Thursday, October 3, 2013

Catskill Park, NY - Balsam and Belleayre Mountains

Big Indian Wilderness - New York State Department of Conservation
Belleayre Mountain -

GPS Coordinates 42.101970, -74.518702

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The drive itself is very scenic.
Parking at the end of Rider Hollow Road.

Central Catskills Trail Map #142 - New York New Jersey Trail Conference
Catskill Park, NY - Balsam and Belleayre at EveryTrail

Balsam Mountain -
Belleayre Mountain -

Rider Hollow to Balsam Mountain Loop:  5.2 miles
Rider Hollow to Balsam Mountain to Belleayre Mountain:  7.2 miles
Rider Hollow to Balsam Mountain to Belleayre ski slope views:  9.35 miles

The trail starts at the gate.
Sign the register, if you can - we squeezed in at the bottom.
First bridge crossing - don't be fooled, there are many more crossings than there are bridges!
On this day the water was very low so the multiple crossings later on were not an issue.
On the red-blazed Oliveria-Mapledale Trail.
The loop can be done either way from this point, .35 mile into the hike.  Going left leaves the water crossings for the end of the hike, going right involves 4 creek crossings which can be challenging during high water and in cold weather the risk of getting wet might be better at the end of the hike.  I continued on red to the right since I wanted to summit the higher of the mountains, Balsam, first, before going on to Belleayre.  Also I needed to make a decision after Balsam whether or not Shawnee would be able to handle the extra mileage to Belleayre with her arthritis so this was the way to go for us.
Coming up on the second, and last, bridge.
View of very low water from the bridge.
Rider Hollow Lean-To
The first crossing was very easy with the low water level.
The second crossing was easy also.
The trail is still fairly smooth and going uphill gradually.
Bursts of fall color up above.
The third crossing.  Rocks are very wobbly so you have to be careful with your footing.
The fourth and last crossing.  There are downed trees to shimmy across to the left during high water when it can't be crossed this way.
The trail becomes more rugged and ascends more steeply after the fourth crossing.
At the intersection turn left on blue.  The sign to Balsam Mountain is on the opposite side of the tree.
On the blue-blazed Pine Hill - West Branch Trail.
Twelve and a half years old and still having to wait for me at the top of a climb.
From this point ...
not too much farther ...
to the views!  You can't miss it, it's right off the trail.
It's a great break spot after all of that climbing!
Continuing on the blue trail, some partial views along the way.
And another frog!
At the next intersection, a left turn on yellow leads back to the parking lot for the 5.2-mile loop.
We continued on the blue trail to Belleayre Mountain.
The trail is fairly smooth with a few short scrambles just before ...
the summit of Belleayre Mountain at a large clearing to the left of the trail where there used to be a fire tower.  This would be the turn around point for the 7-mile hike.  To continue on to the ski slopes, go through the clearing to the right.
There aren't any markers early on but red markers start a way in on the grassy woods road.
Pretty comfortable walking here after all of the roots and rocks.
It's about 1 mile on the grassy woods road before ...
A clearing with a ski lift.
Heading over to Sunset Lodge first for ...
views to the west ...
and a break on the deck.
Back over on the other side, views to the northeast ...
views from the top of a ski slope.
Way down below.
Heading back on the road from the ski lifts, some more views.
Take a right to connect back to the grassy woods road to retrace back.
Had I not seen this little guy hop into his dwelling in the middle of the grassy woods road, I would have stepped on him!  He has quite the comfy nest there but in a really bad spot.
Descending down from Belleayre Mountain.
Heading back to his dwelling with a stash of winter provisions.
Back at the intersection, take the yellow-blazed Mine Hollow Trail on the right.
Descending into Mine Hollow.
Yellow ends back at the red trail which leads back to the parking lot.

[  0.00]  Take the red-blazed trail at the gate after signing in at the trail register
[  0.35]  Stay right on red when yellow (return route) goes left
[  0.60]  First creek crossing after bridges
[  1.00]  Creek crossing
[  1.15]  Creek crossing
[  1.25]  Last creek crossing
[  1.75]  Left on blue at intersection
[  2.35]  3500 foot elevation sign
[  2.55]  Summit of Balsam Mountain; continue ahead to views
[  2.70]  Open views on the right
[  3.90]  Straight on blue when yellow goes left (left on yellow for 5.2 mile hike)
[  4.35]  A few short scrambles
[  4.80]  Summit of Belleayre Mountain at open field on left, turn left into field then keep right to grassy woods road which will be marked red (retrace from field for 7.2 mile hike)
[  5.05]  Straight on red when blue goes right
[  5.25]  Lean-to on right; continue on red
[  5.80]  Ski lift area with open views on both sides
[  6.00]  After touring area with views, continue back along road leading south from ski lifts
[  6.15]  Turn right at Roaring Brook sign then left on re-blazed grassy woods road
[  6.50]  Lean-to on left
[  6.70]  Keep straight on red when blue goes left
[  6.95]  Belleayre Mountain summit; turn right on blue to retrace
[  7.85]  Turn right on yellow when blue goes left
[  9.00]  Right on red when yellow ends
[  9.35]  Back at parking lot


  1. This is such a lovely blog Daniela and Shawnee. I'm also from Jersey but have been on the SoCal coast for the past 12 years. I've had some terrific (and sometimes challenging) hikes around the Desert Southwest. It is a unique and beautiful place. That said, I do miss the Catskills and many other areas you two have walked. Your enjoyable blog gets me home in such a wonderfully presented way. Just want to drop a note to both of you and say Thank You!


    1. Thank you so much, Eddie! What a nice compliment and much appreciated! We envy you hiking in your corner of the country.

      Daniela and Shawnee

  2. Did you see any bow hunters? We are hoping to go to the Catskills a few more times before shotgun hunting season starts. Nervous about hiking there now, but hoping hunters won't be on the trails going up mountains.

    1. That is always a concern of mine but I go to the Catskills every year beginning of October and have yet to encounter a hunter. Shawnee had the orange bandana on and I had her orange vest in my backpack just in case there were hunters around but I never put it on her. Turns out, I almost had the place to myself. I ran into couple hiking when heading back over Belleayre Mountain from the ski slopes. There was only one other car in the lot when I finished and the register indicated he had gone to Eagle Mountain. That was it. Us and the toads and chipmunks.


  3. We hiked up Panther today. No hunters. And tons of hikers. We did put orange on our dogs (but not on us). People thought our dogs were search and rescue dogs because of their packs and orange vests! It was so funny. I explained that hunting season had started, no one seemed to know.

    1. I get that all the time, too, LOL! In fact, one time when Shawnee had her orange vest on and I was wearing sunglasses and using a trekking pole, I heard someone say to their child, "Don't bother the dog. That is a Seeing Eye dog."


  4. This is a spectacular blog. Thank you thank you thank you.