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Old 02-03-2020, 03:25 PM   #1
Addwolanin
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West Mountain

Hello all,

Wondering if anyone on the forum has any experience hiking into Raquette Lake from big moose via West Mountain. Iím looking to make a short backpacking trip thru hike of the trail starting at the Judson Road in Big Moose Lake and finishing on Uncas Road in Raquette.

Thanks!


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Old 02-03-2020, 09:38 PM   #2
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I made it a bit past Pigeon Lake a few years ago. Gets pretty difficult to follow trail, got pretty time consuming.Never made it much farther.

Not sure if that trail has been cleaned up recently.

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Old 02-03-2020, 11:55 PM   #3
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I haven't hiked this trail yet but it's been on my "to hike" list for a while. Every resource I've found concerning the current condition of the trail has indicated that it has become increasingly tough to follow over the past decade or so.

Personally, I was looking at a 2-3 day loop trip here. My potential route would incorporate this trail plus a return hike further south using trails by way of Eighth Lake, Bug Lake, and Black Bear Mountain (plus a bit less than 2 miles of road walking through Eagle Bay).

EDIT: Eagle Bay, not Eagle Lake.

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Old 02-04-2020, 08:29 AM   #4
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I haven't hiked this trail yet but it's been on my "to hike" list for a while. Every resource I've found concerning the current condition of the trail has indicated that it has become increasingly tough to follow over the past decade or so.

Personally, I was looking at a 2-3 day loop trip here. My potential route would incorporate this trail plus a return hike further south using trails by way of Eighth Lake, Bug Lake, and Black Bear Mountain (plus a bit less than 2 miles of road walking through Eagle Lake).


I was trying to look for ways to make it a loop, I figured it wasnít a very popular route. Itís been a pretty elusive trail to find information on


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Old 02-04-2020, 11:08 AM   #5
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I haven't hiked this trail yet but it's been on my "to hike" list for a while. Every resource I've found concerning the current condition of the trail has indicated that it has become increasingly tough to follow over the past decade or so.

Personally, I was looking at a 2-3 day loop trip here. My potential route would incorporate this trail plus a return hike further south using trails by way of Eighth Lake, Bug Lake, and Black Bear Mountain (plus a bit less than 2 miles of road walking through Eagle Lake).
If you ever decide to do this loop and would not mind company, let me know. I also have had this on my list.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:51 PM   #6
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If you ever decide to do this loop and would not mind company, let me know. I also have had this on my list.


I know you both donít know me, but if you donít mind strangers, Iíd also be interested lol


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Old 02-04-2020, 02:24 PM   #7
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I used to hike in that area before I built my first canoe, and someday when I get caught up with things and have more time I'd like to try that loop, it's a great idea to combine the trails like that. I've been on a lot of those trails, but never got to the part over West Mtn and down to Raquette Lake. It's a really pretty area, I have particularly fond memories of the hike from the Cascade Lake trailhead up to Queer Lake and Chub Lake. Once I left the Cascade loop I usually didn't see anybody in there, except for once around the Queer Lake lean-to.
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Old 02-04-2020, 04:24 PM   #8
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If you ever decide to do this loop and would not mind company, let me know. I also have had this on my list.
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I know you both donít know me, but if you donít mind strangers, Iíd also be interested lol
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someday when I get caught up with things and have more time I'd like to try that loop, it's a great idea to combine the trails like that.
I'm not opposed to sharing my trips but my schedule isn't the easiest for facilitating it. My "weekends" (days off) in the summer occur mid-week. Plus I'm really bad about planning trips in advance- i.e., if I'm heading out on a Monday through Wednesday trip, I might sit down to start looking at maps/making plans Saturday or Sunday evening, only a few days in advance.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:44 PM   #9
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I haven't hiked this trail yet but it's been on my "to hike" list for a while. Every resource I've found concerning the current condition of the trail has indicated that it has become increasingly tough to follow over the past decade or so.

