Category Archives: Hiking

Hurricane Mountain and Fire Tower

A popular hike with an unforgettable view.

Just east of the high peaks region stands Hurricane Mountain and the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower.   Unusual for its 3,694-foot summit, the summit is bare and provides 360 degree views.  Hiking to the summit via the main trial is a moderate 2.2 miles with 2,000 feet elevation gain.

High Peaks from Hurricane
High Peaks from Hurricane

Trails

There are three trails up Hurricane Mountain.  The the most popular and direct trail begins from Route 9N.  Alternatively you can follow the old road up east side of the mountain, but the trail is no longer maintained.  Finally you can ascend from the north-west side of the mountain.

Hurricane Trailhead (2.3 miles to summit –2,000′ elevation gain – Red Markers) The trailhead is located on State Route 9N about halfway between Elizabethtown and Keene.  There is not a dedicated parking lot, so look for the small trailhead sign on the north side of the road.

From the road, the trail climbs up a staircase to the trail register.  From here the trail climbs steeply to the top of a knoll, before leveling out among some backcountry ponds.  From here the trail continues to gently climb before an extended climb to the summit.

Just prior to the summit there is a trail intersection in a small clearing.  Turn right to the summit.

Return the same way.  Hiking Time: 4-5 hours due to the elevation gain.  Less if you are comfortable hiking at such a steep grade.

Hurricane East Trail (2.0 miles to summit – 1,700′ elevation gain) This trail follows the old jeep road up the mountain for 1.2 miles to the site of the old observer’s cabin (only foundation remains).  From here the trail continues along a more traditional trail.

Until recent times, capable vehicles were able to drive a significant way up the old road, meaning the hike was shorter than the now-popular Route 9N trailhead.

Today the last part of the road is closed to public traffic, making the Route 9N trail more convenient and scenic.  If you chose to take this trail, the beginning of this trail (former road) is private property.  Be sure to be courteous and to obey all signs.  Do not pass the gate, even if it is open.

Hurricane North Trail (2.7 Miles ‐ 1,600′ elevation Gain) This trail is longer, but begins at a higher elevation that then route 9N trailhead. This shorter and longer trail makes make it a bit more relaxing pace.

The trail begins as the “Crow Clearing” trailhead, at the end of O’Toole Road.  From here the trail begins up the Gulf Brook Trail for 1.1 miles, before turning right and heading up to the summit.  The final push becomes steep.  Just before the summit the trail joins with the trail from Route 9N.

A lean-to is located near the trail intersection.

Return the same way.  Hiking Time: 4-5 hours.  Less if you are hiking at a faster pace.

Early History

Hurricane Mountain’s unique position close to the high peaks, yet with a view of Lake Champlain made it an important viewpoint for the Verlanck Colvin – the early Adirondack surveyor and proponent of protecting the Adirondack Mountains.  Using lighthouses with known locations on Lake Champlain, Colvin was able to triangulate the location of the summit in July 1873.  Once Hurricane Mountain’s position was located, dozens of other peaks were then located.  Additional surveys were conducted, with a pole survey tower erected in June 1876.

Unfortunately this survey work came at a cost.  Hurricane Mountain has not always been a bald mountain.  To gain  full 360-degree views, Covin’s team clear cut the summit.  Unfortunately that lead to significant erosion.  Since then, the summit has not fully restored itself.  Similar summit clearings were performed on Blue Mountain, St. Regis Mountain (fire out of control), Ampersand Mountain (already partially cleared) and many others.  It is somewhat ironic how many of today’s best hiking destinations have suffered significant environmental destruction.

Fire Tower History

Following extensive forest fires in 1903 (428,180 acres) and 1908 (368,000 acres), in 1909 the state initiated a fire detection system, with a station (but not a tower) on Hurricane Mountain.  Given the splendid views, a tower was not built until 1919, partially for the purpose of providing the spotter a durable shelter.

The tower is a standard AerMotor Model # LS‐40 Fire Tower, with 5 flights of stairs and 35 feet from the ground to the floor of the cab – the standard way to measure towers.

Originally, fire observers stayed in large tents.  In 1916 a log structure was built, but only used for a single year.  The following year another cabin was built.  In 1928, a standard 12×16 cabin with covered porch was built.  The cabin was located on the East trail where it crosses Falls Brook.

Following the use of airplanes in fire spotting, the tower was last manned in 1982.  The cabin and related outbuildings were after 1982.  All that remains of the cabin site are parts of the stone foundation and miscellaneous pieces of wood.

