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Old 06-03-2017, 10:15 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 2
Loop trail for Beginners

My wife and I want to try a multi day loop trail. We are 26 both in good physical condition, but are not experienced hikers. So I'm only worried about getting lost not the trail being too difficult for us. Any ideas for a loop trail that would be marked halfway decently so that it wouldn't be to difficult to find our way. Peaks aren't really a must, but some good scenery and difficult sections of hiking would be fun. Also if possible I would prefer to hike somewhere that isn't terribly busy. Although I realize that may be somewhat difficult since I would like to have a well marked trail.
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Old 06-04-2017, 03:19 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Porter Corners, NY
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When are you going? I really like the west canada lakes loop, but I'll bet it's a muddy mess this time of year.

Last edited by JohnnyVirgil; 06-04-2017 at 03:30 PM..
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Old 06-04-2017, 03:39 PM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2017
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Originally Posted by JohnnyVirgil View Post
When are you going? I really like the west canada lakes loop, but I'll bet it's a muddy mess this time of year.
I'm looking at end of June beginning of July.
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Old 06-04-2017, 05:40 PM   #4
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Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 38
Here is a good source for the Cranberry Lake 50 and you could shorten things to 16 Miles by doing the High Falls Loop. Here is a link.
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Old 06-05-2017, 02:56 PM   #5
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June will be quieter than July, but also muddier and buggier. August has the least amount of mud and bugs, but also the greatest crowds by far (especially as the end of the month approaches and everyone realizes that summer is almost over and they didn't even do half of the hiking/backpacking trips that they'd wanted to do before the end of the season, and the hordes are driven into the backcountry come hell, high water, or torrential downpours).

Note also that both of the trails listed so far (High Falls Loop, West Canada Lakes) are in Wilderness areas, areas that by definition are managed with the intent that traversing them will provide at least somewhat of a navigational challenge. I'm not saying that these trails demand advanced/expert map and compass skills, but you should be prepared for occasional stretches where markers are missing, blowdown or overgrowth obscures the route, etc.

I'd also add that there is a difference between being in "good shape" and being in "good hiking shape." Hiking demands the use of muscles that aren't often strengthened by regular fitness routines (balance muscles especially on rocky, muddy trails with uneven surfaces). Foot care is another potential issue, as fit people who don't hike much often don't have the built up callouses and thick skin pads on their feet of a seasoned hiker. The difference between "fit" and "hiking fit" isn't always substantial, but it's usually at least noticeable, so be sure not to overestimate your physical ability as you plan your trip.

Is this your first backpacking trip ever? If so, I'd recommend picking a "base camp" style trip, rather than a loop thru-hike. Pick a destination to hike into that is no more than 5 miles from the trailhead. Hike in and set up camp for a few nights, and just do day hikes or hang out in camp instead of moving each day. This allows you to gain experience without the added complexity of having to relocate camp each day. Once you've done a few base camp trips you can start doing loop thru-hikes with more confidence.

A base camp approach also gives you an easy bail out option should something go awry. You don't want to be halfway through a 20 mile loop when you find out that your shoes that felt comfortable at home give you massive blisters on the trail, your pack that felt comfortable on your back for 5 minutes in your living room is agony after 4 hours, you brought food that requires simmering and your stove doesn't simmer very well, the clothes that you thought would be warm enough really aren't, that hiking through hours of steady downpour is an absolutely miserable experience, etc. (These situations and more are common issues that all beginner backpackers will likely face at some point.)

Some decent base camping options include any of the ponds of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness (be aware that Pharaoh Lake and Crane Pond are both very popular although they should still be relatively quiet in June), any of the more accessible ponds of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness (Spruce, Pillsbury, and Cedar Lakes come to mind), Mud Lake or Hamilton Lake Stream in the Silver Lakes Wilderness, any of the ponds in the Saranac Lake Wild Forest in the Fish Creek/Floodwood area, Tirrell Pond in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest (again, fairly popular as float planes can land here), the Raquette River in the Western High Peaks (a particularly popular area but should be relatively quiet in June), etc.

If you do have some backpacking experience and are felling ready for a thru-hike loop, I'd say the suggestions given so far are pretty good (again provided that you are prepared for the occasional moderately-difficult navigational challenge). I'd also add the loop around Treadway Mountain in the Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness with the caveats that again, Pharaoh Lake is very popular but should still be relatively quiet if you go in June, and that you may find some sections of trail demand at least a moderate amount of attention to route finding on your part.

A few other things to keep in mind- make sure you familiarize yourself with the DEC's regulations for backcountry camping and hiking. Note also that the High Peaks area has additional, more stringent regulations due to high levels of use and abuse. Not familiarizing oneself with the regulations is a common beginner mistake that can lead to tickets and fines if you are caught in violation by a ranger.

Equally important is the Leave No Trace principles. Please also take the time to read through and familiarize yourself with LNT. These aren't regulations, but rather guidelines that, when followed, enable groups to help protect backcountry resources and decrease the need for additional regulations and enforcement in the future. Another common beginner mistake is to assume that "Leave No Trace" is the same thing as "If you carry it in, carry it out." The reality is that the manner in which our behaviors can negatively impact backcountry resources is a lot more complex, and there's a lot more to following LNT than just carrying our trash out with us when we leave.

I hope this helps! Enjoy!
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