Hiking our forest is a way to be 3ft, 6ft, 600ft, or even 6 miles away from the nearest person and possibly the best way to soothe body, mind and spirit during these testing times. New York State is waiving all park fees in state, local and county parks according to the latest news on the NY State website, which will no doubt encourage everyone to get outdoors. Enjoy one of the Catskills’ easiest hikes, the Kelly Hollow Loop, in the northeastern slopes of Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest that has an elevation gain of about 500ft making is suitable for all ages, including seniors who are probably self-isolating and need to get outside the most.
The trailhead and parking area for the Kelly Hollow Trail is on Mill Brook Road about five miles or so further west from the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest trailhead and parking area on Mill Brook Road, which is where you pick up the blue-blazed Dry Brook Ridge trail that runs south towards Balsam Lake Mountain with its fire tower. So if you’re much fitter and need something more strenuous, you could do both the Kelly Hollow Loop and the hike down Dry Brook Ridge to the Balsam Lake Fire tower in one day. So there’s something for the whole family on this short stretch of Mill Brook Road, due south of Arkville, NY.
Kelly Hollow Trail is short at about 3.5 miles and a loop that winds through a gorgeous pine forest with rushing streams at intervals and a pond with an abandoned beaver dam where you’ll find a lean-to for lunch. The trail loops around the pond and back down into the valley, back to the parking area. There are two parking areas on the same short stretch of road. Just before the end, near the road, there’s a huge cemetery where you’ll find the graves of men who served in the civil war. When you get to the road, after the cemetery, you can walk a few steps down the road and rejoin the forest trail at the sign back to the parking area. This last little stretch is a dense thicket of pines that for some reason traps some magical light at lunchtime in the early spring. Breathe deeply through this last part.
You’ll find all the information you’ll need in the “Catskills Trails” set of maps from the NYNJ Trail Conference. Buy local.