The tower is currently on the National Historic Lookout Register and
was listed in 2007 on the National Register of Historic Places.  Recently the land surrounding the tower has been designated a Historic Area.  The Friends of Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower are working towards renovating the tower and opening it back up to the public.

The lower stairs have been removed as a safety precaution and the tower cannot be climbed.

See also

Trailhead Directions

From South: Take State Route 73 through Keene/Keene Valley towards Lake Placid.  Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes will be on your left near the summit of the four-mile uphill drive out of Keene.  Just past Upper Cascade Lake the trailhead is on your left.

From East/North East: Take 9N towards Keene, then head north on Route 73 (Keene) from  towards Lake Placid.  Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes will be on your left near the summit of the four-mile uphill drive out of Keene.  Just past Upper Cascade Lake the trailhead is on your left.

From West (Lake Placid):  Take Route 73 out of Lake Placid towards Keene.  You can follow signs for Mount Van Hoevenberg.  The trailhead is 1.3 miles after the main entrance to Mount Van Hoevenberg on the right.  If you reach Upper Cascade Lake you went too far.

GPS Address: Latitude: 44.246, Longitude: -73.698

Camping

There no designated sites from the Route 9N trailhead or the eastern trailhead.  The trails are steep and not a great candidate for overnight camping.  From the Crow Clearing trailhead, there is one lean-to located at approximately 1.1 miles.   Alternatively you may create a legal site in the woods if you wish to spend the night (150 feet from trail and water).

Kids

The hike is modest, with few difficult scrambles and cliffs.  Most active kids should make it to the top if taken slowly.

Pets

Bring them. It is a moderate hike with few cliffs and scrambles.  Expect to see other people and dogs.

What to bring

Water, lunch, camera and a jacket for the summit.

Winter Concerns

The summit is very exposed.  Extra wind protection is suggested.  The trail can be steep so crampons (standalone or alpine snowshoes) are recommended.

If you have anything to add, please leave it below.  Feel free to ask a question too.  Happy Journeys!

State to Sell Lake Tear of the Clouds – Enraging Environmentalists

Albany, NY – Deep in the new NYS budget is a back-room deal to sell 518 acres surrounding Lake Tear Lake of the Clouds, located on the south side of Mount Marcy, to a downstate company for $3.15 million dollars.  Acid Rain Recovery, Inc. intends to harvest the unique “tears” from the lake, which has a retail market value of over $1.885 billion dollars per year.

Governor Cuomo applauded the project saying it will “Create thousands of jobs while reducing hydrogen [from acid rain] in streams, ponds and rivers of Upstate New York”.  Environmentalists disagree and say the tears should remain forever wild.

Tears

President of Acid Rain Recovery, Noah Rondeau, explained that the tears found in Lake Tear of the Clouds are a special blend of hydrogen and oxygen in a two to one ratio.  Latest scientific studies have shown that this ratio can be beneficial in human biology.  Beyond use as artificial tears, it has been shown to be useful additive for dieting and as a recovery formula following exercise.

This unusually cold and drawn out past winter, including the media-hyped polar vortices, has increased the rate of tears found in the lake due to the effect of seasonal (winter) depression on the clouds (see SAD).  In everyday language, the clouds were cold and SAD, and thus cried more tears than usual.  Scientifically, colder weather increases the likelihood of the tear generation within clouds, particularly when the air temperature lowers to reach the dew-point.

Tear Rejuvenation Program

Rondeau also explained the impact of over 100 years of acid rain on Lake Tear of the Clouds.  Coupled with the cold winder, the lake’s tear population was frozen solid and in dire need of rejuvenation.  He suggests importing new tears from a nearby spring. He says the spring is close, but most do not believe that the spring is near enough.

Refresh Optive
Refresh Optive be re-branded as “Adirondack Mist”

The cost of tear rejuvenation program will be funded by pharmaceutical company Allergan.  Allergan in exchange will recycle the tears removed from the lake for use in their artificial tear eye drops re-branded as “Adirondack Mist” (formerly Refresh Optive).

The site was chosen because of its unique near alpine elevation (4,293 ft) at the head of the Hudson River.  Further, removal of the excess hydrogen ions from acid rain in the lake will purify the entire Hudson River to New York City.  The DEC suggests that New York City will begin drawing drinking water directly from the Hudson in approximately 5 months.

Part of the program include damming all other streams entering the Hudson River all the way to NYC and redirecting the dam water to New Jersey.  Scientist think the dam idea is stupid, but do not have a better dam idea to offer.

