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Big Indian Wilderness

hikingfishinghuntingtrappingprimitive campinglean-to campingsnowshoeingparking icon key

The 33,500-acre Big Indian Wilderness Area contains the longest stretch of trail through uninterrupted virgin forest in the Catskills. The 30 miles of trail traverse a rugged, mountainous landscape offering numerous opportunities for solitude. The wilderness is host to eight prominent peaks including Balsam, Fir, Haynes and Eagle, as well as several unnamed mountaintops. Elevations range from 1,500-3,860 feet.

Featured Activities

View of a forested mountain with more mountains in the distance
View of Eagle Mt. from Big IndianHiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

All 30 miles of trail in this area are open exclusively to foot travel. Some suggested hikes include:

McKinley Hollow Trail (1.9 miles, red markers) This trail, which provides access from the east to the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail, is at first deceptively easy but becomes a progressively strenuous climb. Park at the McKinley Hollow Trailhead, Town of Shandaken, 4 miles south of Big Indian, at the end of McKinley Hollow Road.

Rider Hollow-Mine Hollow Loop (4.8 miles) Beginning at the Rider Hollow Trailhead, (town of Hardenburgh, end of Rider Hollow Rd.)follow red trail markers .4 mile to the Mine Hollow junction. Turn NE on yellow markers for a 1-mile ascent to the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail. Turn south. Follow blue markers 2 miles up and over the summit of Balsam Mountain which provides a window view of the Hamlet of Big Indian. Proceed to the junction of the McKinley Hollow-Rider Hollow Trail. Turn NW on red markers, 1.4 miles back to the Parking Area.

Pine Hill-West Branch Trail (14.1 miles, blue markers) This trail offers a moderate ridge hike spanning five peaks that is long and somewhat strenuous. The easiest approach is from the south on Frost Valley Road. Spur trails provide access to lean-tos and water, allowing for excellent backpacking opportunities. The northern trailhead is in the Town of Shandaken 1 mile south of Pine Hill, take Bonnie View Ave. to Station Road to Woodchuck Hollow Road.

Winter view of the hamlet of Big Indian
Winter view of the hamlet of Big Indian

Mongaup-Hardenburg Trail (6.4 miles, blue markers) With less dramatic ascents, the views from this trail are obstructed until after leaf drop. However, this moderate, mid-elevation hike usually provides a greater chance to observe a variety of bird and animal life. This trail is best used in conjunction with the neighboring trail network to the south in order to loop back to the point of origin for either a one- or two-day venture. To access from the north, use the Hardenburgh Trailhead on Beaverkill Road, 6 miles east of Turnwood. From the south, use the trailhead at the Mongaup Pond State Campground.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules & regulations.

The Big Indian Wilderness harbors the headwaters of some of the finest trout fisheries in the Catskills: the Esopus Creek, the Beaverkill, the Neversink and the Willowemoc. See the special fishing regulations for Ulster County.

Hunting & Trapping

hunting
trapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.

Big Indian Wilderness is open to hunting and trapping during appropriate seasons.

Camping

primitive camping
lean-to
A rustic lean-to in winter
Biscuit Brook lean-to.

General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

There are five lean-tos located trailside throughout the area, each supported by a seasonal water source and pit privy. Other designated campsites are marked with a yellow "Camp Here" disc. State law also prohibits camping above 3500 ft. in elevation from March 22nd to December 21st each year. In a Wilderness Area, group size is limited to a maximum of 12. Larger groups may be accommodated in any of the Forest Preserve's Wild Forest areas such as nearby Balsam Lake Mountain or Willowemoc Wild Forests. Water is relatively scarce in the Catskills. It is not unusual for the springs and streams in this area to run dry during the summer months. The department cannot ensure the purity of any water source. Boil all water for 2 minutes, filter or treat chemically.

Snowshoeing

snowshoeing

General information on snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Snowshoeing is permitted on all hiking trails.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The Catskills are home to an abundance of wildlife. With both larger mammals (including deer, bear, and bobcat) as well as smaller mammals (including porcupine and fisher) the Catskills have several unique habitats. In addition to the many mammals found in the Catskills, hundreds of species of birds can also be found in the wilderness.

Directions

  • Beaverkill Road Parking Area (west) Provides access to the Mongaup Hardenburgh Trail. (42.011716°N, 74.622376°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • Beaverkill Road Parking Area (east) Provides access to the Neversink Hardenburgh Tail. (42.023329°N, 74.599531°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • Biscuit Brook Parking Area is located on Frost Valley Road, 2.7 miles west of its intersection with Oilverea Road. Provides southern access to the Pine Hill West Branch Trail. (41.990833°N, 74.484557°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • McKinley Hollow Parking Area is located on McKinley Hollow Road, 0.9 miles northwest of its intersection with Oilverea Road. Provides eastern access to the Oliverea Mapledale Trail. (42.070413°N, 74.474029°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • Lost Clove Parking Area is located on Lost Clove Road, 1.3 miles northwest of its intersection with Oilverea Road. Provides access to the Lost Clove Trail. (42.105437°N, 74.470084°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • Rider Hollow Parking Area is located on Rider Hollow Road, 2.1 miles east of its intersection with Dry Brook Road. Provides western access to the Oliverea Mapledale Trail. (42.101836°N,74.517033°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
  • Seager Parking Area is located on Dry Brook Road, 8.8 miles south of its intersection with NYS Route 28. Provides access to the Seager Big Indian Trail. (42.057883°N, 74.539699°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) principles when recreating in the Catskills to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.

All users of Big Indian Wilderness must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follows all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource. Don't move firewood - protect our forests from invasive insects. Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.

How We Manage Big Indian Wilderness

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Big Indian-Beaverkill Range Wilderness Unit Management Plan (PDF) 966 KB. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us r3.ump@dec.ny.gov.

Nearby Areas and Attractions

The Big Indian Wilderness is surrounded by state-owned recreation lands. To the north is the Belleayer Mountain Ski Center (leaves DEC website). The Slide Mountain Wilderness and Woodland Valley Campground lie to the east. To the west is the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest. The Willowemoc and Sundown Wild Forests are to the south as is the Mongaup Pond campground and the west branch of the Neversink. The Neversink and Willowemoc rivers are excellent trout streams.

Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Fleischmanns, Livingston Manor and Pine Hill.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Margaretville and Livingston Manor.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Margaretville and Pine Hill.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Oliverea and Pine Hill.

Catskill Regional Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) and Ulster County Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.