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Old 08-10-2020, 07:13 PM   #1
Bkgphoto
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Pharoah Lake Wilderness questions

I'm taking my son up to do a 3 night 3 day trip. I'm planning on parking at crane pond parking area. Is this still accessable? I read an article that the road took a lot of damage last fall. We are planning on renting someplace between Pharoah Lake 3 and 4. Can anyone recommend a good tent site? From there we are planning on taking Grizzle Ocean up to clear pond and Little Rock pond and rock pond. Where would you recommend tenting in the rock pond area? From there we will hike back to the crane pond parking area past lilipad pond and crane pond and drive home. Any advice on this route will be appreciated. Is there a better map showing mileages than the natgeo? The numbers are soooo small. I'd like a map of just the Pharoah Lake Wilderness with trail mileages. How are the bugs this time of year. We were in this area last July 4th and the bugs were pretty bad. Def needed our headnets. Will crowds be a problem midweek like we are planning? Thanks again.
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Old 08-10-2020, 08:15 PM   #2
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Wintergreen Point is just east of #3, there is also a nice site just south of #4. There is one really nice site on Rock.
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Old 08-10-2020, 09:10 PM   #3
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Bugs stay pretty bad in the Pharaoh Wilderness through Labor Day. The area is lower in elevation, so the cooler temps that kill bugs elsewhere in the Adirondacks come later. I've even seen mosquitoes out in the Pharaoh area as late as early October.

There's only 1 single designated tent site on the east side of Pharaoh Lake, between Lean-tos 3 and 4- at Wintergreen Point (note that it's the site at the base of the peninsula, not the closed site on the tip of the peninsula). It's a popular spot and there's no other designated tent sites within a short walking distance. Lean-to #3 does have an overflow designated tent site, located uphill to the south of the lean-to (and away from the lake). There's 2 designated tent sites near Lean-to #4 (both are waterfront sites, one is south of the lean-to, the other one is north of the lean-to).

Grizzle Ocean has 1 designated tent site, on the east shore. It's small and located uphill, away from the water, but is otherwise nice.

Clear Pond has 1 designated tent site, on the west shore on the opposite side of the pond from the lean-to. It's a nice waterfront site, although the marked trail passes pretty close to the site (practically through it).

Rock Pond has 3 designated tent sites- one is just north of the lean-to (a few hundred feet), set back from the water but nice, with plenty of flat ground. The second is on the north shore, on the broad peninsula, with a stone table- this one is nicely situated but is somewhat lacking in flat ground. The third site is just north of the outlet on the west side of the pond, set back from the water but also nice, with tons of flat ground.

Expect that you may move a bit more slowly throughout the area (especially with a kid) than you might anticipate. Trails in the Pharaoh area tend to have a lot of small ups and downs that don't show up on the maps. They aren't horrendously rugged by any means, but it's not uncommon that groups find that it takes a little bit of extra time to hike through the area than they anticipated.

As far as crowds are concerned... everywhere is seeing elevated levels of use this year, even mid-week. Definitely plan to be flexible regarding tent site locations. I doubt you'll find it so crowded that every site is occupied but the choicest sites very well may still be seeing some significant competition even mid-week. Try to get to camp earlier in the day if you can, also.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:05 AM   #4
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I was just up there last weekend with my 7 and 9 year old and the road to crane is open but a lil rough in spots. We had to walk it.

Wasn't busy where we stayed but guessing it was at Pharaoh Lake.

Bugs were moderately bad especially the deer flies. They buzz constantly around your head but didn't bite. There were so.e mosquitoes as well.

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Old 08-11-2020, 12:10 PM   #5
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Bugs stay pretty bad in the Pharaoh Wilderness through Labor Day. The area is lower in elevation, so the cooler temps that kill bugs elsewhere in the Adirondacks come later. I've even seen mosquitoes out in the Pharaoh area as late as early October.

There's only 1 single designated tent site on the east side of Pharaoh Lake, between Lean-tos 3 and 4- at Wintergreen Point (note that it's the site at the base of the peninsula, not the closed site on the tip of the peninsula). It's a popular spot and there's no other designated tent sites within a short walking distance. Lean-to #3 does have an overflow designated tent site, located uphill to the south of the lean-to (and away from the lake). There's 2 designated tent sites near Lean-to #4 (both are waterfront sites, one is south of the lean-to, the other one is north of the lean-to).



Grizzle Ocean has 1 designated tent site, on the east shore. It's small and located uphill, away from the water, but is otherwise nice.

Clear Pond has 1 designated tent site, on the west shore on the opposite side of the pond from the lean-to. It's a nice waterfront site, although the marked trail passes pretty close to the site (practically through it).