The Bottom Eating Acid

A worse-case scenario discussed by the DEC is the impact of the acid rain on the lake bottom.  Continued exposure to the unfiltered acid has resulted in the degradation and erosion of the lake bottom.  Continued erosion has caused politicians to fear the lake bottom will erode all the way to China, causing the newly dammed Hudson River to dry up.

To counteract the problem, the DEC is recommending that hikers visiting the lake carry a rock up the trail and throw it into the pond while making a wish.  Rocks are available for free at the trailhead for transport, but you must sign a waiver saying that you will share 50% of your wish with the state.  Millionaires will have a 110% tax.

Pile of Rocks
Pile of Rocks – The state purchased the special granite rocks at a cost of $3,000 per pound.

Other Thoughts

Hiking and camping will not be impacted by the deal, but hikers should bring tissues to prevent tear contamination in the lake.   The DEC has mentioned spontaneous crying is a serious environmental concern.

While normally the land deal would require a constitutional approval, Cuomo said the constitution does not apply to his ideas and issued a message of necessity, making the deal effective immediately.

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Have a happy [and hopefully not gullible] first of April.  All above references are in jest only.  If you enjoyed a bit of light hearted fun, please pass this along to your friends.  Click your favorite social platform below to share.

Introduction to Day Hiking – Your First Hike

If you can walk, then you can day hike!  Hiking is just walking in the wild side.

Roped into going on your first day hike?  Taking a vacation in the Adirondacks? Want to go explore the backcountry?  In this article we will provide some need-to-know information for your first day hike.   This is the first in an introductory series to day hiking.

Hiking Basics

Whether this is your first hike or your thousandth, the preparation is the same.  Let’s take a look at planning, preparing, hiking and returning from your first day hike.

Selecting your First Day Hike

Depending on your current comfort level, your first day hike can be anything from a short, flat hike into a pond to a steep hike to the top of a high peak.

To ensure a fun and successful trip, start small.  A hike into a pond or small mountain (a fire tower is a plus) is a great relaxing way to begin.  From here you can gauge your comfort level and add distance and elevation change in future day hikes.

When you select a hike there are three things to look for:

  • Length – A first hike should be at most a few miles.  A 2 mile hike is probably right if there is elevation change. Over time you can work up to 4-6 mile hikes.  Even seasoned hikers rarely hike more than 8 miles in a day.
  • Elevation Gain – As trails get steeper, hiking can slow to a crawl.  It is not uncommon to take 2 hours to hike only one mile up a mountain.  This needs to be budgeted into your timeline and expected enjoyment.  Gothics Mountain in the High Peaks Region has a spectacular view, but it is not easy to get to due to elevation gain.  Also watch out for rolling trails.  They might not climb up to the summit of mountain, but the constant up and down is more difficult than you might expect.
  • Terrain and Trail Conditions – A one mile hike over relatively flat terrain on a secluded trail sounds like a relaxing day.  The remainder of the story is what the trail conditions are like.  Is it rocky? muddy? unmaintained with down trees and no trail markers?  Icy trails are common in late fall.  Snow and overflowing streams are common through April and into May in deeper valleys. Unfortunately terrain and trail conditions are difficult to know before hand, but keeping to popular trails, during the summer months provides the best bet.  Spring hiking is typically has the worse conditions.  It starts with melting snow (March/April), then muddy trails (April/Early May), and ends with black fly season (late May through June).  There is a small window near Memorial Day that provides pleasant hiking.

Regardless of which hike you start with, your first hikes should be in the warmth of the summer with good weather.  You will simply enjoy it more, with less risks.

Starter Mountains

  • Bald Mountain (Old Forge Region) – A popular 1-mile trail brings you to a summit overlooking the Fulton Chain of Lakes.  As an added bonus there is a fire tower at the summit.  Return down the same 1-mile trail.
  • Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain (South of Plattsburgh) – A steep 1-mile trail or gentler 2-mile trail bring you to the summit with views of the entire Lake Champlain Valley, Giant Mountain and Whiteface.  Climb the tower to see all the way to Montreal on a clear day.
  • Hadley Mountain (Great Sacandaga / Lake George Region) – A very popular, but modestly steep 1.8 mile hike brings you to the summit of this southern peak.  A fire tower provides 360-degree views.
  • Cascade Mountain (High Peaks Region) – Want to start with a 46er?  This is the one!  The 2.2 miles to the summit and 1,940 feet elevation gain reward with a true mountain experience.  Cascade’s rock summit is completely exposed and provides views of Lake Placid and the high peaks.
  • Hurricane Mountain (Keene Valley Region) – A million dollar view.  At 2.5 miles and 2000′ feet elevation gain, this is about the same difficulty as Cascade Mountain, but the view is one of the best!
  • Ampersand Mountain (West Of Saranac Lake) – Another modest mountain with a great view.