Personally, I was looking at a 2-3 day loop trip here. My potential route would incorporate this trail plus a return hike further south using trails by way of Eighth Lake, Bug Lake, and Black Bear Mountain (plus a bit less than 2 miles of road walking through Eagle Lake).
Eagle Lake? or Eagle Bay? If it is Eagle Bay, you can get a great burger and Bloody Mary at the Tavern. For Eagle Lake, I think you have to swim across Raquette and up the Marion River!

If you took the north trail off Black Bear you would hit the Uncas Road, much more enjoyable to walk than 28, although you will still take 28 for the short distance from the Uncas Road to the Big Moose Road.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:47 PM   #10
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Eagle Lake? or Eagle Bay?
Yep, Eagle Bay, not Eagle Lake. That's what I get for recounting the route from memory without checking the map first.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:03 PM   #11
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I haven't hiked this trail yet but it's been on my "to hike" list for a while. Every resource I've found concerning the current condition of the trail has indicated that it has become increasingly tough to follow over the past decade or so.
First time I hiked it was 25 years ago and it was VERY hard to follow then. It's probably been cleared once in that time.

Can you not get a beer at Raquette Lake Tap Room anymore?

You could do that trip in two days, but it wouldn't be fun. The southern trails in MRPWF you mention are not bad and you can do those in a day, in fact, I probably would.

There used to be a nice lean to on the North shore of 8th Lake, but it must have burned some time ago. I was there a couple years ago and it looked like it was never there - just a small, overgrown clearing. I would have recommended that as the return trip stop, but there are also some lean-tos on the North side of 7th lake that are OK.

I'd do what Zach recommends and start at Cascade - you'll have much less road hiking, just a short stretch along Rte 28 and Big Moose Rd from the Black Bear Mountain trail.

You could go either way, but I would start heading into PLW first. I'd get as close as I could to West on that first shot. Pigeon Lake and maybe even shortly past Chub to the west side of West's summit is going to be a marked bushwhack with a lot of lowland traverse, spruce swamps, etc... It's not a well designed trail...

Second day hike up over West and into town - it's a good huff but you can be there before lunch and have a beer. It's still a good hoof to those LT's on 7th though, but your third day will be a short hike back to the car, and easy to make the side trip up Black Bear mountain. The north trail is a really easy ascent and while the views aren't spectacular, the mountain top is really nice to explore with lots of blueberry meadows (I assume this is how it got its name - if I were a hungry bear, I'd be up there).

I'd def recommend it though, it's good trip. I've done it before but slightly different than I described, but if I was going to do it again, that's what I'd do.

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Old 02-11-2020, 11:30 AM   #12
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First time I hiked it was 25 years ago and it was VERY hard to follow then. It's probably been cleared once in that time.

Can you not get a beer at Raquette Lake Tap Room anymore?

You could do that trip in two days, but it wouldn't be fun. The southern trails in MRPWF you mention are not bad and you can do those in a day, in fact, I probably would.

There used to be a nice lean to on the North shore of 8th Lake, but it must have burned some time ago. I was there a couple years ago and it looked like it was never there - just a small, overgrown clearing. I would have recommended that as the return trip stop, but there are also some lean-tos on the North side of 7th lake that are OK.

I'd do what Zach recommends and start at Cascade - you'll have much less road hiking, just a short stretch along Rte 28 and Big Moose Rd from the Black Bear Mountain trail.

You could go either way, but I would start heading into PLW first. I'd get as close as I could to West on that first shot. Pigeon Lake and maybe even shortly past Chub to the west side of West's summit is going to be a marked bushwhack with a lot of lowland traverse, spruce swamps, etc... It's not a well designed trail...

Second day hike up over West and into town - it's a good huff but you can be there before lunch and have a beer. It's still a good hoof to those LT's on 7th though, but your third day will be a short hike back to the car, and easy to make the side trip up Black Bear mountain. The north trail is a really easy ascent and while the views aren't spectacular, the mountain top is really nice to explore with lots of blueberry meadows (I assume this is how it got its name - if I were a hungry bear, I'd be up there).

