Balsam and Eagle Mountains; Catskill 3500 Hike
Total Mileage: 9.8 miles Directions 42.070579,-74.474106 Only Balsam: 5.8 miles
Total rise: 2956 Facebook
Hike Time:8 hours (in snow) My Pintrest
Significance: High Peaks, views East Coast Fire Towers
Here is some of what you need to know: Balsam and Eagle Mountains are the same height and #27th on the list of Catskill High Peaks
-Balsam must be climbed during the winter and summer to qualify for your 3500 patch.
1. Scroll the mouse over the altitude line to see where it lines up on the map
2. Click on the flags for more information
3. Click on the pictures to make them large
There are two ways main trail heads to get to Balsam and Eagle; We Chose Mckinley Hollow because we were told it has more Character. The first mile is mild as far as elevation is concerned, only gaining about 200′, it was a great warm up for what was ahead. There are two stream crossings during that first mile; The first one we had to walk up stream from the trail before we could find a place to cross, the second one was much easier, but I would bet that would be a different story during the spring melt.
The second mile will take you to the four way intersection and you will gain about 1,070′ in elevation. With the snow on the ground we could not see the rocks, but with almost every step we would hit one and our traction gear really took a beating. The blazes have been red on your way up the mountain but as you turn at the intersection (right for Balsam and left for Eagle) the blazes will turn blue.
We went to the top of Balsam first; from the intersection to the summit is a 0.7 mile hike with an elevation gain of about 580′. There was an area or two with some small rock scramble, but overall nothing serious. The top of this mountain has the only view on the whole hike; to see it you will have to walk to walk along the summit for a few minutes and the trees open up on the right. The sight is incredible: What stood out to me first was Plateau and you will see for yourself why, going down the line to the right of that is Sugarloaf, Twin, and Indian head Mountains, Kaaterskill High Peak (its shape is unique), and at the very end in the distance is Overlook Mountain. Looking to the left of Plateau is Hunter Mountain and Westkill.
Now for Eagle Mountain: we went back through the intersection continuing to follow the blue blazes. The trail conditions were very similar to that of Balsam, very rocky. It is 4.2 mile round trip from the intersection to get to eagle and back; total elevation gain is about 960′; this number is not bad over 4 miles but, given all the other hiking it definitely adds up. It is worth noting that you will hike over Haynes mountain before getting to Eagle, if you are wondering if you are on the right mountain, just remember that above 3500′ the vegetation is stunted trees and are often packed tight together.
As we reached the top of Eagle an unmarked trail went off to the right, we followed it a very short distance and found the small pile of rocks, I took this as the top of the mountain. The hike back was almost all down hill which was nice; to do both of these mountains during the summer without the snow would have been a lot easier.
Thanks to my buddy Andrew who hauled his gear in from California to hike with his old friend. Check out the East Coast Fire Tower page, and below are the other Catskill High Peaks we have climbed. Do not be afraid to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.