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Pharoah Lakes Wilderness Advice

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  • Pharoah Lakes Wilderness Advice

    I'm looking to head into the Pharoah Lakes Wilderness for a weekend to do a quick overnight backpack and tent-camp. I know the area gets a ton of use, and usage is up everywhere this year, but if anyone could PM me suggestions for areas that get a little bit less use, it would be much appreciated. It's one area I'm not super familiar with, and I've honestly avoided it in the past knowing how crowded it can be.

    I'm not delusional enough to think I won't see other people, but I'd also prefer to avoid the party scene I've heard exists at Pharoah Lake itself this year. I'm more of a fall-asleep-to-owls/wake-up-to-loons kind of girl, not a up-all-night-in-the-woods-with-a-boombox fan.

  • #2
    The east stretch of ponds (Rock Pond, Clear Pond, and Grizzle Ocean) get... relatively less use than the Pharaoh Lake/Pharaoh Mountain/Crane Pond side of the Wilderness Area. Treadway Mountain is also a stupendous climb with very nice views (nicer than Pharaoh, IMO). Bushwhack a few hundred feet south-south-west of the summit, directly towards Pharaoh Lake, for an awesome panoramic view of that lake. As I understand it, they are allowing backcountry overnight users into Putnam Pond to access the backcountry, with the normal fee for parking at the boat launch. I think that this fee does keep the use levels on this side of the Wilderness Area lower compared to those other areas.

    But that's in relative terms. These ponds can and do fill to capacity- it's just that said capacity is much lower than at Crane Pond (which has 10 designated tent sites) or Pharaoh Lake (which has 6 lean-tos and 15 designated tent sites). Rock Pond has 2 lean-tos (Rock and Little Rock) plus 3 designated tent sites- one on the east shore just north of the Rock Pond Lean-to, one on the north shore just west of the tip of the broad peninsula, and one on the west shore just north of the outlet. Clear Pond has the lean-to on the east shore, plus a designated tent site on the west shore. Grizzle Ocean has the lean-to on the north shore, plus a designated tent site on the east shore (set up and away from the water). So it doesn't take a whole lot of use to fill up the sites on these ponds.

    There's also a single designated tent site each at Heart Pond (on the east shore, small but nice) and at Bear Pond (on the southeast shore, set back a bit form the water but really nice with tons of flat ground). These sites don't really seem to get a whole lot of use.

    Are you comfortable with following unmarked herd paths/bushwhacking? Whortleberry Pond has 2 designated tent sites that get pretty little use, accessed via an old herd path from Pharaoh Lake. One of these sites is on the northeast shore, the other is on the north shore but pretty close to the west end of the lake.

    Another thing to be aware of is that Pharaoh has pretty bad mosquitoes compared to the rest of the Adirondacks. Bring a bug net and bug spray for sure. In a normal season, the bugs last well into September in the Pharaoh Wilderness.


    • #3
      This is incredibly helpful, thank you! I'll have my young dog with me, who still needs to be on a long-line, so I won't be doing bushwhacking on this trip, but that gives me plenty of options to think through. I really appreciate the advice!!


      • #4
        We were in last weekend and our experience pretty well matched what DS noted above.

        We came in from the campground to Pharaoh via Grizzle Ocean and up and over Pharaoh and looped back around past Oxshoe, Crab, Rock Pond, etc.

        No people until Pharaoh Lake, where every LT and most sites were occupied. As DS has noted in other threads, the lake gets a lot of use, but it can also absorb it. It didn't feel crowded. I can't blame people for flocking there, it really is a lovely place to set up shop for a summer weekend. We swam at three points along the lake, and were nibbled on by sunnys (?) at each of them.

        One person on top of Pharaoh Mountain, which I have climbed three or four times now and am always surprised how long it keeps going.

        One group at the Oxshoe LT and then no one until back at Putnam.

        Rock pond would be a good place to camp, I think.

        Water is low, mosquitos were bad, forest is lovely, lake swimming is great.