I'd def recommend it though, it's good trip. I've done it before but slightly different than I described, but if I was going to do it again, that's what I'd do.
The Tap room is still open, but if you were heading back to the start, it would be a bit of a detour. However, the OP wanted to end up in Raquette, so it would be the place to go. But DSetthar was describing a loop, and instead of taking a left at Beaver Brook and walking a mile or more out of the way to get to Raquette Lake, a right takes you back to Uncas Rd at Upper Brown's Tract Pond. If a hiker did opt to head into Raquette Lake, they could return to Uncas Rd at Upper Brown's Tract Pond by walking the old RR Grade back behind the Post Office. This is a pretty hike along Brown's Tract Inlet, I do it most year's with my wife as her knees do not allow steep elevation changes anymore, and we can see almost as much "nature" on that level walk as in Ferd's Bog, which requires a descent in and an ascent out.

From The DEC Webgsite on MRP:
"Eighth Lake Lean-tos (2) - One lean-to is located along on the western shore of lake and can only be accessed by water. The other lean-to is located at the northern end of the lake and can be accessed via the Mike Norris Trail near where it joins the canoe carry." It is possible to connect with this trail from the RR grade at the point where it crossed Brown's Tract Inlet. The Lean-to on the Island at Eighth has been removed but the North Shore structure was still plainly visible from the point off 28 across the lake last summer. But I have only ever visited by boat, and my Raddison is getting a little heavy
for carrying down the hill off 28, and every time we do, a storm blows in and we don't get to use the boats anyway.
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Old 06-18-2020, 10:58 PM   #13
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Personally, I was looking at a 2-3 day loop trip here. My potential route would incorporate this trail plus a return hike further south using trails by way of Eighth Lake, Bug Lake, and Black Bear Mountain (plus a bit less than 2 miles of road walking through Eagle Bay).
I did this loop last week. Sorry to DuctTape and Addwolanin- I wasn't intentionally excluding you guys but just as I predicted, the stars aligned with a few nights off and good weather, and I literally did not open the map to really plan the trip until I was already at the trailhead.

At some point I'd like to get a proper trip report up but a quick summary:

I started at the trailhead located between Upper and Lower Ponds at Brown's Tract. From here, I hiked east on the snowmobile trail (that follows the old railroad grade) to just shy of the put in for the Brown's Tract access to Raquette Lake, and from there on the snowmobile/portage trail to the east end of Eight Lake. I continued around Eighth Lake to Bug Lake via the snowmobile trail, and from Bug Lake I continued south to Seventh Lake, where I spent the first night in the western-most of the two lean-tos on Seventh Lake.

Day 2 I retraced my steps back to Bug Lake, then continued west over Black Bear Mountain, through Eagle Bay, then north on the road to the Cascade Lake Trailead. Again on trail, I continued north past Cascade and Chain Lakes to Queer Lake, where I spent the second night in the Queer Lake Lean-to.

Day 3 I continued north past Chub Lake to the Pigeon Lake Trail, then east past Pigeon Lake and Otter Pond, up and over West Mountain and down to Raquette Lake at Sucker Brook Bay. From there, I continued south past Lower Pond to the trailhead.

