Adirondacks State Park
The Cranberry Lake region is one of the largest remote areas remaining in the state. There has been only a minimum of civilized encroachment on the lake itself; and, just to the south of the lake, lie thousands of acres of rolling hills, numerous lakes and ponds, and unbroken forest lands showing little or no marks of civilization.
Cranberry Lake, the northern gateway to the Five Ponds Wilderness, covers 11 square miles and has 55 miles of shoreline, over 40 of which are state owned. The original lake doubled to its current size in 1867 with the construction of a log crib dam for flow, navigation and hydraulic power control. A concrete dam replaced the crib dam in 1916. With all that water, you can expect good paddling around Cranberry Lake, and your expectations will be more than met.
The lake was noted at one time for its fine trout fishing. DEC is stocking brook trout to make it a popular fishing spot again. Many of the ponds, streams and rivers in the area now support excellent trout fishing.
On July 15, 1995 the area changed dramatically. A violent windstorm blew down thousands of acres of trees south and west of Cranberry Lake. Virtually all trails in the Five Ponds Wilderness were blocked and access to the interior ended for the rest of the year. Ecological impacts will mean more young forests and a shift in the plants and animals towards species that favor open areas and new forest growth (e.g., deer, snowshoe hare). This kind of event is not unusual in the Adirondacks, though it may happen only once in a lifetime. It is the type of catastrophic change that occurs in the region. Most trails have reopened, but travel off the trails will be a challenge for decades to come.
Just east of Cranberry Lake village, DEC maintains a public campground and day-use area on the lake, which includes a picnic area, a beach and bathhouses. Graded areas for tents or trailers, convenient water outlets, toilets, a trailer pump-out station and showers are available. Also available are handicapped accessible campsites, a picnic area and a fishing pier. A public boat launch is located on the Oswegatchie River located on Columbian Road.
Primitive tent sites, designated with yellow markers, have been selected for the convenience of campers. Forty-six of these sites line the shore of Cranberry Lake. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at the Cranberry Lake boat launch. Forty-five numbered sites serve the canoe route between Lows Lake and Inlet. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at Inlet. Forty numbered sites serve Lows Lake and the Bog River.
Cranberry Lake Wild Forest
This 24,111 acre forest consists of three separate parcels to the west, northwest and east of Cranberry Lake. It contains 15 miles of foot trails, 9.4 miles of snowmobile trails, a four-mile ski trail and two Adirondack lean-tos. Generally, the trails in this forest are more easily traversed than those in the wilderness to the south.
Consisting of 2,033 acres, lies between Inlet Road, Rte. 3, the Wanakena Road and the Oswegatchie River. It contains the following:
Wanakena Snowmobile Trail (2.6 miles)
This trail follows the original road to Wanakena. It joins Wanakena Road and Inlet Road to allow snowmobilers to travel between Wanakena and Star Lake. Together with Moores Trail, it makes a loop.
Moores Trail (yellow) (2.0 miles)
This trail, although paralleling the Wanakena Snowmobile Trail, follows a more scenic route adjacent to the Oswegatchie river. Canoeists sometimes use this trail as a carry between Inlet and Wanakena.
Consisting of 7,535 acres, lies between Wanakena and Cranberry Lake, both north and south of Route 3. It contains the following:
Peavine Swamp Ski Trail (7 miles)
This trail begins on the south side of Route 3 east of Peavine Swamp. It presently contains three loops. The last half of the trail passes through lands that have never been significantly harvested. Large specimens of hardwoods, red spruce and eastern hemlock are common.
Consisting of 14,452 acres, lies primarily south of Route 3 to the northeast and east of Cranberry Lake. It offers the greatest opportunity for outdoor recreation within this forest and contains:
Bear Mountain Trail (red) (2.4 miles)
This is a loop trail, beginning at a parking lot adjacent to campsite 27 in the Cranberry Lake campground and ending in loop IV. Several vistas overlook the lake from the mountain; a lean-to is located .6 mile from the parking lot.
Campground Trail (yellow) (2.2 miles)
This trail connects Bear Mountain Trail with Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail. It was constructed in 1987 to provide campers at the Cranberry Lake Campground with more access to this parcel. It also provides hikers with access to Bear Mountain from Route 3. The crew that built this trail refers to it as "the boardwalk" because two 250' bridges cross portions of Bear Mountain Swamp.
Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail (6.8 miles)
Beginning at a parking lot on Route 3, this trail is the roadbed of a spur of the Grasse River Railroad, which was probably constructed between 1913 and 1916; the tracks were removed prior to state acquisition in 1933.
The Campground Trail joins this trail 1.4 miles from Route 3. It shortly enters a clearing that was the former site of a logging camp. A 1916 Conservation Department map shows this camp serviced by a telephone line. The trail leaves this railroad bed .8 mile later and follows old logging roads to Brandy Brook and a grassy area beyond known as the "Potato Patch." From here, the trail branches easterly to Burntbridge Pond and private lands, while a southerly branch leads to Brandy Brook Flow on Cranberry Lake. A lean-to was constructed at Burntbridge Pond in 1986.
Dog Pond Loop Trail (blue) (9.8 miles)
Construction of this trail began in 1988. It leaves the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail at Brandy Brook Flow, passes four developed campsites on the flow and heads south, crossing the Hedgehog Pond Trail to Curtis Pond, where it goes easterly to Irish and Dog ponds. At Proulx's Clearing, near Dog Pond, the trail turns north to meet the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail west of Burntbridge Pond.
Dog Pond Trail (red)(1.5 miles)
This trail provides access to Dog Pond from Proulx's Clearing to the north (.4 mile) and the Otterbrook Trail to the south (1.1 miles).
