SHORT HIKES FOR GREAT VIEWS.
That doesn't mean they can't enjoy the wilderness. There are dozens of short hikes in the Adirondacks that, despite their brevity, offer a sense of remoteness from civilization. We can't describe them all, so we selected just the shortest of the short --- hikes that can be done by almost anyone: young children, the elderly, the out-of-shape, or the just plain lazy. The longest is a one-mile loop. None demands strenuous climbing. Each hike offers a big reward for a small investment of time and energy, such as a High Peaks panorama, a spectacular waterfall or old-growth trees.
PACK FOREST, WARREN COUNTY
Charles Lathrop Pack, the son of a lumber baron, bought most of this 2,500-acre tract north of Warrensburg in 1927 as an experiment in conservation-friendly forestry for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. DEC now operates a youth summer camp on a portion of the property. The public portion of the preserve contains Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) and Eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) more than 300 years old. One massive hemlock, nicknamed the Grandmother Tree, stands more than 175 feet tall.
The SUNY forestry students have built a gravel path, suitable for wheelchairs, with interpretative stops explained in a brochure available at the trailhead. Various trees besides pines and hemlocks grow along the one-mile loop, such as red maple (Acer rubrum), striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). Wildflowers include common wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), goldthread (Coptis groenlandica), and partridgeberry (Mitchella repens).
Directions: From Warrensburg, take U.S. 9 north about 0.7 mile past the junction with NY 28 to an entrance road on the left. Drive about 0.5 mile to the parking lot.
CATHEDRAL PINCH, HAMILTON COUNTY
Perhaps the shortest official trail in the Adirondacks passes through a small stand of giant Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) growing just off the highway between Inlet and Raquette Lake. The largest pines, which are more than 200 years old, soar 100 feet into the air, with diameters of up to four feet. The trail makes a 0.1-mile loop through the pines and passes by a memorial for a young airman killed in World War II.
A sign marks the trailhead, but the trail itself lacks blazes, except for a few blue paint daubs. Bear right at the start of the trail. It soon reaches a junction, where a short spur goes to the right to an especially large pine. The main trail turns left at this junction.
Directions: The Cathedral Pines are located on the northern side of NY 28 in Hamilton County. If coming from Inlet, they are one mile past the state boat launch on Seventh Lake. If coming from Raquette Lake, they are one mile past the entrance to the Eighth Lake Public Campground.
LAMPSON FALLS, ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY
At Lampson Falls, the Grass River plunges about 50 feet in a thunderous roar, one of the most spectacular cascades in the Adirondacks. These wide, powerful falls can be reached by an old dirt road closed to vehicles. Hikers may begin to hear the falls as they pass through a stand of pine about 0.25 mile from the trailhead. As the trail nears the falls, several herd paths lead left to the top of the cascade. At 0.5 mile, the main trail reaches a sandy campsite beside the large, foamy pool below the falls.
From the campsite, the trail climbs a pine knoll, where there is a privy. Most hikers, however, probably will want to turn left before the knoll to view the falls from the bedrock outcrops. The bedrock forms a small peninsula. For those wanting a longer hike, the trail continues along the river downstream from the falls, passing old-growth trees.
Directions: From the junction of County Road 17 and County Road 27 in Degrasse in St. Lawrence County, drive 4.4 miles north on County Road 27 to the trailhead on the left. Park along the road.
BELFRY MOUNTAIN, ESSEX COUNTY
No hike in the Adirondacks offers such a magnificent panorama for such little effort. A short gravel road, closed to vehicles, leads about 0.4 mile to a fire tower from which hikers can look out at the High Peaks, Champlain Valley and Vermont's Green Mountains. In spring and fall, migrating hawks can be seen passing through the valley. Even hikers who don't climb the tower will enjoy superb views from the grassy summit. Serviceberry trees (Amelanchier canadensis) and several kinds of wildflowers, such as wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), bloom on the summit in spring. The road to the top ascends only 120 feet in elevation, from 1,700 to 1,820 feet.
Directions: From 1-87 Exit 30 in Essex County, go about 100 yards south on U.S. 9 and turn left onto County Road 6; go east for 8.2 miles to a four-way stop near Roe Pond; turn left onto County Road 70 and go uphill for 0.6 mile. Park on the side of the road opposite a large yellow gate. The trail begins on the other side of the gate. From Port Henry, take County Road 4 west to Moriah Center, pick up County Road 70 there and head north.
SILVER LAKE BOG PRESERVE, CLINTON COUNTY
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy has built an excellent boardwalk, with benches and interpretive stops, that affords visitors a close-up look at wetlands that are usually inaccessible. It passes through a green world of sphagnum moss, ferns, pitcher plants, mountain holly and trees adapted to the wet environment: black spruce (Picea mariana), tamarack (Larix laricina), Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Rest on the benches to listen and watch for the many birds that inhabit the wetlands, such as the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) and the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus). The boardwalk ends after 0.5 mile, but hikers can continue another 0.75 mile on a trail that climbs through a hardwood forest to a piney bluff overlooking Silver Lake.
Directions: From the blinking light in Ausable Forks, drive northeast on North Main Street about 0.2 mile to a stop sign; turn left onto Clinton County I (also known as Turnpike Road or Silver Lake Road) and go about 12.5 miles to Union Falls Road, just past Silver Lake; turn left and go 1.1 mile to a dirt road on the left; go 0.3 mile down this road to the trailhead on the right. Note: Silver Lake Road forks left about three miles north of the stop sign.
Phil Brown, formerly of Schenectady, is a copy editor for the Chicago Sun Times. This article is adapted from his guidebook, The Longstreet Highroad Guide to the New York Adirondacks, Longstreet Press, 1-800-927-1488.