Some more detailed information about the specifics of the route, listed in order of my traverse:
  • The trails between Brown's Tract and Eighth Lake were well-maintained and easy to follow. The Nat Geo map shows the snowmobile trail/portage trail between Eighth Lake and the Brown's Tract Inlet put in as a minimally maintained trail- this could (and should) be shown as a proper trail. The Nat Geo map is also missing the spur trail that leads to the actual put in spot on Brown's Tract Inlet.
  • The snowmobile trail between Eighth Lake and Bug Lake was pretty well maintained for the most part- a good wide corridor and generally a dry tread. It clearly gets very little non-snowmobile use so there's not really an established path but the route is obvious nonetheless. It does get a bit muddy for the last half mile or so before arriving at the junction just north of Bug Lake.
  • The spur trail south past Bug Lake is an old road, well-maintained, and easy to follow all the way to the campground.
  • I was able to find 3 designated tent sites at Bug Lake (naturally, none of which are even hinted at in the least on the official DEC information for unit). They weren't well marked, all are accessed via herd paths, and all are kind of hard to locate. One is on the northwest shore, another one is on the southeast shore, and the 3rd is on the east shore. Both the sites on the northwest and southeast shores were really nice. The site on the east shore wasn't bad but also wasn't nearly as nice. The site on the east shore also had a loon nesting in it and probably should be avoided for the time being.
  • The Nat Geo Map shows a marked and maintained trail that crosses the outlet of Bug Lake and connects to the Eagles Nest Lake Trail- this trail does not exist (except maybe as a herd path, I didn't attempt to walk this route).
  • The trail connecting Bug Lake to the north shore of Seventh Lake is a herd path, not a maintained trail. Both the Nat Geo and DEC maps show it as an official trail, which is misleading- it's minimally maintained and does not have a single trail marker along the entire length of the trail. It also diverges from the trail connecting Bug Lake and the campground at a different location than indication on either the Nat Geo or DEC maps- the junction is on the west side of where that trail crosses the outlet of Bug Lake, not the east side as indicated. The junction is also unmarked. I walked right past it without seeing it, and made it all the way to the campground before realizing my error, and was forced to retrace my steps.
  • Both the lean-tos on Seventh Lake were really nice- and they clearly also get a lot of use and abuse. The eastern-most of the two lean-tos is a double-wide (one of the few still in existence). The western-most of the two is really nicely situated on a bluff overlooking the lake. There are also 3 or 4 designated tent sites scattered along the north shore (and a whole lot of closed campsites).
  • I did also follow the trail along the north shore of Seventh Lake all the way to the end of Seventh Lake Road to see if there were any potential access from there. It looks like foot access is permitted via the driveway at the end of the road but there's no parking whatsoever (and a whole lot of "No Parking Violators Will Be Towed" signs).
  • There's also some funkyness with the trails between Bug Lake and Black Bear Mountain. I never saw the Black Bear Mountain Ski Trail (the trail that loops around the south end of the mountain). Also, the DEC and Nat Geo Maps disagree pretty significantly regarding where this trail ties in to the Bug Lake Trail.
  • Black Bear Mountain was a nice climb with some decent views- I'm a bit ashamed to say that this was my first trip up this peak. From the east the climb was not too bad even with a full overnight pack. If I had done this loop in the other direction, though, it would've been a haul getting my overnight pack up and over the mountain- the climb up the west side is pretty steep in spots.
  • The road walk through Eagle Bay wasn't too bad. Along 28 there is a paved bike path, so plenty of room to walk without having to worry about traffic. North of Eagle Bay I was on the shoulder which was narrow in spots but there was less traffic to worry about.
  • North of Eagle Bay, the road splits- and the Nat Geo Map shows the wrong leg as being the "main" road. This did cause me some momentary confusion in trying to figure out how much further I had to hike to get to the Cascade Lake Trailhead.
  • If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find the "old" Cascade Lake Trailhead on the right about a half mile south of the new trailhead. This will save on some distance and elevation gain.
  • The trail into Cascade Lake is pretty well maintained. North of Cascade Lake, the trail to Queer Lake gets a bit brushy and muddy along Chain Lakes but generally isn't too bad.
  • I did find the supposed "designated site" indicated by the DECInfo site on the west end of Queer Lake, more or less where the Windfall-Queer Lake Trail first comes into view of Queer Lake (just south of the spot where it's obvious folks launch their canoes. It's not really a great site... and I think is a product of a site that was inventoried but never actually designated magically becoming a designated site because someone decided that all inventoried sites were designated sites. It's small, there's not a lot of flat ground, and no "Camp Here" disc.
  • The Queer Lake Lean-to is nice, but there's also a lot of tree stumps surrounding the lean-to. Illegal tree cutting is clearly a huge problem here.
  • The trail between Queer Lake and Chub Lake was a bit brushy in spots but overall not too bad. It clearly doesn't get a whole lot of use.
  • The designated tent site on the northwest shore of Chub Lake is really nice. It does currently have a "Camp Here" disc. If I had known how nice this site was (and didn't still need Queer Lake for the Lean-to Challenge) I probably would've pushed on to here for night #2.
  • There was an established site on Constable Pond at the junction where I arrived at the West Mountain Trail, but no "Camp Here" disc. The DEC page for the Pigeon Lake Wilderness does list a designated tent site at Constable Pond but doesn't mention where it is- so I don't know if this was it or not. It was an OK site- kind of small.
  • The West Mountain Trail was in great shape at first, where I started following it at Constable Pond. It had been recently cut out- there was no blow down and the corridor was wide. The trail remained in this condition until about maybe a half mile shy of Pigeon Lake, where I arrived at the spot that the trail crew had turned around. Beyond this point, the trail was super overgrown and had a ton of blowdown. The old tread was still mostly obvious for another mile or so (more on the condition of this trail further east below).
  • I did find a couple of old campsites on the north shore of Pigeon Lake, but they were too close to water to be legal (and in any case, weren't really usable in their current state- it had obviously been years, if not decades, since they last saw any real use).
  • After crossing the streams/beaver flows immediately east of Pigeon Lake, the West Mountain Trail more or less disappeared. Occasionally I'd find a trail marker on a tree or an old cut log, but there was otherwise not even a hint of the old tread for a fair distance. Trying to follow this trail took a decent amount of "guess and check" work, and repeatedly I found myself retracing my steps to try another direction. Honestly, the fact that the DEC website makes zero mention of the current status of this trail (whether on the page for the management unit or the page for backcountry conditions) is downright inexcusable- it's pretty much gone, yet all of the "official" information (DEC website and maps, Nat Geo maps) shows it as a marked and maintained trail.
  • I'd though about maybe checking out Otter Pond while I was there but I was too pre-occupied with route finding and did not end up walking down to the pond. I could see it through the trees, though.
  • Once the West Mountain Trail starts the actual climb up West Mountain, the old tread becomes more obvious again although the trail is still a far cry from anything that could be considered "maintained"- and it's pretty much straight up the mountain. This was a moderately rugged climb (especially with an overnight pack) but overall not too bad.
  • After passing through the notch and swinging around the east side of the mountain, there is a spur trail up to the old fire tower site. There's not really much in the way of views but it's neat from an historic perspective. It looks like people occasionally camp on the summit (illegally since it's within 150 feet of the trail).
  • The trail down the east side of West Mountain is much more obvious and has had some maintenance. There is a fern-filled clearing just below the summit that is mildly confusing- the trail was not where I expected it to be on the other side of the clearing (on the descent, I had to angle across the clearing slightly to the left to find the continuation of the trail). Much of the trail is somewhat washed out but not overly rugged.
  • Once I hit the base of West Mountain, the rest of the hike was pretty much entirely pleasant strolling on old roads. I did find a super obvious herd path just north of the bridge over the outlet of Cranberry Pond that I followed for maybe a tenth of a mile west- I would assume that this leads all the way to Cranberry Pond but an not sure.
  • There is a small but nice designated tent site at the end of the spur trail to the shoreline on Sucker Brook Bay (which also has a small but nice beach adjacent). This could be a nice spot to camp for anyone looking to do this trip over 3 nights as opposed to 2.
  • There is some beaver activity where the trail crosses Beaver Brook- and I did get my feet wet going through here.
  • Directly opposite the island on Lower Pond a spur trail leads out to a small but nice rocky prominence- this looked like a good spot for swimming.
  • The last bit of the trail along the east shore of Upper Pond passes some very attractive sandy beaches. These spots are pretty clearly a local hot-spot for swimming on summer afternoons.

