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Old 04-23-2019, 07:27 AM   #1
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Pharaoh Wilderness hiking

Wonder if anyone has some current information on trail conditions in the Pharaoh Wilderness. I'm feeling the need to get out on a quick overnighter and since I've never been to the Pharaoh Wilderness thought I'd give it a try. My thought is to park at the campground and hike to Pharaoh Lake. Interested in trail conditions, snow, mud, too early to hike & ruin the trails,

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Old 04-23-2019, 11:50 AM   #2
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I am wondering about the same things.
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Old 04-24-2019, 12:31 AM   #3
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Can't speak to the trail conditions, but our camp is just south of the PLWA, and as of Sunday most of the snow was gone, but it was very, very wet. We were sinking boot deep in our back yard. Both Brant and Schroon lakes were well out of their banks and all streams and rivers were running very high.
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:37 AM   #4
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There is one stream crossing between Putnam Pond and Pharaoh Lake that can be a bit of a challenge when the water is high- the outlet of Devil's Washdish, where it crosses the Long Swing Trail just east of Pharaoh Lake. It's not particularly dangerous if approached with some level of caution, but you can probably expect to get wet up to at least your knees in making the crossing this time of year.

It's also pretty likely that the trail to Pharaoh Lake from Brant Lake has some flooding at Mill Brook with the spring runoff. Beavers have been super active there in recent years, and flooding has been a frequent issue (even without runoff).

Unlike some areas of the Adirondacks, the Pharaoh Lake area does actually dry out pretty well later in the season, and the trails will (for the most part) be bone dry by about early July. Of course, that's also when all the people show up- Pharaoh Lake in particular is really popular (I've counted 85 people camped there in a single night). There is definitely something to be said for trying to visit the area early in the season, while it is still relatively quiet.
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:42 AM   #5
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Thanx's all for the information. Sounds like it may be a bit of a mudfest, especially with Friday being rainy all day. I'll skip this weekend and wait for a couple of long weekends I have planned in early May for St. Regis Wilderness paddling.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:25 AM   #6
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I have a standard Ford Fusion Do you think I can get to the parking area to go into the PLWA from the Brant Lake end this time of year?
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Old 04-24-2019, 08:19 PM   #7
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I have a standard Ford Fusion Do you think I can get to the parking area to go into the PLWA from the Brant Lake end this time of year?
Which parking area? There are two. The one at the "legal" end of the road (the end of the maintained portion of the road) you should have no problem accessing. There is a relatively new (2017) parking area here, ADA accessible toilet, etc.

The second parking area is further in, at Mill Brook, at the end of the "drive at your own risk" portion of the road. It requires high clearance and 4WD drive to access at any time of year. With a Ford Fusion, I definitely would not attempt to drive beyond the main lot (closer to Brant Lake), ever.

For clarity, I've marked both parking areas on this map. The southern marker is the "legal" parking area that is maintained and accessibly by any vehicle. North of this, the old road is no longer maintained, and is legally closed but is being treated as "drive at your own risk" as far as Mill Brook by the DEC- this is the portion of the road that requires high clearance and 4WD. The northern marker is the old lot, located just before the Mill Brook crossing, and is the furthest north a high clearance, 4WD vehicle can get on the old road.
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:22 PM   #8
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PLWA from the South

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Which parking area? There are two. The one at the "legal" end of the road (the end of the maintained portion of the road) you should have no problem accessing. There is a relatively new (2017) parking area here, ADA accessible toilet, etc.

The second parking area is further in, at Mill Brook, at the end of the "drive at your own risk" portion of the road. It requires high clearance and 4WD drive to access at any time of year. With a Ford Fusion, I definitely would not attempt to drive beyond the main lot (closer to Brant Lake), ever.

