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Old 10-01-2016, 02:52 PM   #5
DSettahr
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Join Date: May 2007
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As a general suggestion for day hikes, I would recommend considering the Fire Tower Challenge. The FTC will take you all over the Adirondacks and even into the Catskills, to places you might not have considered visiting otherwise (especially if you do all of the Adirondack peaks, rather than just doing 18 out of the 25, as required by the challenge.) Most of the peaks are generally easier than the High Peaks but some approach High Peaks-levels of difficulty (Blue and Snowy immediate come to mind).

There's also the Adirondack Quest, another challenge that requires you to make 50 total trips (day or overnight) into at least 15 different Wilderness Areas and 15 different Wild Forest Areas in the Adirondack Park. It's another great way to get out and about and visit destinations that you might not think about otherwise.

Some thoughts about specific areas in the southern ADKs:

Pharaoh Lake is beautiful but extremely popular... although that won't be as much of an issue after Columbus Day. For what it's worth, I've seen over ~34 groups totaling ~85 people camped at Pharaoh Lake in a single night in the summer. The DEC has been asking visitors to the area to keep their campfires small in paticular, due to the high levels of concern about campfire impacts (depletion of dead and down wood and illegal tree cutting around campsites) that may warrant a fire ban in the future (as we've already seen in the High Peaks). Late Autumn tends to be much quieter, though, so its not a bad time to explore the Pharaoh Lake area. Both Pharaoh Mountain and Treadway Mountain are good day hikes.

The Lake George Wild Forest has some nice options. Fifth Peak, Black Mountain, Sleeping Beauty, and Buck Mountain are all worthwhile climbs. The lean-tos at Fifth Peak, Lapland Pond, and Fishing Brook Pond all receive moderate to heavy levels of use but it's not hard to find solitude at some of the more remote lean-tos in the area. There's also a ton of loop options in the eastern section of the LGWF. If you want an rugged but epic backpacking trip with non stop views (and have the stamina and a lightweight gear setup to match) check out the Tongue Mountain Range.

The Wilcox Lake Wild Forest gets relatively little use, but be prepared to put extra effort and energy into navigation if you go here. Many of the trails are not well marked or maintained. On the plus side, solitude is practically guaranteed back there once you get into the more remote sections of the area. Crane Mountain is a fairly popular day hike.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest has some nice, easy hikes into backcountry lakes with good camping options. There's also a new section of the NPT through this area.

The first 20 miles of the Northville-Placid Trail through the Silver Lake Wilderness can make for a good 2-3 day backpacking trip that isn't very difficult. The terrain is pretty flat and there's a number of nice lakes and ponds along this route. For day hiking, check out the White House area along the Sacandaga River.

13th Lake (and the vicinity) in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness gets moderate to high levels of use, but the rest of the area generally sees light use. Some beautiful places to camp back in there as well. Peaked Hill is also a worthwhile day hike. Gore Mountain isn't technically in this area but is close by and is another day hiking destination.

The West Canada Lakes has seen increased popularity over the past few years but is still worth visiting. The NPT from Piseco to Wakely Dam makes for a nice 3-5 day backpacking trip (you can add another day if you continue on to Lake Durant). There's also the French Louie Loop, a 20 mile loop that makes for a nice weekend trip. Snowy and Pillsbury Mountains aren't technically in this area either, but are close by and worth climbing.

Blue Mountain Lake Wild Forest doesn't have much (apart from Blue Mountain), but Tirrell Pond is a beautiful place to camp. Note that float planes are allowed to land on the pond, so you may see competition for the lean-tos and campsite from groups that didn't hike in.

The Moose River Plains is a pretty neat area. The plains are accessed by dirt roads, and there's about 100+ free, first-come, first-serve campsites scattered along the roads that are generally car accessible. It's a pretty good middle ground between staying at a front-country car camping campground with amenities (running water, bathrooms, showers, etc.) and true backcountry camping in a remote area that you must hike in to. Some of the sites are very nice. The plains themselves are worth visiting, as they comprise of several hundred acres of natural meadows and shrublands that differ significant that ecosystems that most are used to encountering in the Adirondacks. There's also some nice hiking in the area too. Wakely Mountain in particular is a moderately popular day hike.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest, in the south-western Adirondacks, has some nice hiking in the Arietta area. There's also hikes along Powley-Piseco Road, but many of these trails aren't well maintained. The DEC does have plans to further develop opportunities in this area.

Black River Wild Forest, also in the south-western Adirondacks has some good backpacking options that aren't very difficult, and some nice places to camp on backcountry lakes and ponds. The area sees a fair amount of hunting pressure, but generally light levels of use by hikers. ATVs and illegal off-road vehicles have been a problem here, though. Woodhull Mountain is probably the least popular of the fire tower peaks, but you'll find solitude here for sure. (A mountain bike can be used without much difficulty until the last mile, and helps to shorten the hike.)

The Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness, near Old Forge, has some phenomenal campsites but sees high levels of use (and abuse) at times. If you can get into the northern Ha-De-Ron-Dah, you'll see relatively few other people (if any at all) but again, many of these trails aren't well maintained. As with the Black River WF, however, there has been a lot of problems with illegal ATV use here.

The Independence River Wild Forest has a pretty well developed network of trails, but many of these are built to be used primarily for horseback riding, and this activity is very popular in this area. There are some backpacking opportunities in the norther portion of this Wild Forest. Illegal ATVs have been a problem here as well.

The Fulton Chain Wild Forest, also near Old Forge, has some nice options. Bald Mountain and the Vista Trail afford excellent views and are popular day hikes. Moss Lake makes for a nice, short, easy hike and has some really nice campsites (although the area can be popular and I think you may need a permit to camp there).

The Pigeon Lake Wilderness has some really neat opportunities. The Cascade and Queer Lakes tend to see moderate to heavy levels of use, but once you get further back into the Wilderness Area (near Pigeon Lake itself) you'll see very few people. There's also a number of trails into the Wilderness Area that can be accessed only by boat, via Big Moose Lake. The added commitment resulting from the combination of having to use a boat/paddle and hike means that the areas accessed by these trails generally see light levels of use. And there's also the trail to Beaver River, an isolated village on the Stillwater Reservoir that has no road connection to the outside world.

It's definitely not the Southern ADKs, but if you haven't checked out the Five Ponds Wilderness/Cranberry Lake Wild Forest yet, this is another area worth visiting. The Cranberry Lake 50 traverses the area and is generally flat and easy enough that most backpackers can hike it in 4-5 days without much difficulty. Those in great hiking shape can probably complete it in 2-3 days without any problem. There's plenty of nice ponds and lakes in this area with amazing campsites.

Really, there's a ton of options so it's hard to go wrong. I would recommend picking up National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps 743, 744, and 745 (if you don't own them already), picking a destination that looks interesting, and going to see for yourself. :-)

Hope this helps!
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