an overnight trip or just a day hike


Day 1: Hike to camp (0.7 miles, 340' elevation gain)

Day 2: Hike to Balsam Mountain and back to camp (4 miles round-trip)

Day 3: Relax & hike back to car (0.7 miles)

Details: Park the car at McKinley Hollow parking lot (42.070413°N, 74.474029°W). The lot and trailhead will be on your left. Grab your pack and brighten your headlamp, then head a little further down McKinley Hollow Road. A bridge starts the Oliverea - Mapledale red trail. Depending on the time of year, you may want to filter water here if you need any for the night. Water was scarce near camp in October.

Hike 0.7 miles to the McKinley Hollow lean-to. You can't miss it left of the trail. It's possible you'll need to share the shelter with other campers. Don't forget to hang your food in a bear bag, then gather some wood and warm up by the fire.

In the morning, refuel and get back on the red trail. You will quickly begin gaining elevation with stone steps and switchbacks. After 1.2 miles there will be a junction. If you need water continue on the red trail and you will come across a spring on the left. If you do not need water then turn right at the junction, to hop on the Pine Hill - West Branch blue trail heading northeast. Hike 0.8 more miles on the blue trail to reach Balsam Mountain (3600'). There is a scenic viewpoint on the right side a little past the summit. Enjoy a snack as you identify the peaks of Slide Mountain Wilderness.

Return the way you came by taking the blue trail southwest to the junction, and go left on the red trail back to the lean-to. Spend another night in the lean-to and hike out the next day.

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