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Any primitive/public camp sites around Elk Lake?

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  • Any primitive/public camp sites around Elk Lake?

    Planning on doing the Dix loop with a base camp at one of the tent/lean-to areas along the trail that goes north from the south tip of Elk Lake. On the hike out i'd like to see if there's any places along Elk Lake to pitch a tent. I'll have a kayak with me on the car at the trail head, so water transport is fine. Can you camp on any of those little islands in the lake? Or is this all private property?

  • #2
    The lake & its shores are all private and there's no camping. And even if you stay at the Lodge, they don't let you bring your own boat, you need to use one of theirs. The first public camping is after state land begins a bit before the Slide Brook leanto & campsites, a couple of miles in.


    • #3
      Yeah, Rickhart is correct. Elk Lake is privately owned and you generally must be a paying guest of the Elk Lake Lodge to visit any part of the lake, even if you're not intending to paddle (and yes, they don't allow you to use your own boat even if you are a guest). The general public is allowed to pass through the property on the two state trails only (the trail to Slide/Lillian Brooks and the Dix Range, and the trail to Panther Gorge). Because the trail crosses said private property, there's no legal camping along the Dix trail until you pass onto state land, approximately 2 miles from the trailhead (and just before you arrive at Slide Brook).

      A few other things to be aware of:
      • The main lot at the trailhead is rather small (compared to many of the parking lots at other High Peaks trailheads) and fills up fast. It can be completely full by 6 am on a weekend, and lately it has been filling up early even on weekdays (especially if the weather is nice). There is no overflow parking permitted along the road here; all late-comers must park at the overflow lot located 2 miles south, just south of the gate at Clear Pond, and walk the subsequent distance to the trailhead on foot. You'd be well advised to plan to arrive either really early or really late, or else anticipate that you'll have 4 miles round trip added to the overall distance of your hike.
      • Similarly, both Slide and Lillian Brooks tend to be pretty popular and both areas will fill to capacity on just about any Summer weekend. Slide Brook has 5 designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to, Lillian Brook has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to. Slide Brook will see ~30 people camped there on a busy Summer weekend, that number increases to ~40 people on a holiday weekend. Nearly every Summer weekend will see multiple groups sharing many of the sites especially at Slide Brook. If you decide to camp primitively at a non-established site instead of using one of the designated sites, please keep the DEC's 150 foot rule in mind.
      • If you've done your research you're probably already aware of this but a surprising number of hikers visiting the Dix Range are not: All of the peaks in the Dix Range (with the exception of Dix itself) are accessed by unmarked trails, colloquially referred to in the hiking community as "herd paths." These unmarked trails are generally easy to follow but you'll need to do at least some research on the route in advance- especially to identify where junctions are located (how to find them) and which trail to take at each junction. A lot of hikers especially miss the junction at Slide Brook for the herd path to Macomb Mountain via the Macomb Slide. There are also some spots along the ridge connecting the peaks where the trails may become momentarily unclear- such as where they traverse rock ledges and slabs. You'll want to make sure that you've got a paper topographic map and compass and are familiar with the use of both for backcountry navigation.


      • #4
        Sorry for my late response, but thank you for all the detailed info? I contacted the Elk Lake Lodge and they did confirm all mentioned here. I may pop in there for dinner on my hike out though!

        We are planning to arrive at the Dix trail head by about Noon this coming Friday (before Labor Day weekend) to hike in, set up camp. Hopefully we can snag a parking spot before the madness begins. We're planning to overnight 2 nights near the lean-to site that (according to Gaia GPS) is between Lilian Brook trail junction and Dix Pond.

        We're doing an abbreviated Dix loop.. going counter-clockwise up the Beckhorn trail, up and over Beckhorn and Dix, and then down and around to the west via the Hunters Pass trail and back to camp.

        if those tent areas are full, I wonder if there are any sites near Dix Pond? As you note, 150+ ft aware from trails and water.

        Thanks again!


        • #5
          The forecast for the holiday weekend is looking pretty decent- showers on Sunday afternoon but most people leave the backcountry on Sunday of the Labor Day weekend anyways. Accordingly, expect that the backcountry is going to be a 3 ring circus for the holiday weekend, with any backcountry tenting area looking (and feeling) far more like an Ewok village after the destruction of the second Death Star than like a remote Wilderness Area full of solitude.

          I would not expect to get a parking spot at the trailhead at noon this Friday. Almost certainly you'll need to park at the overflow lot- so plan on likely hiking the extra 2 miles (one way). Day hikers will likely have filled up this lot by early to mid morning.

          The lean-to you're referencing is the Lillian Brook Lean-to. The Lillian Brook herd path branches off about a quarter mile south of the lean-to, on top of the hill (if you're looking for it, you'll see the herd path before getting to the lean-to). The 3 tent sites are a short distance beyond the lean-to- 2 on the south side of Lillian Brook, 1 on the north side. I'd say that you have OK (maybe even good) but not great chances of finding an open site at the Lillian Brook Lean-to (or associated tent sites) by hiking in early afternoon on Friday. Remember also that DEC policy is that tent sites (in addition to lean-tos) should be shared between groups when necessary- so expect that you may very well end up sharing space in a tent site with other users.

          The forest around Dix Pond is pretty thick, and there are no designated tent sites there either, so I think you'd have a hard time finding a spot there if everything is filled up at Lillian Brook. Note that the site on the Hunter's Pass Trail just north of the junction with the Beckhorn Trail is not legal- it's less than 150 feet from both trail and water and it's not designated.

          There is open forest about half a mile up the Hunter's Pass Trail, on the west side of the trail, where you could make the 150 foot thing work. It'd mean some extra distance if you're doing the loop, but it'd honestly not be all that much extra effort. I'd caution against fires if you're not at any site with an established and safe fire pit.

          I'd also take note that according to the NYSDEC, bear canisters are now required in the Dix Mountain Area for overnight food storage. I'd avoid BearVault brand canisters especially- they've failed repeatedly in the High Peaks (and under the new regs due out next year, will no longer be compliant with the bear canister regulations).

          You mention using Gaia GPS but don't mention if you have a paper map. If you don't have a physical map, I'd strongly encourage you to pick one up before your trip. The Adirondack Mountain Club map for the High Peaks is up to date, shows the locations of lean-tos and designated tent sites better than Gaia does, and is waterproof to boot. It's OK to use a GPS as your primary means of navigation but you absolutely need a physical map as a backup for when (not if) your GPS fails.


          • #6
            Anyone choosing to stay at Elk Lake Lodge won't regret it. I stayed there many times in the 80s and I doubt it has changed. Reservations required.


            • #7
              You won't get parking by the middle of the day. Maybe consider staying overnight somewhere near, the night before? (Schroon Lake, for instance? or someplace on Rte 84?) Then you could get up very early and be at the parking lot by 5 or at least 6. And if you want to spend a bit more, and it's not booked up already, I second the recommendation of the Lodge -- it's a spectacular setting, the food is good, and the staff are nice. But though the prices are reasonable considering what you're getting, it's not cheap.


              • #8
                How many in your group?

                The 2 mile walk is not a big deal, completely flat. You could drop all your gear and a couple people at the trail head. They could hike in, secure a spot, and set up camp. You could park the car and grab your gear on the way through.