Continue reading:

Porter Mountain

The second easiest High Peak.

Porter Mountain is the  38th highest peak at 4,059 feet, with a 2.2 mile trail and 1,940 feet elevation gain to an open summit with 360-degree panoramic views of other High Peaks.

Trail

Trailhead (2.8 miles to summit – 2,000′ elevation gain) The trailhead begins just north of Upper Cascade Lake on Route 73.  From the road, the trail dips briefly before starting the ascent to the summit.

Once the trail begins climbing, the trail consistently gains elevation the entire hike up.  Just before the summit of Cascade Mountain (0.2 before the summit) there is a trail junction.  The left trail heads to the summit of Cascade and right trail heads to Porter.  Keep right for Porter’s summit.

The trail dips down before the final push to Porter’s summit.  Porter’s summit is narrow and long.  There is not a single place with 360-degree panoramic views, but multiple overlooks that offer great views.

Return the same way.  Hiking Time: 2-3 hours due to the elevation gain.  Less if you are comfortable hiking at such a steep grade.

Cascade and Porter Mountain Map (west)
Cascade and Porter Mountain Map (Download PDF)

Other notes:

  • Consider taking the side trip to Cascade Mountain.  It is only an extra 0.4 miles, and you are already near 4,000 feet, so there is little elevation gain.
  • No camping or fires allowed above 4,000 feet.

See also

Trailhead Directions

From South: Take State Route 73 through Keene/Keene Valley towards Lake Placid.  Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes will be on your left near the summit of the four-mile uphill drive out of Keene.  Just past Upper Cascade Lake the trailhead is on your left.

From East/North East: Take 9N towards Keene, then head north on Route 73 (Keene) from  towards Lake Placid.  Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes will be on your left near the summit of the four-mile uphill drive out of Keene.  Just past Upper Cascade Lake the trailhead is on your left.

From West (Lake Placid):  Take Route 73 out of Lake Placid towards Keene.  You can follow signs for Mount Van Hoevenberg.  The trailhead is 1.3 miles after the main entrance to Mount Van Hoevenberg on the right.  If you reach Upper Cascade Lake you went too far.

GPS Address: Latitude: 44.218, Longitude: -73.887

Camping

No designated sites along the trail or on summit.  Create a legal site in the woods if you wish to spend the night (150 feet from trail and water).

Kids

The hike is reasonably long and steep, but has few difficult scrambles and cliffs.  Most active kids should make it to the top if taken slowly.

Pets

Bring them. It is a moderate hike with few cliffs and scrambles.  Please leash your dog for this one, particularly on a popular weekend day.  Expect to see other people and dogs.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit.

Winter Concerns

The summit is very exposed.  Extra wind protection and crampons are suggested.

If you have anything to add, please leave it below.  Feel free to ask a question too.  Happy Journeys!

Wakely Mountain Fire Tower

A modest hike past a backwoods pond to a remote fire tower.

NOTICE: As of May 2017, the fire tower was found structurally unsafe and both the trail and tower are closed for the foreseeable future.  This is in addition to the closure of the tower itself in December 2016.

Hidden away in the south-central Adirondacks is one of the largest Adirondack Fire Towers still standing and due to recent restoration efforts, it is safely climbable too.  At an impressive 70 feet, those scared of heights need not apply.   After a dizzying 11 flights of stairs, full 360 degree views show distant places such as Blue Mountain, the High Peaks, Indian Lake, and more.

Trail

Trailhead (3.2 miles):  From the 20-car trailhead on Cedar River Rd, the trail begins by following  a slightly uphill former Jeep trail.  After two miles and 500 feet in elevation a spur trail leads to a back country pond, which is a good time to take a break.

From the pond, the trail begins to head northwest up the mountain, getting much steeper.   The remaining 1.2 miles climbs 1100 feet to the 3744 foot summit.

Expect your hike to be quiet, except on nice weekend/holidays where you will pass a handful of other hikers.  This is one of the least-hiked fire towers in the Adirondacks.

No views from base of tower.  Return the same way. Hiking Time: 3 hours at a relaxing pace.

Wakely Mountain Map
Wakely Mountain Map

History

Wakely’s prominence in the southern mountains made it an excellent candidate for a fire tower.  In 1911 a wooden tower was built on the summit.  This temporary structure was replaced with a 70 foot AerMotor LL25 tower.  This is the cabin that still stands today.