Rock Pond has 3 designated tent sites- one is just north of the lean-to (a few hundred feet), set back from the water but nice, with plenty of flat ground. The second is on the north shore, on the broad peninsula, with a stone table- this one is nicely situated but is somewhat lacking in flat ground. The third site is just north of the outlet on the west side of the pond, set back from the water but also nice, with tons of flat ground.

Expect that you may move a bit more slowly throughout the area (especially with a kid) than you might anticipate. Trails in the Pharaoh area tend to have a lot of small ups and downs that don't show up on the maps. They aren't horrendously rugged by any means, but it's not uncommon that groups find that it takes a little bit of extra time to hike through the area Than they anticipated.

As far as crowds are concerned... everywhere is seeing elevated levels of use this year, even mid-week. Definitely plan to be flexible regarding tent site locations. I doubt you'll find it so crowded that every site is occupied but the choicest sites very well may still be seeing some significant competition even mid-week. Try to get to camp earlier in the day if you can, also.
Thank you. Very useful information. I think we are going to come up tonight park at Putts camp in the state campground if we are able to get a spot and set off early tomorrow morning. We will still camp one night on Pharaoh and one near rock or clear pond. Then its a nice short walk out on Friday morning. Hows the swimming in those areas? Are leaches a problem?
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Old 08-11-2020, 04:01 PM   #6
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Pharaoh Lake has awesome swimming if you don't mind being nibbled on by sunfish.

Rock Pond definitely has leaches.

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Old 08-11-2020, 10:08 PM   #7
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Clear Pond also has lots of leeches. I even had some latch onto a rubber raft!
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:19 AM   #8
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Attempted hike yesterday. Unfortunately we got a late start and didn't hit the trail until almost noon. When we got to the lake all of the sites/lean tos on that side of the lake were taken which was pretty disappointing. We ended up hiking backnout to our car. I didn't want to keep hiking only to run into the same problem at other places. I can't believe that on a Wednesday it was that crowded. That site at wintergreen point is beautiful. We will have to start early and hopefully snag that site this fall. The bugs were bad but bearable in the hardwoods and pretty much non existent in the pines. We didn't need nets. Humidity was terrible and definitely takes its toll. Proud of the kid though. Ended up doing about 15 miles in total and a partial night hike. I think the night hike was my favorite part.

What's the proper ADK etiquette for back country camping areas? There was room for at least 1 or 2 more small tents at Wintergreen point but we didn't want to intrude on the couple that was there before us. This bummed my son out as he really liked the site and wanted to go swimming I know on the Appalachian trail shelters and tent sites aren't considered full until you physically can't fit anyone else.
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:05 AM   #9
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Yeah, Pharaoh Lake is suuuuuuuuper popular. I think it even gives Lake Colden and Marcy Dam a serious run for the money for the title of "most popular overnight backcountry destination in the Adirondacks." Hearing that it was that full mid-week is unusual but honestly, with use levels this year, it's not surprising. My observations elsewhere have been that much of the Adirondacks this year is seeing use levels mid-week that would've been typical of weekends in previous seasons... with weekend levels of use a whole new level of crazyness that has never before been experienced.

Regarding sharing of campsites: It's a bit of a tricky situation. Officially (and in a normal season), the expectation from the DEC is that yes, the campsites are to be shared between groups when necessary (as with lean-tos). Realistically, it takes some tact on the part of all involved to make this work. There's some groups out there that I certainly wouldn't want to move into a site if they'd already occupied it- and there's some groups out there that I wouldn't want to move into my site if I was already set up. (And sometimes, I'm traveling with a group that I wouldn't want to force anyone else to share a site with either... )

In the case of being the first person to snag a site and a larger, obviously rambunctious group shows up after and is clearly eyeing my site, I've had good luck with laying down the law right from the get go. I'll march right up to the group and say something along the lines of "hi! Looks like you folks are looking for a spot to camp- it's pretty busy out here and I think all of the sites are occupied. You're more than welcome to share my space, however, I do expect that you will respect my desire for peace and quiet while sharing the space. If you're not able to do that, I'm going to be pissed." Thus far, in ever circumstance along these lines, I've been able to successfully convince every such group to move on without unfairly denying them use of the space.

Of course, COVID complicates things further this year. The DEC's official stance on the sharing of lean-tos and tent sites has been reversed during the pandemic- they are asking groups not to share sites currently. Unfortunately, given the use levels... this is definitely still continuing to happen regardless (especially in the High Peaks).

