- The Big Indian Wilderness Area encompasses over 33,500 acres of Forest Preserve lands in the heart of the Catskill Park. This area provides the visitor with the longest stretch of trail through uninterrupted virgin forest in the Catskills, offering numerous opportunities for solitude in a remote and rugged environment. This mountainous area is marked by deep glacial cuts resulting in a series of parallel, steep-sided hollows. The area is host to eight prominent peaks including Balsam, Fir, Haynes, Eagle and several unnamed peaks. Elevations range from 1,500 - 3,860 feet.
The wilderness area has 30 miles of trails open to foot traffic and offering the hiker an uninterrupted backcountry excursion. Several popular hikes include the McKenley Hollow Trail which is a 1.9 mile red-blazed path that begins as an easy jaunt but rapidly becomes a strenuous climb. The Rider Hollow-Mine Hollow Loop is just under 5 miles in length and travels to the summit of Balsam Mountain, descending back to the trailhead. This path traverses several different trails with varying colored blazes. The Pine Hill-West Branch Trail is a day-long trek offering a 14 mile hike spanning five mountain peaks. This trail is blazed in blue. The Mongaup-Hardenburg Trail is a 6.4 mile, blue-blazed trail that is less strenuous and offers a better opportunity for viewing wildlife.
Hunting, fishing and trapping are traditional uses which are encouraged within the Forest Preserve. Big Indian Wilderness supports a thriving population of black bear and white-tailed deer which are hunted in the fall. Wild turkey is hunted during both spring and fall seasons. Smaller game including beaver, fisher, bobcat and coyote are regulated as well. Hunting is prohibited in Mongaup Pond Campground and the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. The Big Indian Wilderness is a haven for some of the finest trout streams in the East including the Esopus Creek, the Beaverkill, Neversink and Willowemoc.
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