Balsam Lake Fire Tower Hike- Catskill Mountains 3500

Total mileage: 4.5 Miles                                              Directions 42.023901,-74.600049

Rise: 1184                                                                                      Facebook

Hike Time: 2-4 hrs                                                                        My Pintrest

Weather                                                                                      Hikes by region

Significance: Fire Tower, High Peak, Views                      THE FIRE TOWER PAGE  

Printable Map                                                  Join Aspiring Catskill 3500 club on Facebook

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.




At the intersection. Click to enlarge

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.















Graham and Double top


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.















img_5383I 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.



These towers can are a part of the larger Adirondack fire tower challenge; below are the others we have hiked in that challenge. Also, check out the  East Coast Fire Tower page

                             Catskill Towers

Hunter and Rusk mountain                 Balsam Lake Fire Tower               

Overlook Mountain Fire Tower            Red Hill Fire tower

Tremper Mountain Fire Tower

                                 Adirondack Towers

Spruce Mountain Fire Tower                       Snowy Mountain Fire Tower

Rondax (Bald Mountain) Fire Tower           Stillwater Fire Tower

Hurricane                                                      Poke O Moonshine

Vanderwhacker           Black Mountain       Belfry

Azure Fire Tower                                          Saint Regis Fire Tower