I decided on doing this hike the day after Thanksgiving because I wanted to start getting some more experience with winter hiking or at least hiking in winter conditions. The Catskills seemed like a better place to do that than the Adirondacks. Well I finally got to use my snowshoes that I got over a year ago so that was nice. Balsam Lake Mountain was probably the perfect trek for just that. At the start of the hike I was able to walk in the prints that were already left but then the snow drifts got deep in some parts so I was glad I was well equipped. I probably could have done without the snowshoes but there was enough snow that it was good for a first time, I think. Plus it wasn't too steep at any point. The top of the fire tower was locked off but there were still some great views from just below it. I chose to do the loop but might have opted not to if I realized that part of it is more uphill. All in all I had a great time with BLM. Only bad news is that I lost the basket off one of my trekking poles in the snow. If anybody can keep an eye out between where the loop starts and the fire tower (when there's less snow) I'd appreciate it. Not worried about getting it back but I don't like leaving things behind. Thank you!
Did the hike this past weekend with my 10 year old son. The start of the hike is long and gradual, pretty easy. At the top there is a series of steeper switch backs, but not too tough. There is no view at the top but great views from the FireTower. We did not do the loop on the way down. Fun hike, with lunch took total of 3 hours.
Krazy G. on Balsam Lake Mountain Trail
Beautiful mountain views in every direction from the tower. The trail up was a gradual increase until the split. it was easy on the feet too.
The trail was not too strenuous, but it was rocky in places. I hiked the trail after it had rained a couple days earlier, so some spots were muddy and puddles. The trail was pretty much covered by trees, so there wasn't any good views as you hiked up the trail. Once you reached the the fire tower there's still no good views unless you climb the fire tower. When I went the ranger station and the tower was locked, but I was still able to climb the tower and take pictures. The view from the tower was worth the hike.
I used the first 2.5 miles of this trail to bushwhack to Big Indian and Fir Mountains. The first .7 of a mile are somewhat steep and very rocky then the trail levels out and the going gets very easy. There are several water crossings (West Branch Neversink River). Two of these crossing are rough-hewn log crossings, others require rock hopping and could be hazardous if the waters are swollen (today it was easy). The trail starts to climb again at about 2 miles, paralleling a stream/river. After about 4.5 miles I left the trail and headed into the woods (east) and bushwhacked to Big Indian and then continued east to Fir, about 1.5 miles away (bushwhack). Then I headed south from Fir to a point about 2 miles south where my bushwhack joined back up with the original trail and eventually the trailhead. Various other sites indicate the bushwhack to Fir is a moderate hike. It was hard for me. I am not adding a "track" to this hike, you'll have to find these two trail-less peaks on your own. If you can read a map and use a compass it should not be hard.
Hiked with my wife and 10 other members of the Catskill 3500 Foot Club. Visited the top of Balsam Lake Mountain (and the fire tower) and then hiked over to Graham as well. Neither of these two mountains are difficult hikes. The grade of the trail to Balsam is gentle enough for the whole family. The distance listed in the overview description is for one way. The trail to Graham is on private property and to be respectful it is best to ask permission before using this "unmaintained trail". While the slope isn't difficult to Graham I would not recommend if as a family hike because of it's overgrown nature. It is however one of the Catskill peaks over 3500 feet and if you are trying to hike all of them, then you need this one too. I gave this hike four stars because of the fire tower (only one of five in the Catskills). You can't get better views anywhere else!
We took the hike from Mill Brook Road, and the trail was very easy. Pretty much the most gradual climb (besides a few sections of true climbing) I have ever done! Just before the log-in kiosk, we scared a baby black bear that was about 30 feet off the trail. Regardless, we forged on! Spent a nice 45 minutes talking to the tower volunteer, with no other people! The volunteer was helpful, polite and definitely a nice addition to the expansive views!
This was a great, moderately, steep, somewhat rocky trail. Incredible 360* view from the firetower. Great hike from the firetower to a lean to for overnight camping & balsam lake. Can't wait to go back in the late Fall when the leaves are gone. Was only able tooccasionally catch a slight glimpse of the view on the way up the trail to the fire tower. On a hot day..the trail was cool & shady
Bernie L. on Balsam Lake Mountain Trail
This was a great day hike. On a clear day the view from the fire tower is beautiful.
Pretty painless to get up to the fire tower. Unfortunately, the tower was being worked on and I wasn't allowed up. Wouldn't have minded much, but the trail from Millbrook is pretty uneventful without a view to pay it off. Would have been nice if the volunteers had left a note in the lot. The glimpses you get through the trees reveal just enough to deduct the 360 up there must be awesome.