To be frank, if you're going to pick a popular spot for a backpacking trip, some willingness to engage in the 150 foot rule is well-advised. You can camp at non-designated sites, provided that they are at least 150 feet away from water and 150 feet of the trail. 150 feet is probably further than you realize- it's about 50 adult male footsteps at a regular stride. By following this regulation, you're generally camping out of sight of the trail (which helps to minimize social impacts as hikers are less likely to see your camp while passing through), and well away from any water sources (which helps to minimize impacts on aquatic ecosystems by prevent impacts in riparian zones along water bodies).

The other consideration to be aware of in the event that you camp primitively at a non-designated site is fire- you can't just start a fire on the ground in the Adirondacks, because the soils are flammable due to the high organic content. Even a ring of rocks won't safely contain your fire. Numerous ground fires start in the ADKs every year because of this- the Pharaoh area has had 2 wildfires so far this season because people started campfires on the ground rather than in an established, safe fire pit in a designated site. Your best bet honestly is to go without fires in this situation, but if you're comfortable with some extra work there's a couple of "advanced backpacking techniques" that can allow you to safely have a fire without an established fire pit- one such method is to carry and use a fire pan, the other is to construct a mound fire (remember to pull apart the mound fire before you depart, after safely extinguishing it first, of course).
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Old 08-29-2020, 07:45 PM   #10
Dave Bourque
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Oddly, many of the ponds along the periphery of Pharaoh Lake Wilderness receive much less traffic than the interior. Recommended are Spectacle Pond (1 site), Springhill Ponds (2 sites), Goose Pond (3 sites) and the recently marked state trail to Crab Pond (1 site). Berrymill Pond also has a lean-to that is often empty. DSettahr might be able to provide more details about each site.
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Old 09-01-2020, 01:02 PM   #11
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Spectacle Pond is an OK site. Not a whole lot of flat ground... there's nicer spots in the vicinity that aren't legal (150 foot rule) but could/should be designated. The site gets light to moderate levels of use.

The Springhill Ponds sites are kind of difficult to access- they are on the north shore whereas the marked trail ends on the south shore, and there's no marked or officially maintained trail between the two locations. There is a herd path from the end of the marked trail on the south shore that swings around the east shore to access the eastern-most of these sites that is fairly easy to follow. This eastern-most site is small but nice, with good views across the pond.

The herd path does continue around the north shore but hasn't been maintained beyond the eastern-most site so it's more of a full bushwhack to get to the western site. Note that the obvious campsite on the cliffs is not the designated site- this is an illegal site. The designated site is further west still. It's an OK site, it's set pretty far back off the water. From what I remember its kind of on the smaller side, and the periphery is pretty densely grown in with trees.

Honestly, with a kid (especially a young kid), neither of the Springhill Ponds sites would be high on my list of considerations due to the difficulty of access (no marked/maintained trail, plus a longer hike to get there in the first place).

The Goose Pond sites are nice. All 3 are waterfront sites, with good flat ground in the vicinity for at least 1 or 2 tents. These are popular sites, however- all 3 do fill to capacity on many weekends, so this is not a spot I'd choose if trying to minimize competition is a priority. There's also a number of illegal sites in the vicinity that have necessitated a lot of active efforts on the DEC's part to try to keep them closed. There's also been a number of fires at Goose Pond over the years due to overflow camping use- people set up at a non-designated site, and start a fire without an established, safe fire pit (not realizing that Adirondack soils are flammable and a ring of rocks alone isn't enough to safely contain a fire). The most recent fire there was this summer.

Crab Pond (I'm assuming Dave means the southern of the 2 Crab Ponds, there's 2 within the PLWA and each has a single designated site) is an OK site- the location is phenomenal but the site itself is kind of eh (not a whole lot of flat ground for tents). You'd probably be OK with one single tent. The site doesn't get a whole lot of use, but worth pointing out that there's also not really a whole lot of accessible options in the vicinity if that 1 site is taken.

The lean-to at Berrymill Pond does indeed see light levels of use. It's a new lean-to (built a few years ago to replace an older, somewhat dilapidated lean-to nearby). It's in a nice clearing adjacent to the outlet of Berrymill Pond (and not on the pond itself). But there's also no designated tent sites in the vicinity... so again if you arrive and the lean-to is already occupied, you're pretty much out of luck without doing the 150 foot thing.
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Old 09-01-2020, 11:23 PM   #12
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I hammock camped at the southern of the Crab Ponds for a couple of nights last summer and had it to myself. It presents two problems though - you don't know if it is occupied until you get there (and there is no alternative but walking back out or camping off-trail and abiding by the 150 ft. rule) and I was real skeptical of getting water from the pond (so I walked back to a stream I passed en route). The solitude was great and the whole area was covered with blueberries when I was there.
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Old 09-07-2020, 07:44 AM   #13
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Until my trip to Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness area this summer I was under the impression that all designated camp sites were indicated on DEC website maps, or at least one representing a cluster of sites. I now realize that is certainly not the case for this area, and I would think its safe to assume this is not the case for others as well.

