A long lollipop route with a great mix of trail and bushwhack.
Hiking Trail Description
This long hike is notable for its beautiful stream settings and the fun bushwhack across the col between Fir and Big Indian.
I’ve done this hike twice in the snow and found it tiring both times. I’m looking forward to trying in the summer or fall some time, to see if the issue is the terrain or my legs…
Biscuit Brook Trailhead & Parking
This season has been crazy. Even in the middle of winter, driving up Route 47 I passed the Giant Ledge and Slide Mountain parking areas before 9:00am — and both were full. I got the last open spot at Biscuit Brook.
This small-ish Biscuit Brook parking area is on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead. After climbing into your gear, leave the lot, turn right and road walk for about 200 ft until you see the trailhead signs on the other side. Cross carefully.
Fir & Big Indian Hiking Route
The first mile of this hike is a mix of easy walking and a sketchy bit in the middle. Follow the blue blazes of the Pine Hill West Branch trail.
The trail winds uphill, away from Route 47, and then turns left to head northwest over and around a ridge. On your map, you’ll see the contours get tight and this section requires a little care with footing as the trail traverses the steep hillside.
But soon the trail winds around the side of the ridge. You’ll pass a hump on your left. Make sure to stay on trail here, as this is the very edge of public land; the hump is private property.
After this, the trail is very easy, heading straight down toward the Biscuit Brook lean-to.
There are two fun footbridges to cross. This is the first…
And this is the second…
Shortly after the second footbridge, you’ll pass a sign for the spur trail that leads down to the lean-to.
Biscuit Brook Lean-To
Continue along the trail. If you look back, you can see the lean-to through the trees…
I have passed this lean-to several times but never been down to it. I always think I’ll catch it in the way out, but I’m usually so beat after this hike that I don’t make it down there.
However, this is a very popular lean-to because it’s so beautifully situated. Biscuit Brook is super lovely.
Keep heading north on the trail. You’ll pass through a very beautiful hemlock stand, in a slightly cliffy setting.
The trail then turns right and heads down to the main brook crossing. You’ll have to rock-hop your way across; there is no footbridge here.
Most hikers who hike Fir first, use this spot as the main jumping off point for their ascent.
On this day, I had other plans…
Navigating Fir & Big Indian by Compass
This was my first time navigating by compass. It was so much fun — and it went great!
The feeling you get from finding your way, without GPS or phone nav, is so wonderful. It feels real. It’s very freeing. Best of all, it’s super easy! I swear, once you try it, you’ll never go back. (Blog post on this topic on the way…)
Most people start the bushwhack section of this hike right after the third brook crossing. For my bushwhack, I didn’t want to follow any tracks left in the snow, so I hiked 1000 ft further along the trail before jumping off.
I set my bearing for the summit and didn’t have to change it…
…although I learned a thing along the way.
The first few times you do a thing, you learn so much. After I set my bearing and started hiking uphill, I was able to. ditch my phone more or less completely. But I soon found that I had not read my map carefully enough. The straight line from my jump-off point to the summit crossed a section of tight contours around 3000’.
It didn’t look too bad on the map, but when I saw the giant wall looming ahead of me, I learned a thing about contours. I had to tack a little east to work around it. But I still didn’t have to adjust my bearing on the compass. I just used it in conjunction with the rule of up to stay on track.
Ledges & Trees
The hike up Fir’s southwestern ridge was tiring but pretty straightforward. There were no technical issues. Just lots of woods to hike through, and only a few ledge systems…
Lower down on Fir, it’s mostly young deciduous trees. The higher you get, the more fir tree stands you’ll come across. Fir Mountain is aptly named.
Around 3400’ I found a trench I was able to follow the rest of the way to the summit. I passed these lovely black cherry trees…
Fir Mountain’s Summit
A large group was already at the summit. Some were wearing masks, several were not. I signed the canister and moved on quickly, forgetting to take a photo.
Bushwhack Fir to Big Indian
From the summit of Fir to Big Indian, I followed the trench. I did set a new general bearing but the trench was what I used for navigation. At times, the trail took such weird turns, the direction of travel on the compass was behind me. This is an issue with winter hikes, when you’re following someone else’s tracks.
At one point, the track split in two, giving me a choice of left and right. I chose the right trail, but this turned out to be a track from people who had navigated badly. You can see on my GPS track how the route turns sharply northeast before having to correct itself by turning sharply west. Had I chosen the left trail I would have continued more directly down the ridge.
Nonetheless, I did get to walk through some beautiful fir stands…
…and the trail eventually reconnected with a more sensible route. I remembered these rocks from my previous hike up Big Indian and Fir which I did in the opposite direction.
I also saw these woodpecker holes very low down on a tree…
More firs on Fir Mountain…
Approaching Big Indian, the trench I followed took some weird turns, but the terrain here is pretty rugged, steep and ledgy.
Big Indian’s Summit
After a short, steep climb, the orange canister became visible through the trees.
From here there are several ways down to the Pine Hill West Branch trail. In the winter, there are several trenches to follow and it’s not clear which lead down the the trail and which terminate in a spot where someone has peed. You just do your best.
Descent from Big Indian
Once back on the main trail, turn left and follow the blue blazes again, heading south.
I met some hikers who had just come off South Doubletop…
The hike down is easy but long. Eventually, you get to this fantastic spot on Biscuit Brook which is always fun to cross.
From here, it’s just over two miles back to the parking area on Route 47.
At 10 miles, although moderate, this hike is a little on the long side. You might enjoy a shorter hike from this list of moderate hikes.
But maybe you would like a long hike.
The parent mountain for this hike is Fir.
Hey! If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below.
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Trailhead Info for this Hike
Medium-sized lot on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead.
GPS Location: 41.991444, -74.485034
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
Patchy LTE above 3250’. My network is Verizon. YMMV.