Running from mid-October through early December and late March through May, shoulder season is a great time of year to explore low elevation hikes in the Adirondack Park. As the seasons shift, snow and ice packs are often unstable at higher elevations—especially in the High Peaks Wilderness—making for unsafe and unpleasant hiking conditions. Here are five great, low elevation trails in the Western Adirondacks to enjoy during shoulder season.
Note: These trails can all be found on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 745
Moose River Lock & Dam, Black River Wild Forest
2 miles round-trip (minimal elevation gain) from Green Bridge Road Trailhead
A family-friendly option, the Lock & Dam Trail takes hikers along the Moose River to the site of an old wooden dam. This is a particularly nice hike during fall foliage season and during spring snow melts, when the water is high.
Moss Lake Loop, Fulton Chain Wild Forest
2.5 mile loop (180 feet elevation gain) from Big Moose Road Trailhead
Another family-friendly option, the Moss Lake Loop takes hikers on old logging roads around a pleasant Adirondack lake. This trail is shared with a number of user groups, including equestrians and cyclists, and includes campsites can also be found around the lake, some of which are handicap accessible. For a longer day, hikers can leave the loop at a junction on the southern end to check out Bubb and Sis Lakes before returning to the Moss Lake trailhead.
Cascade Lake Loop and Falls, Pigeon Lake Wilderness
5.5 mile loop (300 feet elevation gain) from Big Moose Road Trailhead
Just down the road from the Moss Lake Trailhead is another hike with great water features: Cascade Lake. This trail offers hikers a relatively flat walk around a scenic Adirondack water body, complete with a 40-foot waterfall at the halfway point. A number of historical sites can be found on the northern shore of the lake, including the site of an old girls camp.
Middle Settlement Lake, Ha-de-ron-dah Wilderness
6.6 miles round-trip (670 feet elevation gain) from Rt28 Scusa Trailhead
Starting from Rt28, this trail winds through dense and picturesque stands of forest before bringing hikers to a remote backcountry lake. Birders will find this to be a particularly pleasant hike, as the combination of water bodies and forest stands attract all sorts of bird species to the area. If a longer hike is desired, hikers can choose to head northeast from Middle Settlement Lake to Cedar and Grass Ponds before looping back to the Scusa Trailhead.
Cat Mountain, Five Ponds Wilderness
10 miles round-trip (1050 feet elevation gain) from South Shore Road Trailhead
The site of a former fire tower, Cat Mountain is a superb hike from start to finish. Starting from the trailhead in Wanakena, hikers will be treated to views of Cranberry Lake and a number of small ponds before reaching the partially open summit, which offers wide views of the Five Ponds Wilderness. This trail follows part of the CL50 backpacking route and includes tent site options along the way for those looking to do a cold weather overnight in the backcountry.
Our High Peaks Information Center staff have up-to-date trail conditions and can help you determine the safest and most enjoyable options for hiking in the area. They can be reached at 518-523-3441 or at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Bobby Clark and Cat Hadlow