For clarity, I've marked both parking areas on this map. The southern marker is the "legal" parking area that is maintained and accessibly by any vehicle. North of this, the old road is no longer maintained, and is legally closed but is being treated as "drive at your own risk" as far as Mill Brook by the DEC- this is the portion of the road that requires high clearance and 4WD. The northern marker is the old lot, located just before the Mill Brook crossing, and is the furthest north a high clearance, 4WD vehicle can get on the old road.
Thanks very much DSettahr. I was wondering if I could even get to the "legal" lot with my vehicle. I haven't been into the area from the southern approach in many years; my recollection was that the entire road was not very well maintained. Being able to get to the "legal" lot will work fine; I will walk in from there. Thanks very much for the map too!
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:58 PM   #9
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The road to the new lot is generally in decent shape though I suppose it gets pretty soft sometimes, but it is maintained due to the heavy use. In winter it's sometimes better than Beaver Pond Rd. because it doesn't get salted and the snow gets packed instead of turning to slush. While it's not up to the DEC, they do want you to be able to get to the new parking lot.
When you asked the question I thought you meant the lot further in and I was going to point out that even if you tried it and made it in you wouldn't be saving any time, some of the holes are more than a foot deep and longer than a vehicle. The last guy I knew who drove in had to jack his truck up four or five times to get out of spots he'd gotten stuck in (this was after getting fired from his job earlier in the day), he's cropped out of this picture to protect my safety.
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Old 04-25-2019, 08:44 PM   #10
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Snow gone. only VERY minor patches left. Everything very wet, tho'.
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Old 04-26-2019, 02:52 PM   #11
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Thanks again to everyone, very helpful. I
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Old 04-26-2019, 05:30 PM   #12
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Does anyone know the distance between the short swing and long swing trail heads on route 74? I am thinking about doing a loop trip this season; which trail head do you recommend as the starting point?
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Old 04-26-2019, 05:49 PM   #13
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Google say 3.9 miles.
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Old 04-26-2019, 07:30 PM   #14
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Just shy of 4 miles, according to Google Maps. I prefer starting (and ending) at the Short Swing trailhead, personally. Crane Pond is in a similar situation as the road to Mill Brook from Brant Lake- the old road to Crane Pond from Schroon Lake (along Alder Creek to the west) is legally closed at the state land line but is being treated as "drive at your own risk" by the DEC, and conditions permitting, high clearance 4WD vehicles can drive all the way in to the old boat launch at Crane Pond.

Accordingly, if you start at the Long Swing trailhead, you end up passing what is essentially another trailhead a few miles in. It sort of jarring to feel like you've "entered the wilderness" for a good stretch, only to pass a parking area (likely with a number of trucks parked there) after a few miles of hiking. Additionally, even if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, it's still less distance hiking to park at the "official" trailhead at the end of the legally open portion of Crane Pond Road and walk the old road than it is to hike from the Long Swing trailhead. Still a bit of an affront to the "wilderness feel" but at least with the obvious dirt road it's not like you're feeling like you've already entered the wilderness for a bit only to then get a dose of civilization. For both of these reasons, the Long Swing Trail actually gets relatively little use between Rt 74 and Crane Pond.

My second ever visit to the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness was a circum-navigation of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area loop, starting and ending at the Short Swing trailhead. More recently, I hiked essentially the same loop with friends this past fall, starting and ending at Crane Pond instead. I've also hiked variations on this loop starting and ending at Putnam Pond, Brant Lake, and New Hague. Wherever exactly you start/end, the full loop is worth hiking, and even if it is muddy, now is a good time to visit the area generally, while it is still quiet and the summer crowds are a few weeks off yet.

In any case, if you can manage it, I definitely recommend incorporating Pharaoh Mountain and/or Treadway Mountain into your itinerary. Pharaoh can be traversed with your overnight pack to minimize added mileage, Treadway is a side trip and adds about 4.2 miles total to the overall distance. Both are worth hiking for substantial views. On top of Pharaoh, be sure to walk through the designated tent site on the north side of the summit to a rocky ledge with the best views of the High Peaks. On Treadway, a bushwhack a few hundred feet south of the summit from the end of the marked trail will get you the best views of Pharaoh Lake.

There is also a waterfall on the outlet of Rock Pond, located between Lillypad Pond and Rock Pond itself. This time of year with all of the runoff, it should be pretty spectacular/scenic. You may not be able to see it from the trail if the leaves are out, but you'll definitely hear it.

Taking the trail around the north shore of Rock Pond is worthwhile also, if you want to check out the old graphite "mine." It's not actually a mine, but rather a drainage tunnel that was dug for the quarry located up the hill (doesn't really seem to be working since the old quarry is presently filled with water). Still neat to check out nonetheless.