Overall, I think this loop clocked in at somewhere between 30 and 35 miles. I feel like this loop has some serious potential but given the current state of the West Mountain Trail, it's really only something that the most die-hard hikers are even going to have the lease bit of interest in. If that trail could be cut open again (and more campsites established and designated on some of the ponds in the Pigeon Lake Wilderness), this could make for a nice weekend loop trip that I think would be appealing to many in the community.
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Old 06-20-2020, 08:07 AM   #14
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Thanks for the great trip report! Your assumption is correct regarding the herd trail just north of the Sucker Brook bridge. It's about a 15 minute hike back to Cranberry Pond.
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Old 06-20-2020, 03:07 PM   #15
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I did this loop last week. Sorry to DuctTape and Addwolanin- I wasn't intentionally excluding you guys but just as I predicted, the stars aligned with a few nights off and good weather, and I literally did not open the map to really plan the trip until I was already at the trailhead.

At some point I'd like to get a proper trip report up but a quick summary:

I started at the trailhead located between Upper and Lower Ponds at Brown's Tract. From here, I hiked east on the snowmobile trail (that follows the old railroad grade) to just shy of the put in for the Brown's Tract access to Raquette Lake, and from there on the snowmobile/portage trail to the east end of Eight Lake. I continued around Eighth Lake to Bug Lake via the snowmobile trail, and from Bug Lake I continued south to Seventh Lake, where I spent the first night in the western-most of the two lean-tos on Seventh Lake.

Day 2 I retraced my steps back to Bug Lake, then continued west over Black Bear Mountain, through Eagle Bay, then north on the road to the Cascade Lake Trailead. Again on trail, I continued north past Cascade and Chain Lakes to Queer Lake, where I spent the second night in the Queer Lake Lean-to.

Day 3 I continued north past Chub Lake to the Pigeon Lake Trail, then east past Pigeon Lake and Otter Pond, up and over West Mountain and down to Raquette Lake at Sucker Brook Bay. From there, I continued south past Lower Pond to the trailhead.

