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Old 08-01-2017, 12:33 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 2
Family backpacking, 2-3 nights, from Heart Lake campground?

Hi all! My family (2 adults, 2 teenagers, 1 dog) will be staying at Heart Lake between Aug 21 & 26 (2017). We would love to do an actual backpacking trip during that time, meaning 2 (maybe 3) nights actually tent-camping on the trail. Where can we go? We've never hiked in this region. We are in decent shape (especially the dog), but the kids have never backpacked before. I think we could easily walk 6-ish hours per day (that could be 10-12 miles depending on the terrain, I guess). Can anybody suggest a route for us, starting at Heart Lake campground? THANK YOU!!
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Old 08-01-2017, 02:42 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 256
Hi, welcome to the forum.

Heart Lake is in the Eastern High Peaks. There are a number of regulations around hiking and camping in that area.

Familiarizing yourself with the information in the link above should be Job #1. It may appear intimidating at first but just work through it and ask here if you have any questions.

Note that Heart Lake is private property and the regulations don't apply when you are camping there. If you're not already aware of the Heart Lake guidelines, they can be found here.

Last edited by AvalanchePass; 08-01-2017 at 04:22 PM..
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Old 08-03-2017, 10:11 AM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 99
Hi! Just some basic suggestions gained from experience...I've found that for a first trip, hiking with heavy, overnight sized packs a relatively shorter distance is best. Also, making a basecamp and then doing day hikes from there (not having to move your basecamp) also works best. Thus camping near Marcy Dam and day hiking Phelps, Colden, Marcy etc. would work out great. Be aware that the dog must be leashed in the High Peaks area (which you will be in) and that is a pain. Also be aware that hiking to Avalanche Lake will be ok (and is a gorgeous spot) but beyond the start of the lake, the trail will be closed during your dates (they are rebuilding bridges from 8/15 - 8/25). Also, you very likely will have bears around your campsite so be prepared for that...
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Old 08-03-2017, 10:25 AM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Rochester NY
Posts: 418
We love Heart Lake Wilderness Campground/ Adirondack Loj. So your intent is to set up a base camp there but also sleep on the trail? So your packs will not be day packs but will have the gear for setting up a remote campsite?

Phelps is a popular day trip but there are overnight designated sites as well.

Mt Jo, right off Heart Lake would be a good idea for day 1. Climb it and return to Heart Lake and see how the troops handled it. It is not a high peak but can give you an idea of what ADK trails are like.

Heart Lake has a nice beach but there are some nice rivers with swimming holes (Opalescent). You may wish to think about hiking into Lake Colden or Flowed Lands from the Loj. There are designated sites around there, swimming holes, and peaks to climb.

A few things to think about (if you have not done so):
  • Plan on bringing a water filter or treatment device and the ability to carry enough.
  • The designated sites can fill up fast on a weekend in Summer. Have a Plan B (and C).
  • Plan on sharing a lean to if your party is less than 8.
  • Flat spots for tents can be scarce
  • Check the rules on bear barrels, campfires and non-designated site camping (150')
  • It will be cooler than you expect; especially if you try a peak.
  • Plan on taking great photos
  • Plan on having a great time

The way I did it was we started camping overnight at Heart Lake, which has a much more wilderness flavor than other campgrounds in the area IMHO and day hiking. That way at the end of your day you know you have a site, you know you have a beach, you know you have a flush toilet and a water spigot. Some of the sites are remote enough that you can't see your car, you can't see other sites - a real wilderness feeling.

later trips we would backpack - hike in with everything and set up camp, and day trip a peak or two while leaving our site set up. And we have worked our way into using a designated site if available, but having the equipment for a non-designated site too.
Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:46 PM   #5
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 2
Thank you all for your help! Yes, we're planning on staying at Heart Lake Campground in a lean-to, and also taking off for a few nights "out". We have tents and backpacks, so we're outfitted for the journey. We'll rent bear canisters at the Loj. We'll leash the doggy; he'll be ecstatic no matter what (he usually lives in a city)! Love your suggestions. I'll post again after the trip!
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:30 AM   #6
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Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 206
You'll have fun with this! The swim I had in Heart lake was the best swim I've had in my entire life, bar none. Sublime...
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backpacking, dog, family, heart lake

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