October 10th, 2019
It’s shoulder season in the Adirondack High Peaks region. That means winter conditions at higher elevations, especially thin, dangerous ice. One of the best ways to stay safe during shoulder season is to stick to trails at lower elevations, which will have less ice, until a firm snow pack has settled in on higher summits. Here are five shoulder season hikes that our staff enjoy during this transitional time of year.
All distance mileages are round-trip.
Baxter Mountain, Hammond Pond Wild Forest
2.5 miles (800ft elevation gain) from State Highway 9N
Starting from 9N, Baxter features a short, but gradual climb with switchbacks. From the summit you can see the Johns Brook Valley and many of the Great Range peaks that line it. This is a great way to take in views of snow-capped high peaks without having to worry about icy conditions.
Cooper Kill Pond, Wilmington Wild Forest
5.2 miles from Gillespie Drive (925ft elevation gain); 6 miles from Bonnie View Avenue (1685 ft elevation gain); 5.6 miles as an end-to-end traverse
Often misspelled “Cooper Kiln Pond”, this backcountry spot is an absolute gem of a hike. With two opposing trailheads—one off Gillespie Drive and another off Bonnie View Avenue—you can approach it from either end, or do a traverse with two cars. Featuring a lean-to at the pond, this is also a great spot for beginning backpackers to practice without being too far from the car. Given its low elevation, this trail should remain ice-free until winter conditions really set in.
Nun-da-ga-o Ridge, Hurricane Mountain Wilderness
6 mile loop (1400ft elevation gain) from O’Toole Road Parking Area
A low elevation hike with ridge walking? You bet. The Nun-da-ga-o Ridge (also know as the Soda Range) trail dips and rises through a series of low ridges that offer great views of neighboring Hurricane Mountain. At the base of the ridge is Lost Pond, which has a secluded lean-to not far from the water’s edge.
Note: this trail is mostly unmarked. If you are uncomfortable following a herd path, we suggest checking out one of the other hikes on this list or finding a hiking partner who knows the route.
Owls Head Lookout, Giant Mountain Wilderness
5 miles (1200ft elevation gain) from State Highway 9N
Located close to Elizabethtown, Owls Head Lookout (not to be mistaken with Owls Head on Route 73 near Keene) is a gradual, wooded hike to an open cliff with views of the north side of Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge. This is a rarely-visited peak that is excellent in all seasons.
Snow Mountain, High Peaks Wilderness
4.4 miles from Rooster Comb trailhead (1400ft elevation gain); 3 miles from Deer Brook trailhead (1200ft elevation gain)
A personal favorite of our High Peaks Information Center staff, Snow Mountain is one of the best bang-for-your-buck hikes in the area. Taking you through deciduous forests, this trail finishes with a short, but steep climb, to one of the best views of Giant Mountain in the area. The Deer Brook approach also has pleasant water features that add to the experience.