Some more detailed information about the specifics of the route, listed in order of my traverse:
  • The trails between Brown's Tract and Eighth Lake were well-maintained and easy to follow. The Nat Geo map shows the snowmobile trail/portage trail between Eighth Lake and the Brown's Tract Inlet put in as a minimally maintained trail- this could (and should) be shown as a proper trail. The Nat Geo map is also missing the spur trail that leads to the actual put in spot on Brown's Tract Inlet.
  • The snowmobile trail between Eighth Lake and Bug Lake was pretty well maintained for the most part- a good wide corridor and generally a dry tread. It clearly gets very little non-snowmobile use so there's not really an established path but the route is obvious nonetheless. It does get a bit muddy for the last half mile or so before arriving at the junction just north of Bug Lake.
  • The spur trail south past Bug Lake is an old road, well-maintained, and easy to follow all the way to the campground.
  • I was able to find 3 designated tent sites at Bug Lake (naturally, none of which are even hinted at in the least on the official DEC information for unit). They weren't well marked, all are accessed via herd paths, and all are kind of hard to locate. One is on the northwest shore, another one is on the southeast shore, and the 3rd is on the east shore. Both the sites on the northwest and southeast shores were really nice. The site on the east shore wasn't bad but also wasn't nearly as nice. The site on the east shore also had a loon nesting in it and probably should be avoided for the time being.
  • The Nat Geo Map shows a marked and maintained trail that crosses the outlet of Bug Lake and connects to the Eagles Nest Lake Trail- this trail does not exist (except maybe as a herd path, I didn't attempt to walk this route).
  • The trail connecting Bug Lake to the north shore of Seventh Lake is a herd path, not a maintained trail. Both the Nat Geo and DEC maps show it as an official trail, which is misleading- it's minimally maintained and does not have a single trail marker along the entire length of the trail. It also diverges from the trail connecting Bug Lake and the campground at a different location than indication on either the Nat Geo or DEC maps- the junction is on the west side of where that trail crosses the outlet of Bug Lake, not the east side as indicated. The junction is also unmarked. I walked right past it without seeing it, and made it all the way to the campground before realizing my error, and was forced to retrace my steps.
  • Both the lean-tos on Seventh Lake were really nice- and they clearly also get a lot of use and abuse. The eastern-most of the two lean-tos is a double-wide (one of the few still in existence). The western-most of the two is really nicely situated on a bluff overlooking the lake. There are also 3 or 4 designated tent sites scattered along the north shore (and a whole lot of closed campsites).
  • I did also follow the trail along the north shore of Seventh Lake all the way to the end of Seventh Lake Road to see if there were any potential access from there. It looks like foot access is permitted via the driveway at the end of the road but there's no parking whatsoever (and a whole lot of "No Parking Violators Will Be Towed" signs).
  • There's also some funkyness with the trails between Bug Lake and Black Bear Mountain. I never saw the Black Bear Mountain Ski Trail (the trail that loops around the south end of the mountain). Also, the DEC and Nat Geo Maps disagree pretty significantly regarding where this trail ties in to the Bug Lake Trail.
  • Black Bear Mountain was a nice climb with some decent views- I'm a bit ashamed to say that this was my first trip up this peak. From the east the climb was not too bad even with a full overnight pack. If I had done this loop in the other direction, though, it would've been a haul getting my overnight pack up and over the mountain- the climb up the west side is pretty steep in spots.
  • The road walk through Eagle Bay wasn't too bad. Along 28 there is a paved bike path, so plenty of room to walk without having to worry about traffic. North of Eagle Bay I was on the shoulder which was narrow in spots but there was less traffic to worry about.
  • North of Eagle Bay, the road splits- and the Nat Geo Map shows the wrong leg as being the "main" road. This did cause me some momentary confusion in trying to figure out how much further I had to hike to get to the Cascade Lake Trailhead.
  • If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find the "old" Cascade Lake Trailhead on the right about a half mile south of the new trailhead. This will save on some distance and elevation gain.
  • The trail into Cascade Lake is pretty well maintained. North of Cascade Lake, the trail to Queer Lake gets a bit brushy and muddy along Chain Lakes but generally isn't too bad.