Regarding additional camping options:
  • Crane Pond has 10 designated tent sites, although most of these are boat access only. They are numbered sequentially, starting at the boat launch and following the shoreline clockwise around the pone. Sites #1 and #2 are accessible on foot by following marked paths from the boat launch area (site #1 is visible through the trees from the boat launch, #2 is about a 2 minute walk following a marked path that leaves the boat launch area to the left of site #1). From site #2, and informal and unmarked but somewhat obvious path can be followed along the north shore to sites #3 and #4. All 4 of these sites are nice (and also fairly popular).
  • Oxshoe Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to. All 3 are located on the west shore, north of the lean-to. To reach them, follow a path north from the lean-to site- you'll cross through several closed sites (marked with "No Camping" discs) and cross a wet area. Just after the wet area, the path branches- the right (straight path) leads you to the first tent site after a short distance. The left path passes around the first site and takes you a few hundred feet further along the shore to the second site. The third site is located all the way up on the north end of the lake- there is a somewhat obvious (but again unmarked and unmaintained) path that continues northward from the second site that will eventually take you to the third site after about 5-10 minutes of walking. The first and second sites are pretty nice, the third site is small and doesn't have a lot of flat ground but a solo camper should be able to make it work without any issues.
  • Crab Pond (the northern of the 2 Crab Ponds) has a single designated site on the southeast end of the pond. This is a nice site with a beautiful view out over the pond, and it is easy to find from the trail (note that it is not the closed site located near the junction with the cross-over trail back to Glidden Marsh, which has unfortunately been advertised in some guidebooks). Note that the lean-to shown at Crab Pond on some maps is an error- there never was a lean-to here.
  • Horseshoe Pond has a single designated site, located on the peninsula that gives Horseshoe Pond it's distinctive "horseshoe" shape. To access this site, you'll need to follow the marked path around the west end of the pond and out onto the peninsula. Note that this path can be pretty wet in spots if the beavers have been active. The site is small but otherwise really nice- again, a solo camper won't have any issues here.
  • Tubmill Marsh does not have any designated sites in addition to the lean-to, so you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this spot, just in case the lean-to is full (although Tubmill Marsh gets very little use, so the chances of the lean-to being full are pretty low). The lean-to itself is nice, although it's set back a good distance from the water. The marsh is also pretty iffy as a water source (better water is available at Rock Pond Brook, about a quarter mile south). The Tubmill Marsh lean-to can also get really buggy if the bugs are out.
  • Similarly, there are not additional designated tent sites at Lillypad Pond in addition to the lean-to there. This is a nicer lean-to that Tubmill Marsh, so the chances of the lean-to being occupied/full are greater here.
  • Rock Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the 2 lean-tos located there (technically, the second lean-to is on Little Rock Pond, but the two ponds are close enough to be grouped together). All 3 tent sites are on Rock Pond and are pretty easy to find from the trail. The first site is a 1-2 minute walk north of the Rock Pond Lean-to, and is nice with plenty of flat ground, although set back from the water a bit. The second site is on the north shore, and has a spectacular view out over the pond and a fun stone table with benches, although flat ground is in short supply here- most of the ground is gently slopping down towards the lake. The third site is on the west side of Rock Pond, just north of the outlet, and is also set back from the lake but is spacious and has plenty of flat ground.
  • Bear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore, near where the trail makes a sharp turn to the south. The main site is set back from the pond although has plenty of flat ground and is spacious.
  • Heart Pond also has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore that is easy to find from the trail. This is a smaller site, but once again, for a solitary hiker it should work just fine.
  • Clear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the southwest shore in a clearing that can be readily spotted from the lean-to. You also can't miss it if you're hiking around the west shore of the pond. It's a moderately-sized site, located on a bit of a rocky bluff and with nice views across the pond.
  • Grizzle Ocean has a single designated tent site in addition to the lean-to there. It can be a bit tricky to locate- it's not near the lean-to, but rather some distance around the east side of the pond. It's also across the trail from the water and uphill a short distance. It's a small but otherwise nice site.
  • Berrymill Pond has no designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to, so again you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this area for overnight use. I believe that the DEC does have plans to designate a couple of sites here at some point in the future.
  • Springhill Ponds has two designated tent sites, but they are both hard to find. Both are located on the north shore, and aren't really readily accessible. There is a brushy and not-always-obvious herd path that swings around the east side of the shore from the end of the marked spur trail used to access the pond that will eventually take you to the eastern-most site, which is small but nice and is located on a rocky prominence at the end of the lake. The western-most site is inaccessible unless you carry in a boat or are willing to bushwhack. (Note that the obvious site on the rocky cliffs located mid-way down the north shore is not designated and is technically an illegal site.)