One of the unique artifacts of this tower was that is was one of the first ten built in the Adirondack Park.  The towers were adapted from windmills, which did not need daily access, and had a vertical ladder on the outside of the tower.  All later towers across the park were built with the standard staircase we now see.  The original ten were eventually refitted with “modern” stairs (1930), but only this tower still has the original vertical staircase attached.  The lower section was removed to prevent climbing.

Wakely is the tallest of the original ten LL25 steel towers and the third tallest tower still standing (fourth ever).

There has been three cabins built for an observer, with the current cabin built in 1972-1973.  The 25′ x 25′ helicopter landing platform was built to assist with the 1972 cabin installation.

Recently, Friends of Wakely Mountain have assisted in rehabilitating the tower and site.  Also a radio repeater and solar panels have been attached to the tower.

See also

  • Cedar River Headquarters
  • Cedar River Flow
  • The Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge

Trailhead Directions

This very remote trailhead is difficult to get to and uses seasonal roads.  Bring a map.

From East/South: Coming from the hamlet of Indian Lake, take NY-28 N/NY-30 S/State Hwy 30 S for 2.1 miles west out of town.  Turn left on Cedar River Road (across from Cedar River Golf Course). It is another 12 miles to the trailhead.  If you reach the Cedar Flow Dam area, known as “Headquarters”, you’ve gone slightly too far.

From West: Coming from Blue Mountain Lake, take NY-28 N/NY-30 S/State Hwy 30 S for 9 miles and turn right on Cedar River Road (across from Cedar River Golf Course). It is another 12 miles to the trailhead.  If you reach the Cedar Flow Dam area, known as “Headquarters”, you’ve gone slightly too far.

From West (Alternative): An alternative route though Moose River Recreation Area is possible, but follows a slow, 4×4 dirt road for over 20 miles.  Enter the Moose River Recreation Area in Inlet, just north of 5th lake, Limekiln Rd.  Follow it to the end at Cedar River Flow (“Headquarters”).  From here it is about 0.2 miles along Cedar River Road to the trailhead.

GPS Address: 43.731061, -74.472622  – Be careful if coming from the west that it does not take you through the Moose River Recreation Area, unless that is your plan.

Camping

No designated sites along the trail or on summit. Either create a legal site in the woods (150 feet from trail and water) stay at nearby hotel or campground.

Nearby (south of trailhead) is Cedar River Headquarters, with many car camping sites.

Kids

The hike is reasonably long and the last part is steep, but has few difficult scrambles and cliffs.  Most active kids should make it to the top if taken slowly. Caution should be exercised if climbing the fire tower — it is tall!

Pets

Bring them. It is a moderately-long hike with few cliffs and scrambles.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit.

Winter Concerns

Cedar River Road is a seasonal road and winter access is difficult.

Blue Mountain and Fire Tower

A steep hike to a panoramic view of Blue Mountain Lake and the western high peaks.

At 3,759 feet, Blue Mountain towers over all its neighbors and provides magnificent views in all directions.  The High Peaks, the southern peaks, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake Eaton, Raquette Lake and many other locations are visible from the summit and fire tower.  Justifiably, Blue Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Adirondacks with about 15,000 hikers annually.

Trail

Trailhead (2 miles to summit – 1,400′ elevation gain) The trailhead is where State Route 30 / State Route 28N travels over Blue Mountain on its way to Long Lake.  There is parking for about 20 cars.  From the parking lot there are two trails, one leading towards Blue Mountain (red markers) and another towards Tirrell Pond (yellow markers).  The register is in the back right of the parking long, with clear arrows towards the trail.

Blue Mountain Trail Topo
Blue Mountain Trail Topo

The trail starts gently meandering along a former logging road before turning up.  The trip up is reasonably steep for about 0.5 miles.  Fortunately there is a break at this point (halfway up mountain) and the trail goes around the mountain gaining no elevation (0.4 miles).

From here it is another reasonably steep 0.5 miles before the trail begins to level off near the summit.  A final gentle summit walk leads to the fire tower.

There are not too many overlooks along the trail, except very near the summit.  Our recommendation is skip overlooks near the summit (would need to bushwack to get a good view anyways), and see it all at once from the summit.

Despite it popularity, most hikers do not realize that most of blue Mountain is private lands, including the trails.  Annually the private landowner, Upper Hudson Woodlands (ATP) , grants permission for trail usage. There is only one public trail up Blue Mountain (described above).  The roads up the mountain are not for public use, including hiking on them.