Why are all of these sites not shown in PLWA, and is there another online resource that would show all campsites in a particular area?

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Old 09-07-2020, 08:15 AM   #14
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Welcome to the wide, wonderful world that is the fact that the DEC doesn't know where all of it's designated tent sites are. The reality is that there is no single good source of information regarding designated tent sites across the Adirondack Park. There's some resources for specific areas that are "ok," or even "good." But no single resource that covers the entire park to a level of accuracy that entitles it to being a good standalone source of information.

As you note, even the "official" resource is lacking with regards to Pharaoh Lake... and not just that unit. Even many of the High Peaks sites- an area that you'd think the state would have a pretty good handle on, is woefully lacking with regards to the official database of designated sites. A lot of the Lake Colden sites are missing... all of the Marcy Dam sites are missing (and the database still shows 5 lean-tos at Marcy Dam, there's only 3 there currently). 99% of the Long Lake tent sites are missing too. And even some of the trails are... not correctly shown (some of them are really erroneously shown, such as the trail connecting Bradley Pond to Duck Hole).

A few forum members were working on updating the High Peaks sites in OpenStreetMap, a project that is probably about 75-80% complete or so by my estimate- which is far and away enough to make the single best resource for tent site locations in the High Peaks. But that's for the High Peaks only- there hasn't been anywhere near the same level of effort for other management units. OpenStreetMap is actually probably one of the worst resources for other areas of the Park regarding tent sites and even trails.

There's also the map for the High Peaks published by the Adirondack Mountain Club (note that this is not the National Geographic High Peaks Map). This is also a pretty good source of information- still a few minor things to be field-truthed and edited as needed, but overall this is probably the best (and most accessible) source of information on tent sites for the High Peaks.

I actually have all of the Pharaoh sites GPSed (for the entire unit, not just Pharaoh Lake itself). I've been meaning to sit down and update OpenStreetMap myself so that Pharaoh join the High Peaks with regards to having accurate information displayed- but I simply haven't had the time to do so yet. If you look through my old posts, I know I wrote a reply out a while back that lists every site in the unit with a short description on where each is located. I'll try to find it later (maybe after work today).
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Old 09-08-2020, 10:46 PM   #15
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Pharaoh Wilderness is great, one of my favorites. But Ill admit that Im kinda glad there isnt an easy internet site where you can easily find out where all the campsites are without going to explore the area for yourself. Many areas are getting beat to hell enough as it is, especially this year with even more people venturing outdoors than ever before. No need to make it even easier for people to trash & burn some of these areas even more. Publicly sharing specific campsite location details on the World Wide Web also has its drawbacks. Just my opinion.
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Old 09-09-2020, 08:36 AM   #16
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I'll echo what Justin said - with the exception of the high peaks, which I never camped in, I've been all over the various areas of the Adirondacks and NEVER once did I have an issue finding a place to camp. I've only occasionally used the 150' rule and of those times that I can recall, it was already an established, but non-marked site.

I've also been lucky enough to stay at some really, really nice sites. But I'll say I've never stayed at the same one twice, nor did I expect to ever get that site again. The exception would be a lean to, but even those I don't usually stay at or use more than once. That's not really how it works IMO. If you want to fall in love with a site and go back over and over, try the DEC campgrounds and reservations.
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Old 10-09-2020, 07:10 AM   #17
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Pharaoh Wilderness is great, one of my favorites. But Ill admit that Im kinda glad there isnt an easy internet site where you can easily find out where all the campsites are without going to explore the area for yourself. Many areas are getting beat to hell enough as it is, especially this year with even more people venturing outdoors than ever before. No need to make it even easier for people to trash & burn some of these areas even more. Publicly sharing specific campsite location details on the World Wide Web also has its drawbacks. Just my opinion.
I agree with u Justin 100%. When I hiked in with my kids after 3 miles to an occupied lean to I was pretty bummed. But the couple staying there told me there was a beautiful camp site a few minutes more down the trail.

We went there and it was the best designated site I've ever stayed at. Not listed on DEC site. Right by beautiful water...perfect for swimming fishing etc. It was an exciting surprise.

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Old 10-09-2020, 07:23 AM   #18
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...We went there and it was the best designated site I've ever stayed at. Not listed on DEC site. Right by beautiful water...perfect for swimming fishing etc. It was an exciting surprise.
Exploring & discovering is what its all about. No need for an internet page to do it for you.
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