  • Pharaoh Lake has 15 designated tent sites in addition to the 6 lean-tos there. That's a bit much to list in detail here- but suffice to say that every lean-to has at least 1 overflow site somewhere in the not-too-distant vicinity. The east shore is a bit devoid of sites due to rocky terrain limiting possible options, but generally speaking if you keep hiking around the lake you'll pass sites somewhat regularly. The sites range in quality from OK to really nice, although a couple are on the smaller side, with room realistically for a single tent or maybe 2 small tents at most.
  • The designated campsite on the summit of Pharaoh Mountain can add some nice variety to your trip also if you decide to stay there- but there's no water sources anywhere near the summit, so you'll need to carry up what you need for the night and the next morning. (Keep in mind that it will be noticeably colder up there at night as well.)
A few other tenting options that aren't located on the main loop around the PLWA, but worth mentioning since the above list is so exhaustive already:
  • Goose Pond has 3 designated tent sites, all located on the north shore. At the end of the marked trail, turn right (west) and follow the north shoreline. You'll come to each of the 3 designated sites in turn.
  • Burge Pond has 1 designated tent site, on the north shore. It is accessible only by bushwhack. The easiest way to do this is to paddle across Crane Pond (or bushwhack around it) and then bushwhack to Burge Pond from there. This site gets very little use (although it does get the occasional die hard bushwhacker camping there).
  • Lost Pond has 4 designated tent sites, spaced somewhat equidistantly around the pond. Working clockwise from the outlet: The first site is located just east of the junction where the trail splits to loop around the lake. Note that it is not any of the obvious clearings along the water, but is rather set back away from the lake, uphill. It's a nice site with plenty of flat ground. The second site is on the southeast end of the lake, and is smaller but also has good flat ground. The third site is on the south end of the lake and doesn't really have any good ground for pitching tents and doesn't really get much use. The fourth site is on the northwest end of the lake, set back behind the clearing where the lean-to used to site. This is the largest and most popular site.
  • Whortleberry Pond has 2 designated tent sites, one on the northeast shore, and another on the north shore down at the western end of the pond. Both sites are nice, with good flat ground in the vicinity. Whortleberry Pond can be accessed via a brushy herd path that starts at Pharaoh Lake near Lean-to #1. The herd path splits a bit before arriving at Whortleberry Pond, with the left (eastern) leg taking you to the first of the aforementioned sites, and the right (western) leg following the north shore through interesting rocky terrain to the second site.
  • There is a single designated site located on Pharaoh Lake Brook, at the midway point between Mill Brook and Pharaoh Lake, on the south side of the bridge over Pharaoh Lake Brook. It's a really nice, large site in a stand of pines and hemlocks at the edge of expansive beaver meadows and ponds.
  • There are 2 designated sites located on the south side of where the Pharaoh Lake Trail crosses Mill Brook. One of these is on top of the obvious knoll on the western end of the old parking lot at Mill Brook. The second of these is located a short distance down the spur trail to Crab Pond (the southern Crab Pond), in an obvious clearing on the north side of this trail.
  • Crab Pond (the southern of the two Crab Ponds) has a single designated tent site, located at the end of the marked trail on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the pond. The views from the site are spectacular, but the site itself is not really all that great- flat ground especially is in pretty short supply here. (Note: An old trail/herd path leads north from Crab Pond to Whortleberry Pond and eventually Pharaoh Lake, but it was never an official trail and is pretty overgrown and brushy at this point- essentially a bushwhack now, with occasional fragments of old trail spotted along the way.) (Also worth noting that the official DEC trail to Crab Pond is relatively new and is not shown yet on any maps. It departs the Pharaoh Lake trail just south of where that trail crosses Mill Brook.)
  • Desolate Brook has a single designated tent site. The site is located midway down the section of the trail that parallels the brook, between the trail and the brook. It's a small but nice site, situated on the only ground along the brook that is conducive to a tent site. This site gets very, very little use.
  • There is a single designated tent site on Spuytenduivel Brook, located a stones throw from where Route 8 crosses that brook. Due to the proximity of this site to the road, it is essentially a "car camping" site. The site doesn't get a huge amount of use but it can occasionally be a party spot, as evidenced by the trash that tends to pop up there. It is otherwise a nice site. (An old herd path, again never officially designated as a trail or maintained by the DEC and now challenging to follow in spots, can be followed upstream along Spuytenduivel Brook for some distance.)
  • Spectacle Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the left (north) side of the trail, just before the terminus of that trail at the eastern of the two ponds that give Spectacle Pond its distinctive shape. It's an OK site, slopping a bit in spots but relatively close to the water. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here at some point in the future also.
  • Gull Pond has a single designated tent site, on the northwest side of the pond. Note that it is not the obvious clearing at the end of the marked trail- there are "no camping" and "no fires" signs up in this clearing. Rather, the trail to the designated tent site departs the marked trail a few hundred feet west of the pond at a junction that is marked but is also easy to miss. Follow the marked site path around the northwest end of the pond and it will take you to the designated site. It is a nice site with good flat ground. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here in the future as well.
I hope that helps. This is almost certainly way more information than you were looking for... but I'm sure someone stumbling across this thread in the future will find it useful.