  • I did find the supposed "designated site" indicated by the DECInfo site on the west end of Queer Lake, more or less where the Windfall-Queer Lake Trail first comes into view of Queer Lake (just south of the spot where it's obvious folks launch their canoes. It's not really a great site... and I think is a product of a site that was inventoried but never actually designated magically becoming a designated site because someone decided that all inventoried sites were designated sites. It's small, there's not a lot of flat ground, and no "Camp Here" disc.
  • The Queer Lake Lean-to is nice, but there's also a lot of tree stumps surrounding the lean-to. Illegal tree cutting is clearly a huge problem here.
  • The trail between Queer Lake and Chub Lake was a bit brushy in spots but overall not too bad. It clearly doesn't get a whole lot of use.
  • The designated tent site on the northwest shore of Chub Lake is really nice. It does currently have a "Camp Here" disc. If I had known how nice this site was (and didn't still need Queer Lake for the Lean-to Challenge) I probably would've pushed on to here for night #2.
  • There was an established site on Constable Pond at the junction where I arrived at the West Mountain Trail, but no "Camp Here" disc. The DEC page for the Pigeon Lake Wilderness does list a designated tent site at Constable Pond but doesn't mention where it is- so I don't know if this was it or not. It was an OK site- kind of small.
  • The West Mountain Trail was in great shape at first, where I started following it at Constable Pond. It had been recently cut out- there was no blow down and the corridor was wide. The trail remained in this condition until about maybe a half mile shy of Pigeon Lake, where I arrived at the spot that the trail crew had turned around. Beyond this point, the trail was super overgrown and had a ton of blowdown. The old tread was still mostly obvious for another mile or so (more on the condition of this trail further east below).
  • I did find a couple of old campsites on the north shore of Pigeon Lake, but they were too close to water to be legal (and in any case, weren't really usable in their current state- it had obviously been years, if not decades, since they last saw any real use).
  • After crossing the streams/beaver flows immediately east of Pigeon Lake, the West Mountain Trail more or less disappeared. Occasionally I'd find a trail marker on a tree or an old cut log, but there was otherwise not even a hint of the old tread for a fair distance. Trying to follow this trail took a decent amount of "guess and check" work, and repeatedly I found myself retracing my steps to try another direction. Honestly, the fact that the DEC website makes zero mention of the current status of this trail (whether on the page for the management unit or the page for backcountry conditions) is downright inexcusable- it's pretty much gone, yet all of the "official" information (DEC website and maps, Nat Geo maps) shows it as a marked and maintained trail.
  • I'd though about maybe checking out Otter Pond while I was there but I was too pre-occupied with route finding and did not end up walking down to the pond. I could see it through the trees, though.
  • Once the West Mountain Trail starts the actual climb up West Mountain, the old tread becomes more obvious again although the trail is still a far cry from anything that could be considered "maintained"- and it's pretty much straight up the mountain. This was a moderately rugged climb (especially with an overnight pack) but overall not too bad.
  • After passing through the notch and swinging around the east side of the mountain, there is a spur trail up to the old fire tower site. There's not really much in the way of views but it's neat from an historic perspective. It looks like people occasionally camp on the summit (illegally since it's within 150 feet of the trail).
  • The trail down the east side of West Mountain is much more obvious and has had some maintenance. There is a fern-filled clearing just below the summit that is mildly confusing- the trail was not where I expected it to be on the other side of the clearing (on the descent, I had to angle across the clearing slightly to the left to find the continuation of the trail). Much of the trail is somewhat washed out but not overly rugged.
  • Once I hit the base of West Mountain, the rest of the hike was pretty much entirely pleasant strolling on old roads. I did find a super obvious herd path just north of the bridge over the outlet of Cranberry Pond that I followed for maybe a tenth of a mile west- I would assume that this leads all the way to Cranberry Pond but an not sure.
  • There is a small but nice designated tent site at the end of the spur trail to the shoreline on Sucker Brook Bay (which also has a small but nice beach adjacent). This could be a nice spot to camp for anyone looking to do this trip over 3 nights as opposed to 2.
  • There is some beaver activity where the trail crosses Beaver Brook- and I did get my feet wet going through here.
  • Directly opposite the island on Lower Pond a spur trail leads out to a small but nice rocky prominence- this looked like a good spot for swimming.
  • The last bit of the trail along the east shore of Upper Pond passes some very attractive sandy beaches. These spots are pretty clearly a local hot-spot for swimming on summer afternoons.