Otterbrook Trail (blue) (7.5 miles)
This trail follows a restricted access road from the South Branch of the Grass River to Chair Rock Flow. It shortens the distance to Dog Pond to 3.4 miles.
Hedgehog Pond Trail (yellow) (.5 mile)
This short trail runs from Hedgehog Bay to Hedgehog Pond.
Curtis Pond Trail (red) (1.2 miles)
This trail runs from East Inlet to Curtis Pond.
Five Ponds Wilderness Area
This 107,230 acre area lies between Cranberry Lake and Stillwater Reservoir and contains some of the best remote wilderness in the Adirondack Park. Trails are mostly in the northern part, leaving much of the area trailless. The remoteness of the area and heavy beaver activity provide more rugged trail conditions than on the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest to the north.
The High Falls Loop (red) (13.0 miles)
This trail begins at the parking lot on the South Shore Road in the Hamlet of Wanakena at the start of the Dead Creek Flow Trail.
The first two miles follow the bed of a logging railroad constructed by the Rich Lumber Company prior to state acquisition of that parcel in 1919. In the mid 1930's, it was upgraded to a truck trail for state administrative use. It is now used only as a foot trail, in conformance with wilderness management guidelines.
After leaving the former roadbed, the trail follows old logging roads to meet with a short (.2 mile) trail that provides access for boaters from Janack's Landing.
At the next intersection (Sand Hill Junction), a yellow trail provides access to the Cat Mountain Trail and Cowhorn Junction, while the red trail continues toward the Plains. A short distance later, the trail turns southerly to leave the former Plains Trail, which was abandoned due to excessive beaver activity. The new Plains Trail was constructed in 1986 on higher ground. This trail ends on the High Falls Trail, which shares its history with the Dead Creek Flow Trail. From here, it is a short distance to High Falls.
On the return trip, a hiker may continue along an abandoned logging railroad that ran between High Falls and Wanakena. Adjacent to the Oswegatchie River, this trail will likely contain some beaver flooding. At the northern end of this trail is the Wanakena Primitive corridor, which is a one mile remnant of a former truck trail retained in drivable condition to allow the Wanakena Water Company to maintain its facilities. From the barrier at the northern end of the corridor, it is approximately .5 mile along the South Shore Road to the parking lot.
Sand Lake Trail (blue) (7.3 miles)
This trail begins at the southwestern corner of the High Falls loop and crosses the only bridge over the Oswegatchie River within this wilderness. Beaver flooding is very common along the beginning of the trail. The trail runs southwesterly past Five Ponds and Wolf Pond, ending at Sand Lake. Lean-tos are located at Big Shallow, Little Shallow, Wolf Pond and Sand Lake.
Wolf Pond Trail (yellow)
This trail leaves the Sand Lake Trail .5 mile from Wolf Pond and continues to Buck Pond. Wolf Pond outlet provides a wide expanse of lowland that is usually wet and must be crossed on beaver dams. The remainder of the trail to Cage Lake is on high ground, but beaver activities on Hammer Creek often necessitate trail relocations beyond Cage Lake. At Buck Pond, it joins the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor.
Buck Pond Primitive Corridor (8.5 miles)
This undeveloped roadbed is used by the owners of Buck Pond to reach their property. From Buck Pond, it follows old logging roads until it meets the roadbed of the logging railroad constructed by the Post and Henderson Company around 1905. About 1.2 miles north of Little Otter Pond, the route utilizes old logging roads again. Beyond this juncture, it forks with the northern road continuing on to Youngs Road south of the hamlet of Star Lake. The left fork leads to private property; but, before reaching the former state boundary line, it meets the Boundary Line Trail. Deep ruts are found in several places, especially at Little Otter Pond, and beaver activity is usually present at Little Otter Pond Outlet.
Boundary Line Trail (yellow) (.6 mile)
This trail provides shortened access from Youngs Road to Buck Pond Road. A parking lot is available at Youngs Road.
Cowhorn Junction Trail (yellow) (1.8 miles)
This trail connects the High Falls loop with Cowhorn Junction. It provides access to the Cat Mountain Trail and passes Cat Mountain and Bassout Ponds.
Cat Mountain Trail (red) (.7 mile)
This trail ends at the summit of Cat Mountain, where a firetower was formerly located. A good view of the blowdown is available.
Sixmile Creek Trail (blue) (5.3 miles)
This trail is accessible from West Flow, passes the Olmstead Pond Loop and Cowhorn Pond and ends at Cowhorn Junction.
Cowhorn Pond Trail (yellow) (.2 mile)
This short trail leads from Sixmile Creek Trail to the Cowhorn Pond lean-to.
Olmstead Pond Loop (yellow) (3.2 miles)
This loop begins on the Sixmile Creek Trail approximately .5 mile from West Flow. It passes Spectacle and Simmons ponds and joins the former Olmstead Pond Trail at the Olmstead Pond lean-to and continues to rejoin the Sixmile Creek Trail.
Darning Needle Pond Trail (yellow) (2.4 miles)
This trail provides access to Darning Needle Pond from Chair Rock Flow. It follows Chair Rock Creek and is subject to beaver activity.
Canoe Carry (3.5 miles)
This trail provides access for canoeists carrying between Lows Lake and the Oswegatchie River. Canoeists may enter the Bog River at Lows Lower Dam and paddle up the slow-moving river approximately 14.5 miles to the west shore of Lows Lake, where the canoe carry leads to Big Deer Pond and the upper reaches of the Oswegatchie River. The route continues downstream to Inlet, where it becomes unnavigable. The only major obstruction is High Falls, although beaver dams are often encountered, and two minor rapids might not be navigable during periods of low water.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication