50 Mile Trek

Balsam Trek Program at Onteora Scout Reservation

No staff run Trek in 2022

BUT - you can do one on your own.

See how here:


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Experience a whole new level of hiking at Onteora this summer.

Earn the 50-Miler Award and partials in Hiking and Backpacking Merit Badges. Climb the Catskills and see the region from one of the last fire towers standing. Camp overnight on the trail and alongside mountain lakes. Fish at Big Pond. Take on a conservation project. Explore the rich history of Onteora, “Land in the Sky,” and its surrounding region, from the legacy of the Lenape Indians, supplying Union troops during the Civil War, the pioneering of a world-class fisherman’s paradise, and more!

The program is scheduled to run several times during the summer. Depending on demand.

Because of New York trail regulations, the program will be limited to 8 scouts. Participating Scouts must be 14 or older, or 13 if they have completed 8th grade.

The trek is designed for older youth who want to reach the pinnacle of summer camping at OSR.

More challenging than your typical week at camp, this high-adventure trek puts scouts’ skills to the test. Qualified Trek Guides accompany scouts along the way to ensure safety, teamwork, and the principles of Scouting. Up to 8 scouts can participate in a single trek. Participants must be 14 or older, or 13 if they have completed 8th grade. Scouts may sign up individually or as a group. All must have a strong sense of adventure!

Awards and Advancement:

In addition to the BSA 50-Miler Award, scouts earn partial completion of Hiking, Backpacking, and Nature Merit Badges. This trek also offers scouts the opportunity to form relationships with Trek Staff, sign up for additional hikes and conservation projects on Long Island, and ultimately achieve all the requirements for Hiking, Backpacking, and Nature Merit Badges.

Finally, scouts get the rare opportunity to apply core scouting skills to an exciting challenge. Every scout will integrate and hone their skills through this trek experience!

HIKING DESTINATIONS: Catskill Mountains: Willowemoc Wild Forest (Hodge Pond), Balsam Fire Tower (first fire tower in New York State, original tower erected 1887), Mongaup Pond, Big Pond primitive area, and Little Pond.

If interested in doing the trek, please contact James Van Tassell at james.vantassell@osrtrails.org

The cost for the trek is $???? per participant.

To Balsam & Beyond…

Trek 2023

2022 Trek route

Staff: To be annonced

LOCATION: Onterora Scout Reservation, Livingston Manor, NY

Sunday: Set up camp. Trek training and shakedown for hike. Pack for tomorrow’s 10-mile hike along the OSR White trail. Eat dinner at the Long House.

Monday: Eat breakfast at the Long House and pack a trail lunch. From the Long House, take the power line trail and road out to Al Nassau. Take the Red trail to the White trail and continue along the perimeter of camp. Follow a series of ridges along our northern border and the slopes of Rattle Hill, pass by scenic hemlock groves, old growth forests, swamps, and bear caves. Cross Old Hunter Road, hike through the Lemon Squeeze, and traverse the reforested area. Climb to the highest point in camp (2540 ft.). Continue downhill joining with the Red trail toward the lowest point in camp at Sprague Brook (1950 ft.). Travel up the original camp entrance road to the dam, hike to the ranger’s house, and take the Blue trail for a short distance to reconnect with the White trail. Look for signs of coyote, deer, bear and birds of prey along this section. Cross the Yellow trail and continue along the White trail. At the intersection of the Yellow Bar trail the White trail follows the northern border of the swamp. Join with the Red trail and hike downhill past Wildcat Falls and toward the campsite. At the end of the day, dinner is at the Long House.

Tuesday: Eat breakfast in dining hall and pack a trail lunch. Cross into state land hike to Mongaup Pond via Hodge Pond (10 mi.). Hike along the OSR Blue trail, starting in the camp parking lot. Take the Yellow trail to the end of camp property, continue ahead and join with the NYS Orange snowmobile trail. Hike uphill passed Coyote Junction. Take the Red Quick Lake trail around Hodge Pond Mountain at 2750 ft. Join with the Blue Flynn trail to Hodge Pond. After lunch at Hodge Pond, continue along the Blue trail to the Orange snowmobile trail to Mongaup Pond. Meet the supply truck and setup camp. Swim or fish at the pond, or participate in ranger lead program. Last hot shower along the trek is here.

Wednesday Enjoy breakfast at Mongaup Pond and pack a trail lunch. Take the Blue trail over Beaver Kill Ridge, through the Big Indian Wilderness, and over Beaver Kill River. Intersect with the Red trail and hike to the fire tower at Balsam Mountain. Learn from a NYS forest ranger about the historic fire tower and climb to the top. Camp at the lean too on Balsam Mountain. Have dinner at the campsite.

Thursday: Eat breakfast atop Balsam Mountain and pack a trail lunch. Hike to Big Pond primitive campsite via Alder Lake. Explore the Coykendall mansion ruins and learn the history of the region’s fishing operation and of the camp at Alder Lake, formerly part of TRC. Fish, eat dinner, and camp at Big Pond.

Friday: Enjoy breakfast at Big Pond campsite and pack a trail lunch. Hike to the parking lot at Little Spring Brook Road. Return to OSR via camp transport van.

Saturday: Have breakfast at the Long House. Pack up and depart OSR.


This 50-mile trek is more physically demanding than your typical week at OSR. However, scouts who are in good health, meet the age requirement, and are of an adequate maturity level should be able to meet the challenge.