Overall, I think this loop clocked in at somewhere between 30 and 35 miles. I feel like this loop has some serious potential but given the current state of the West Mountain Trail, it's really only something that the most die-hard hikers are even going to have the lease bit of interest in. If that trail could be cut open again (and more campsites established and designated on some of the ponds in the Pigeon Lake Wilderness), this could make for a nice weekend loop trip that I think would be appealing to many in the community.

Great write up, thanks! That trail up the backside of west mountain gives me a bit of pause as far as attempting this hike.


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Old 06-22-2020, 06:07 PM   #16
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I did this loop last week. Sorry to DuctTape and Addwolanin- I wasn't intentionally excluding you guys but just as I predicted, the stars aligned with a few nights off and good weather, and I literally did not open the map to really plan the trip until I was already at the trailhead.
No worries. Sounds like a great trip. There should be a more concerted effort to create/maintain these longer loop trail systems for more than just the hard-core hiker. The few that exist get a lot of pressure.
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Old 06-22-2020, 07:25 PM   #17
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There should be a more concerted effort to create/maintain these longer loop trail systems for more than just the hard-core hiker.
I don't know what it would take to make it happen, but it would be great if they (the state) would ditch the existing (historical) trail system and reroute it a bit higher in elevation only dipping back to the ponds with spurs.

I think this system mainly follows the drainage of Constable creek, which is not navigable by water (or land) very easily but I really have no idea why this route was chosen except to minimize elevation gain. Everyone would benefit from a slight detour to higher ground as the trail, in theory, should be easier to maintain and be drier. The current amount of toadstools and cord is ridiculous.

In the higher hardwoods there will be big blowdowns, but as an evolving wilderness trail I don't see why those simply wouldn't be circumvented and new trail "burned" in and let the tree rot naturally rather than try to get a team to do a motorless removal 4 miles in.

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Old 02-04-2020, 08:38 AM   #18
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Maybe calling the local ranger would help.
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:35 AM   #19
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Is or was Judson Rd also called; Higby Rd?
Or is that another road entirely?
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:37 AM   #20
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Is or was Judson Rd also called; Higby Rd?
Or is that another road entirely?


The judson rd. Is a small dead end road off of higby rd. Right at the left hand bend that takes higby toward big moose lake.


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