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Old 12-03-2019, 09:44 AM   #3
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,026
Assuming you can get at least to the clearing where Old Military Road splits off the Perkins Clearing Road- this adds about 1 mile (1 way) of walking with some moderate uphill. It's actually not uncommon to see low-clearance vehicles parked here anyways, as the road gets moderately rough on that last mile up to the trailhead.

However, Makwa is right- early May is going to be cutting it pretty close with regards to whether Perkins Clearing Road is open to motor vehicle traffic or not. It really depends on what Winter and early Spring look like- if we get minimal snow cover and/or an early arrival of warm weather, then yeah, the road could be open by early May. Some years, though, the road isn't open until the week before Memorial Day (and seeing the road closed through Memorial Day isn't outside the realm of possibility, either). I would definitely at least think about and consider backup options.

If the road is open, though, the French Louie Loop is moderately easy (even with the added distance from the start of Old Military Road). It would not be a hard hike with 4 days/3 nights. After the initial uphill to the height of land northeast of Pillsbury Mountain, the rest of the loop ranges between flat and gently rolling terrain. In May, however, I absolutely would go prepared for wet and mud (with a decent chance that some stretches of trail may even have ankle to knee-deep standing water). The West Canada Lakes is known for being wet and muddy at any time of the year; right after snow melt it will be especially wet and muddy.

Early May may even mean substantial snow cover on the ground still (but if this is the case, the road will almost certainly still be closed anyways). The West Canada Lakes is a high plateau- the area accumulates more snow, and keeps snow longer into the Spring than some other parts of the Adirondacks.

A few alternatives that might be worth considering as backup plans:

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: There's a decent 20+ mile loop here that is moderately rugged (so a bit more challenging than the French Louie Loop, but still not overly difficult). You've also got the advantage of being able to visit 1 or 2 peaks with solid views along the way (Pharaoh and Treadway Mountains). Similar to the West Canada Lakes, there are a lot of lakes and ponds to camp at. Pharaoh also tends to become snow-free earlier in the season than most of the rest of the Adirondacks. IMO, pre- or post-season is the ideal time to visit Pharaoh, as once the summer hiking season gets started in earnest, the area can be very popular (and buggy).

Cold River Loop: This is a 30 mile loop around the Seward Range in the Western High Peaks. The terrain is similar to the West Canada Lakes (flat to gently-rolling) but the mileage is a bit longer so it's more of a commitment. Similar to the West Canada Lakes there is also a lot of history to this area (Duck Hole, Rondeau's, Shattuck Clearing, etc.). Check to make sure that Corey's Road is open, as if the road is still closed it will add substantial mileage. Check also to make sure that there isn't still substantial snow cover in the backcountry.

Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: There's a number of loop options here, and you don't need to worry about seasonal road access if you're hiking into the area from the south (Old Forge vicinity). This area (like Pharaoh) also tends to become snow-free a bit earlier in the season than much of the Adirondacks. There's some really nice lakes and ponds to camp at here as well. And similar to Pharaoh, by going early you'll avoid some of the crowds that do show up here later in the season. Note that some trails in the northern part of this Wilderness are minimally marked/maintained (by design).

Early May could also be a good time to check out some of PA's fine backpacking trails if you're looking for easy to moderately-easy loop options and want to be really assured of not having to deal with snow. Or you could even head further south, into WV/VA and check out some really nice loop options down that way that will be starting to see leaf out and wildflowers around that time- while still beating the worst of the crowds that plague some of those areas later in the season.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
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