Other notes:

  • No fires allowed on the summit.
  • Located in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest

History

Blue Mountain dominance over its surrounding made it an ideal place for a fire tower.  In the 1870s geographical surveys were conducted from the summit.  Originally the summit was covered in trees, but many were removed so that sightlines to other peaks could be created.  Additionally a survey tower and leantos was built on the summit.  A survey benchmark can still be found near the tower.

The survey tower eventually collapsed and  a new tower was built in 1907.  The 35′ wooden observation tower was built by of owner Blue Mountain Hotel for his guests.  In 1911, when New York State began its fire observation program, the wooden tower was a part of it.

In 1917, like many wood towers across the state, it was replaced by an AerMotor LL‐25 Fire Tower.  It was also 35 feet tall, but made of durable galvanized metal and still stands today.

With fire observers also comes the need for cabins.  Four were been built on the summit of Blue Mountain over the years, with the latest one built in 1975.  It still standing on east side of the tower, but is not open to the public.

The tower was one of the last towers in operation.  It closed in 1990 and was left to rot.  It would not go unmaintained for long though, in 1993 plans began to rehabilitate the tower for recreational use.

Blue Mountain Fire Tower was the first public-private preservation partnership and has served as a model for similar tower restorations across the state.  In 1994 the DEC, with the help of others, restored the fire tower.  That same year, the first paid fire tower steward in the state was hired – a SUNY ESF student.  Today the Friends of Blue Mountain lead restoration efforts.

Blue Mountain is also important for communications.   Many state and local organizations use it, including: DEC Law Enforcement, Fire Management and Administration, the Division of State Police, Department of Transportation, Hamilton County Sheriff, Emergency Medical Services, Hamilton County Highway Department, and National Public Radio.

Formerly a Cold War radar facility topped Blue Mountain for use in national defense.  The large concrete slabs are all that remain.  Also, the summit has high voltage power and emergency backup generators.  The power poles/lines can be seen looking north/northwest near tower. The summit cabin is one of the few across that state that has power.

See also

Trailhead Directions

From South/Southwest: Coming from Old Forge, continue on State Route 28 into the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.  Continue through town staying straight (left) at the route 30 intersection.  You will now be heading north on State Route 30/28N and headed steeply up Blue Mountain.  When you reach the summit, the trailhead is on the right.

From South/Southeast: Coming from Indian Lake / North Creek, continue on State Route 28/30 into the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake where you will reach a stop sign (small gas station on left).  You will now be heading north on State Route 30/28N and headed steeply up Blue Mountain.  When you reach the summit, the trailhead is on the right.

From North: Coming from Long Lake, take State Route 30/28N south towards the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.  You will see the mountain many times as you travel south.  There are a few signs to watch for, particularly “Trailhead ahead” and “Blue Mountain Lake”.  Also immediately before the trailhead is a sign telling trucks steep grade ahead, use low gears.  Trailhead is on your left.

GPS Address: Easiest is use: 9097 New York 30, Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812, which is the Adirondack Museum, a few hundred feet south of the trailhead.

Camping

No designated sites along the trail or on summit. Either create a legal site in the woods (150 feet from trail and water) stay at nearby hotel or campground.

Kids

The hike is reasonably long and steep, but has few difficult scrambles and cliffs.  Most active kids should make it to the top if taken slowly. Caution should be exercised if climbing the fire tower.

Pets

Bring them. It is a moderate hike with few cliffs and scrambles.  Please leash your dog for this one, particularly on a popular weekend day.  Expect to see other people and dogs.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit.

Winter Concerns

Ice, Ice and more ICE!! Unless very snow-covered (not that often), expect the trail to be primarily ice-covered.  The trail is worn to bedrock in many places and water seeps from the surrounding soil onto the trail, where it then freezes.  It is not uncommon to see ice over a foot thick.  Further the trail is on the south-western part of the mountain which is warmed by the afternoon sun, then freezes at night.

There are no significant scrambles, rather many long ice flows.    Crampons should be considered mandatory.  Yaktrax or similar work if there is little snow.  Otherwise the crampons on a good pair of shoeshoes should be worn.  The tower itself is open year round, but can be very icy.  Use caution if attempting to climb.

If you have anything to add, please leave it below.  Feel free to ask a question too.  Happy Journeys!

Bald Mountain Fire Tower (Rondaxe Mountain)

A quick and easy hike with a great view for the entire family.

Bald Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Adirondacks, and the most visited fire tower, with well over 15,000 people visiting annually.  This is a short and easy hike with a 360 degree view from the 2350 foot summit overlooking the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

Tower History

In 1912 the first tower atop Bald Mountain and made of wood.  It stood twenty-foot feet high and had no cab, just a few square foot ‘deck’ for the observers to watch from completely exposed to the elements.