Scouts are encouraged to build up their stamina by going on weekend hikes with their troops and even adding weight to their packs. Scouts may also participate in weekend hikes and local conservation projects in preparation for the trek by contacting Trek Staff (see next page).

Medical Conditions:

Given the strenuous nature of a backpacking trek, consult your doctor if you have any concerns or if you have:

• heart trouble;

• asthma;

• allergy to insect bites; or

• sensitivity to extreme temperatures.

All participants are required to complete and submit the same medical form required for all summer campers at OSR.

Meals and Cooking:

All food and cooking gear is provided by OSR. Scouts pick up and prepare food at stop-overs along the trail. Since food is supplied at locations along the trail, generally only lunch needs to be packed while hiking. Generally, scouts will eat trail meals prepared over a camp stove for dinner. Breakfast items and sandwiches for lunch require less preparation and cleanup. If you have any questions, concerns, or require accommodations, please contact Trek Staff in advance.


As you hike, your body sheds water rapidly, which can lead to dehydration. For this reason, it is important to continuously rehydrate along the trail. Scouts should be able to carry at least 3 liters of water while backpacking.

Along the trail hikers need to replenish supply. Occasionally, water from a source may need to be purified before drinking. Your Trek Guide will provide water purification equipment as needed and teach scouts about the different methods and importance of water purification.

Sleeping Arrangements:

Scouts are encouraged to bring their own 2-person tent. Depending on the number of participants and available tents, Trek Staff will help coordinate among participants and help facilitate arrangements as needed. Communication is key.

Scouts will not carry their tents along the trail most days. Instead, tents will be transported by vehicle and dropped off at stop-overs. However, tents must be carried between Balsam Mountain and Alder Lake. Even though scouts will not always hike with them, tents should be of lightweight backpacking quality. Typically, an adequate 2-person tent weighs anywhere between 3-5 lbs.


Scouts are required to bring 3 sets of clothing with them on the trek. Two sets are for wearing while hiking or for packing, alternating each day. Damp clothes need time to dry out, and at the same time, you should not carry more than necessary. A good combination is two T-shirts, one pair of shorts, and one hybrid pair of zip-off pants/shorts. Alternatively, scouts may bring two pairs of shorts and wear long rain pants in cool weather. Fabric should be quick-drying (not cotton) whenever possible. Two pairs of wool socks and two pairs of underwear complete the two sets. Underwear can be cotton. Nylon sock liners are strongly recommended to protect against blisters.

The third set is for sleeping only. Gym shorts and a T-shirt or tank top are sufficient. Scouts should also bring underwear and socks just for sleeping. Cotton can be used for sleeping clothes, but they must always be kept completely dry. Still, wicking synthetics are the preferred material for all clothing. By using quickdrying fabrics, sleeping clothes can be substituted more easily for hiking clothes in a pinch.

Finally, scouts should bring a long-sleeve outer layer (synthetic or fleece sweater/jacket), rain jacket and pants, and a brimmed hat for sun protection. Consult the Gear Checklist on the following page for a complete view of clothing and gear that is required or recommended. If you have any questions regarding what to bring or how to pack, contact Trek Staff.

Cost, Signup, and Other information:

The cost for the trek is ??? per participant. Fishing license may be required. Trek itinerary is subject to variation.

To sign up, go to: Link available currently not available

Personal Gear

Item Comment QTY

Backpack at least 50-60 liters 1

Pack Cover waterproof 1

Tent 2-person capacity; 3-5 lbs.; covers two scouts 1

Gallon zip-lock bags pack clothes 4-8

Ditty bags pack personal items 1-3

Hat or cap with brim broad brim offers best sun protection 1

Shorts synthetic preferred 1-2

Zip-off pants/shorts alternative to single pair of shorts; synthetic 0-1

T-shirts synthetic preferred 3

Sweater/outer layer lightweight; long sleeves; synthetic or fleece 1

Rain jacket waterproof and breathable 1

Rain pants waterproof and breathable 1

Hiking boots, pair waterproof 1

Socks, pair wool or synthetic 3

Camp shoes,pair lightweight sneakers or closed-toe sandal 1

Sleep clothes, set light, comfortable shirt and gym shorts 1

Underwear 3

Bathing suit 1

Bowl deep enough for meals; lightweight 1

Spoon/spork durable and lightweight 1

Water bottles average 1 quart/liter each 3

Pocket knife small and lightweight 1

Matches/lighter waterproof container 1

Flashlight/head lamp bring extra batteries 1

Compass must be able to use for map orienteering 1

Camp towel 1

Toothbrush and paste travel-size 1

Whistle plastic preferred 1

Sleeping bag rated for at least 40°F 1

Stuff sack waterproof, for sleeping bag 1

Sleeping pad closed-cell foam or inflatable 1

Crew Gear

Water container

Stove and fuel

Cooking equipment


First aid kit

Duct tape


Bug spray

Water purification

Nylon cord

Tarp (dining/pack fly)

Toilet paper

Recommended Gear



Sock liners

Foot powder


Notepad & pen

Contact Information

Thinking about doing the trek? Let Dave Swartz know: Dave.Swartz@scouting.org

Information about doing a self-lead trek or staff run trek: James Van Tassell james.vantassell@osrtrails.org

Trek & Gear and Merit badge Information: Charlie Ruiz osrhiker1876@gmail.com

Pre-Hike Treks & Conservation Projects: James Van Tassell james.vantassell@ligreenbelt.org