Balsam Lake Fire Tower- Catskill Mountain Hike
Total mileage: 4.5 Miles Directions 42.023901,-74.600049
Rise: 1184 Facebook
Hike Time: 2-4 hrs My Pintrest
Significance: Fire Tower, High Peak, Views
Here is some of what you need to know: If you are considering a winter trip beware that the winter maintenance ends about 1 mile before the parking area.
-Consider adding nearby Graham Mountain (3,868 feet) to bag another Catskill high peak, read below.
–Do not confuse Balsam Lake with Balsam Mountain or Balsam Cap.
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
The trail head starts from the upper parking lot at the far end. Be sure you are following the blue blazes. The first 0.9 miles is relatively smooth and only climbs about 360′ in elevation. At that 0.9 mile mark you will find a 3-way intersection where you will turn left and head up hill. The blazes are now red and you are on your way up towards the tower.
This part of the trail is rocky and more steep; over the next 0.9 miles you will gain about 860′ in elevation. Somewhere around the 1.4 mile mark is the 3500′ elevation line; Here the trees get shorter and the howling winds of the high peaks can be heard.
Near the top is a lean-to and a spring making this a great place to spend a night. -The spring was running strong at the end of a dry September FYI.
Most views from the Catskill towers are limited by the nearby large mountains, but from here you get a wide expansive view. The nearest mountains are Graham and Double top. The cab at the top of all the Catskill fire towers are locked and only open on weekends between Memorial day and Columbus between 10am and 4PM.
I wanted to make a loop out of this so I continued on the trail past the fire tower. The blazes will continue to be red as you take what feels like a more gradual route to the bottom. After about 0.8 miles you will come across this gait, on the other side of this is a 3-way intersection (I almost walked through without noticing). Turn right to get back to your car.
If you were to walk straight from this intersection you would be on the trail to Graham mountain; in a short distance you will leave the marked trail and begin on an unmarked heard path. I always recommend using GPS when bushwhacking.
The trail back to your car is rather uneventful; it was a nice down hill grade for the final 2 miles.
As always we had a great time in the Catskills. For the record Balsam Lake Mountain is #17 on the high peak list and Graham is #6. Below is a list of all five Fire towers in the area.