In 1917, today’s steel tower replaced the wooden structure.    Higher at 35 feet, it is the standard AerMotor LS‐40 Fire Tower.

The Observation Tower closed in 1990 along with the three remaining towers still staffed: Blue, Hadley, and St. Regis Mountains.  With modern advances in satellite, radar and aerial observations, they were no longer needed.

The tower was left to rot, but beginning in 2002 Friends of Bald Mountain began a multi-year restoration project.  They begin tackling safety and general maintenance issues, and since have even installed a replica circular map in the cab.

The friends are still active and maintenance work is regularly on both the tower, trail system and informational signage at the trailhead.

The Trail

Rondaxe Road Trailhead (1 mile to summit):  The trail is a relatively easy at a bit under a mile and only 500 feet elevation gain.  The trail largely follows the ridge to the summit.

Bald Mountain Trail
Bald Mountain Trail

The trailhead is on Rondaxe Road just east of Old Forge.  From Old Forge, take State Route 28 north towards Inlet.  From Enchanted Forrest Water Safari it is 4.4 miles to the left turn on Rondaxe Road.

Rondaxe Road is clearly marked by large signs.  Once on Rondaxe Road the trailhead is on the left at about 1000 feet, again clearly marked with DEC signs.   There is space for about 30 cars, which is not uncommon on a summer weekend.

A side note.  There once was a trailhead on route 28 itself, but it closed many years ago due to trail degradation.  Please use the Rondaxe Road Trailhead.  Why not? it’s a higher in elevation!

The trailhead is in the back right side of the parking lot with a covered register and informational board kiosk.  From here the trail begins as a wide and slightly uphill ascent.

After 0.3 miles the trial turns steeper, climbing to the top of the ridge.  Fortunately this section is short (0.15 miles).  Once it has flattened out again, there is a good resting spot (lunch?) is the open overlook directly on the trail.

The trail follows the ridge rolling up and down a bit to the summit.  The grade is easy, but it does follow some rather narrow rock structures.  Be sure to have a close watch of very young children.The tower comes into view just as the trees begin to open up and show the lower Fulton Chain.

Once at the fire tower, climb on up!  On a busy weekend you may have to wait for others to leave.  The cab of the tower is small, only room for a handful of people, so if it is a busy day, limit your time to about five minutes.  You can always go up later if it empties out, so go eat lunch on the rocks.

Go beyond the tower if you are looking for a quieter spot to eat lunch.  The remains of the old observer’s cabin are also located beyond the tower by about 150 feet.

Return the same way. Hiking Time: 1-2 hours at a relaxing pace.

Is it ‘Bald’ or ‘Rondaxe’ Mountain?

Both really…the original name of the mountain was Bald Mountain, but there is also a ‘Bald Mountain’ north of Stillwater Reservoir in Croghan.  To prevent confusion, since both mountains had fire towers built upon them, this mountain was renamed to Rondaxe Mountain (and Rondaxe Mountain Fire Tower) in 1912 by the state.

While the name was understandably changed for fire tower records, the name change did not sit well with locals and hikers and they continue to this day to refer to it as Bald Mountain.  Even the DEC signs refer to it as Bald Mountain, but the Rondaxe Fire Tower.

Today the other Bald Mountain is in private hands (essentially always was), with the tower torn down, so there is no confusion any longer.  Locals and hikers use the name Bald Mountain.

See Also

  • Rocky Mountain – A nearby short hike with great views, but less crowded.
  • Black Bear Mountain – A nearby longer hike (2 miles to summit)
  • The Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge

Trailhead Directions

From South/West: Show

From Old Forge, take State Route 28 north towards Inlet.  From Enchanted Forrest Water Safari it is 4.4 miles to the left turn on Rondaxe Road.

GPS Address:  Rondaxe Rd, Old Forge, NY 13420

Camping

No designated sites along the trail or on summit. Either create a legal site in the woods (150 feet from trail and water) stay at one of the many nearby campgrounds.

Kids

The hike is relatively easy and most kids will not have serious difficulty with it. There are only a few cliff ledges and no difficult scrambles.  Use caution if climbing the fire tower.

Pets

Bring them. It is an easy hike with few cliffs and scrambles.  Please leash your dog for this one, particularly on a popular weekend day.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit

Winter Concerns

The hike into the fire tower is relatively protected and does not contain too much ice.   The trail is good for snowshoes, but not skis as it is too uneven.  The tower is open year round, but can be very icy.  Use caution if attempting to climb.

