Graham Mountain is the seventh-highest peak in the Catskills at 3,868 feet in elevation. From the parking lot, the trail is an 8-mile there-and-back route that climbs 1,250 feet through balsam fir and ascends to a pygmy hardwood forest unique to this region. At its summit, there are the remains of a relay station built for Instructional Television in the early 1960s. While part of this mountain is in New York’s Forest Preserve, its peak and the path leading up to it are on private property.
From the Department of Environmental Conservation parking area, the blue-blazed Dry Brook Ridge Trail enters the woods on the opposite side of the road. It follows a gradual ascent on a wide, marked trail that is bordered by signs designating the private property on either side. This is the original vehicle road to the Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower. You will come upon a registration box after about third of a mile.
After approximately a 650-foot ascent and 2 miles you will reach the trailhead for Graham Mountain. It is on your left, and it cuts back to the east at a very acute angle. You may not notice it if you are not looking for it, but it is a rather obvious and wide overgrown path with ferns and clear signs of traffic. If you reach a trail intersection with signage for the fire tower and a gate, you will have passed the Graham Mountain path by about a quarter-mile.
For the next mile, the trail dips and rises at an elevation of approximately 2,300 feet as it heads due east along a ridge. While the path becomes narrow at points, it is very easy to keep on this former vehicle road (Old Tappan Road), despite it being unmarked. The trail turns to the southeast and follows a steep ascent to the summit, climbing over 1,300 feet in the final mile. Once at the peak, you can explore the ruins of the relay station. The tree line is high here, so climb up some of the stacked cinder blocks to get views of the surrounding Catskill Mountains. You can look back to the west and see the Balsam Lake Fire Tower. The mountain directly to the southwest is Double Top, the eighth highest in the Catskills, with its two distinctive rounded peaks. Return on the same path to the Dry Brook Ridge Trail and turn right, downhill, to return to the DEC parking lot.
The mountain is owned by decendents of Jay Gould, a railroad magnate who was native to the region. The relay station was constructed by Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), and it relayed a band of 20 TV channels for local educational institutions. This service was designed to deliver pre-recorded material, in accordance with the FCC, at a cost-effective rate that was much cheaper than broadcast television. By the year 1969 the tower was abandoned.
Graham Mountain is popular among those aspiring to become members of the Catskill Mountain 3500 Club. It is one of two high peaks that require access permission. This adventure is often combined with a trek to Balsam Lake Fire Tower, a 47-foot fire tower that offers 360-degree views of the entire Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest and the surrounding Catskill Mountains. Combining these adventures from Mill Brook Road creates an approximately 10-mile trek that gains almost 2,400 feet in elevation.
Contact the Furlow Lodge caretaker, Bill Scholl, at 845.586.4056 to arrange for permission to access the land and traverse the path. While there are no marked trails, the NYSDEC Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest map will help you identify its position among other mountains in the area.