Trans Adirondack Route: A 240-Mile Walk on New York’s Wild Side

The following is a guest post courtesy of Erik Schlimmer, a Founding Member of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route. Have a story to share? Submit it here.

Basic Information

Length: 240 miles
Location: Adirondack Park, Upstate New York
Trail Type: End-to-end
Estimated Duration: Thru-hikes have ranged between 11 and 20 days. A hiker carrying a light pack will likely cover the route in two weeks, which is 17 miles per day.
Scenery: Hardwood and softwood forests, seemingly endless bodies of water, three summits with extensive views

Terrain

Terrain ranges from easy to difficult.  The route ascends three peaks and includes six sections of off-trail travel, which make it difficult.  For the rest of its course the route gently runs along waterways and from pond to pond.  Currently the route is composed of 7 miles of off-trail travel, 53 miles of road walking (more scenic and remote than you would think), and 180 miles of trails.

Navigation

Blue Line to Blue Line: The Official Guide to the Trans Adirondack Route and a complete map set of the route are available at transadk.com.  Free printable updates to the guidebook and map set are available on the website as well.  Since it’s a route, a myriad of trail markers are used, and there are sections that are totally unmarked, requiring map and compass work assisted by the guide book and maps.

 

Why Hike This Trail

Goldenrod on upland plateau near the northern terminus. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

While everyone else is thru-hiking the Northeast’s Long Trail (more than 5,000 thru-hikers, about 150 per year) and Appalachian Trail (more than 15,000 thru-hikers, about 800 per year) and finding shelters full and trails clogged, the Trans Adirondack Route has solitude waiting for you (12 thru-hikers, 3 per year).  This solitude can be found in authentically wild land.  Eight wild forests and five wilderness areas are traversed, and two of those wilderness areas exceed 160,000 acres.  When three Trans Adirondack Route thru-hikers (who were fresh off a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail) recently traversed the route, they were asked what they liked most about it.  They offered a two-word answer: “It’s wild.”  

Getting There

Northern Terminus: From the south (Capital District) get on I-87 (Adirondack Northway), and follow this north for 150 miles to get off at exit 37.  Follow Route 3 west for one mile and then get on Route 190 (Military Turnpike) and follow this northwest for 25 miles to Ellenburg.  Merge onto Route 5 (Ellenburg Center Road and Old Route 90) and follow this southwest for three miles to Ellenburg Center.  Turn north on Brandy Brook Road.  The northern terminus is on Brandy Brook Road a hundred feet north of the post office.  Drive time is three hours, 185 miles.

Southern Terminus: From the east (Capital District) get on I-90 and follow this west for thirty miles to get off at exit 28.  Follow Route 30A north into Johnstown, and then get on Route 67 and follow this west for ten miles to Ephratah.  Turn north on Route 10 and follow this for three miles.  Turn west on Route 29 and follow this for two miles.  Turn northwest on East Fical Road and follow this for one mile.  Turn north on East Road and follow this for one mile.  The southern terminus is on East Road 0.2 miles north of Church Street.  Drive time is an hour and a half, 70 miles.

Shuttle and Transportation Logistics

Catamount Mountain, one of three peaks the route traverses. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

SOBO thru-hikes are most common, which is the direction the guidebook narrates. This is mainly because there is nowhere to stash a car at the northern terminus, but hikers can park a car near the southern terminus for the duration of the hike. Most hikers park at the southern terminus, then travel to the northern terminus to begin the thru-hike.

There is Greyhound bus service to Plattsburgh, 30 miles from the northern terminus. From Plattsburgh, use North Country Public Transit, which will take you to Ellenburg Depot 3.5 miles from the northern terminus in Ellenburg Center. Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route offers rides to either end of the route from Albany (convenient for hikers flying into Albany International Airport) for less than $100.

Climate and Weather

First snow of the season at Flowed Lands. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

No one has completed a winter traverse of the route due to deep snow, unpredictable weather, and temperatures that can dip to 30 below.  May is a good month for a thru-hike since it offers a window between hiking through rotten snow and getting harassed by insects.  June and July are not recommended due to the billions of biting bugs that come out in the mountains during midsummer.  August, September, and October are the best months for a prospective thru-hike.  During these months temperatures range from 40 to 80 along with the possibility of rain, sun, or a combination of these.

Camping  

Cedar Lakes lean-to, one of 48 shelters on the route. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

There are 48 lean-tos sprinkled along the route, yet there are none in the far northern and far southern sections.  When not staying at these shelters you may camp “at large” in pristine areas.  Campsites must be located at least 150 feet from trail, road, or water unless the spot is marked with a Department of Environmental Conservation “Camp Here” disk.  The only unique regulation is that bear-resistant food canisters must be used if camping in the Eastern Zone of High Peaks Wilderness Area.  This section of the route is approximately ten miles long.  To avoid carrying a canister, simply pass through this zone in one day.  Renowned campsites can be found in the Cold River Country and Big Wilderness sections of the route (the route is broken into seven sections).  A thru-hike demands no fees, no permits.

Water Sources

Following the scenic trail along Avalanche Lake. Photo courtesy Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

The route passes 55 bodies of water and countless streams, nearly all of them located in remote country.  Water sources are generally only a few miles apart at the most though streams may run dry during late summer.  In the Far North section, water may be more difficult to find since that’s where nearly all of the route’s road walking is.

Resupply Options

There are post offices located on or near the route at mileposts (hiking southbound, the popular direction) 0, 11, 39, 61, 73, 130, 144, 193, and 218.  Small, seasonal grocery stores can be found on or near the route at mileposts 0, 63, 73, and 130.  A great plan for southbound thru-hikers is to hike 130 miles to Long Lake’s Northern Borne grocery store and then tackle the remaining 110 miles.

Looking to Section Hike?

Section hikes are not especially common on this trail, but an excellent overnight stretch to explore is from the Upper Works trailhead at the end of County Route 25 near Newcomb to a trailhead at Tarbell Hill Lane near the community of Long Lake. Highlights of this 30-mile section include Henderson Lake, Preston Ponds, Duck Hole, the Cold River, and Long Lake.
A section of the route that can be covered in one day runs from an unnamed dirt road off Alder Brook Road to Taylor Pond Campground in the northern section of the Adirondack Park.  Highlights of this six-mile section include Silver Lake, Taylor Pond, and a body of water known as “Rookery Pond” due to the collection of great blue heron nests there.

Closing Thoughts

View of the High Peaks from Mount Van Hoevenberg. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route

As the East’s newest and wildest pathway, the 240-mile Trans Adirondack Route is designed for experienced hikers who are seeking true wilderness.  If you’re a backpacker who has grown tired of the “green tunnel” monotony of popular trails and want to test your skills and love for nature, this route is your ticket to New York’s wild side.

Interested? More information and contacts can be found on the trail’s website here.

Feature image shows Upper Preston Pond, near mile post 100 

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Comments 2

  • Emily : Oct 3rd

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing, I’m going to have to add this to my bucket list☺️

    Reply
  • Mark Cummings : Oct 3rd

    Thank you. If people only knew of the beauty and wildness of this area!

    Reply

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