If you have anything to add, please leave it below.  Feel free to ask a question too.  Happy Journeys!

Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain and Fire Tower

A short, steep hike up panoramic views of the Champlain Valley, Giant Mt and Whiteface.

With beautiful 360 degree views of the High Peak and the entire Lake Champlain Valley, Poke-O-Moonshine is a must hike.  Despite its short 2,180 feet and 1.2 mile trail, the trail’s relentless steep grade makes the hike modestly difficult.

Overview

Located in the northeastern corner of the park, seconds from The Northway (Interstate 87), Poke-O-Moonshine is a popular destination for hikers, photographers, rock climbers and ice climbers.   A quick but strenuous hike is rewarded with great views.  Rock and ice climbers come from miles around due to it’s large open cliffs.  A state campground at the base of the cliffs, but has remained closed in recent years due to budget cuts.

Hikers have two options, either the 1.2 mile Ranger’s trail, starting at the southern end of the state campground or the longer 2.4 mile former Jeep trail used as access to the Observer’s Cabin – now called the Observer’s Trail.  The first is steep with one very nice overlook.  The latter is more modest (same elevation change, twice the distance) but without any overlooks.  Parking for this trail is just short of 1-mile south of the campground/Ranger’s Trail on Route 9.

Both trails converge at the old Observer’s Cabin, since torn down but with the foundation partially remaining.  From here the trail climbs towards the summit, with a nice High Peaks overlook.  The final push to the summit is rewarded by a majestic view to the south and after climbing the fire tower – 360 degrees.

From the fire tower the mountains quickly flatten and the city of Plattsburgh can be seen on most days, noticably the runway of the former US Air Force Base.  If it is exceptionally clear, views to Montreal and it’s surrounding hills are possible.  Towards the east is Lake Champlain with the hillside city of Burlington visible in front of the Green Mountains.  To the west Giant and Whiteface are the most prominent High Peaks, with many others visible too.

The fire tower was restored and if climbed while a steward is on duty provides a glimpse of how observers pin pointed fires in the days before GPS, planes and cell phones.

Trails

Two trails are available.  Most use the Ranger’s Trailhead from the south end of the campground.  The observer’s trail is far gentler (grade and footing) and makes a nice ski trail in the winter.

Ranger’s Trail (1.2 miles to summit): Located just south of exit 33 off The Northway, parking is along the roadside.   There is ample parking for parking on both sides of the road, but be sure to be well off the road as this is a state highway.  We trail-side has a steep embankments so be careful not to pull off too far, though additional stone was recently added.

The trail register is at the south end of the campground near the end of the chain link fence.   A well-defined foot trail can be seen around the fence.  While registering, grab a information phamplett provided by the Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine.

The trail begin to go up quickly, interpretive marker posts numbered 1-11 along the way (see pamphlet) roughly coincide with the tenths of a mile.  The first 8/10ths of a mile are the steepest, so go slow and rest at the various lookouts.  Between markers 4 and 5, the trail is relatively exposed and particularly dangerous in icy conditions.  Once over the scramble, take a minute to enjoy the first major overlook.  You are now on top of the first layer of cliffs.

From here the trail grows steeper without break until marker 8  and the former Observer’s Cabin.  Take your time and watch your footing.

From the old Observer’s Cabin to the summit is far more relaxed with a very nice view of Whiteface and the High Peaks just shortly after the cabin.  You can walk this overlook for about 150 feet before regaining the trail.  This makes for a nice picnic spot if the open summit is too windy.

The summit can sometimes be very busy.  The eastern side of the summit contains additional, quieter overlooks with gorgeous views of Lake Champlain and Vermont.

Observer’s Trail (2.4 miles to summit):  Approximately a mile south of the campground/Ranger’s trailhead and double the length of the Ranger’s trail, the Observer’s trial is a significantly gentler hike.  Due to it’s roots as a jeep trail, the hike is wide with few washouts.  Unfortunately that comes at the cost of overlooks, but the trail does pass two beaver ponds before meeting the Ranger’s Trail at the Observer’s Cabin.

Camping and Outhouses

Located near the old Oberserver’s Cabin is the Upper Tiers lean-to.  This makes a good spot to camp to view the morning sunrise.   There are no other designated camping spots along the trail and given the steepness of the terrain there are few spots that make good legal site 150 feet from trail/water.

There is an outhouse located near the lean-to/Observer’s Cabin.  Marked with directional signs, it is located a short walk down the Observer’s Trail.