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Old 04-26-2019, 07:57 PM   #15
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Just shy of 4 miles, according to Google Maps. I prefer starting (and ending) at the Short Swing trailhead, personally. Crane Pond is in a similar situation as the road to Mill Brook from Brant Lake- the old road to Crane Pond from Schroon Lake (along Alder Creek to the west) is legally closed at the state land line but is being treated as "drive at your own risk" by the DEC, and conditions permitting, high clearance 4WD vehicles can drive all the way in to the old boat launch at Crane Pond.

Accordingly, if you start at the Long Swing trailhead, you end up passing what is essentially another trailhead a few miles in. It sort of jarring to feel like you've "entered the wilderness" for a good stretch, only to pass a parking area (likely with a number of trucks parked there) after a few miles of hiking. Additionally, even if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, it's still less distance hiking to park at the "official" trailhead at the end of the legally open portion of Crane Pond Road and walk the old road than it is to hike from the Long Swing trailhead. Still a bit of an affront to the "wilderness feel" but at least with the obvious dirt road it's not like you're feeling like you've already entered the wilderness for a bit only to then get a dose of civilization. For both of these reasons, the Long Swing Trail actually gets relatively little use between Rt 74 and Crane Pond.

My second ever visit to the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness was a circum-navigation of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area loop, starting and ending at the Short Swing trailhead. More recently, I hiked essentially the same loop with friends this past fall, starting and ending at Crane Pond instead. I've also hiked variations on this loop starting and ending at Putnam Pond, Brant Lake, and New Hague. Wherever exactly you start/end, the full loop is worth hiking, and even if it is muddy, now is a good time to visit the area generally, while it is still quiet and the summer crowds are a few weeks off yet.

In any case, if you can manage it, I definitely recommend incorporating Pharaoh Mountain and/or Treadway Mountain into your itinerary. Pharaoh can be traversed with your overnight pack to minimize added mileage, Treadway is a side trip and adds about 4.2 miles total to the overall distance. Both are worth hiking for substantial views. On top of Pharaoh, be sure to walk through the designated tent site on the north side of the summit to a rocky ledge with the best views of the High Peaks. On Treadway, a bushwhack a few hundred feet south of the summit from the end of the marked trail will get you the best views of Pharaoh Lake.

There is also a waterfall on the outlet of Rock Pond, located between Lillypad Pond and Rock Pond itself. This time of year with all of the runoff, it should be pretty spectacular/scenic. You may not be able to see it from the trail if the leaves are out, but you'll definitely hear it.

Taking the trail around the north shore of Rock Pond is worthwhile also, if you want to check out the old graphite "mine." It's not actually a mine, but rather a drainage tunnel that was dug for the quarry located up the hill (doesn't really seem to be working since the old quarry is presently filled with water). Still neat to check out nonetheless.

Regarding additional camping options:
  • Crane Pond has 10 designated tent sites, although most of these are boat access only. They are numbered sequentially, starting at the boat launch and following the shoreline clockwise around the pone. Sites #1 and #2 are accessible on foot by following marked paths from the boat launch area (site #1 is visible through the trees from the boat launch, #2 is about a 2 minute walk following a marked path that leaves the boat launch area to the left of site #1). From site #2, and informal and unmarked but somewhat obvious path can be followed along the north shore to sites #3 and #4. All 4 of these sites are nice (and also fairly popular).
  • Oxshoe Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to. All 3 are located on the west shore, north of the lean-to. To reach them, follow a path north from the lean-to site- you'll cross through several closed sites (marked with "No Camping" discs) and cross a wet area. Just after the wet area, the path branches- the right (straight path) leads you to the first tent site after a short distance. The left path passes around the first site and takes you a few hundred feet further along the shore to the second site. The third site is located all the way up on the north end of the lake- there is a somewhat obvious (but again unmarked and unmaintained) path that continues northward from the second site that will eventually take you to the third site after about 5-10 minutes of walking. The first and second sites are pretty nice, the third site is small and doesn't have a lot of flat ground but a solo camper should be able to make it work without any issues.
  • Crab Pond (the northern of the 2 Crab Ponds) has a single designated site on the southeast end of the pond. This is a nice site with a beautiful view out over the pond, and it is easy to find from the trail (note that it is not the closed site located near the junction with the cross-over trail back to Glidden Marsh, which has unfortunately been advertised in some guidebooks). Note that the lean-to shown at Crab Pond on some maps is an error- there never was a lean-to here.
  • Horseshoe Pond has a single designated site, located on the peninsula that gives Horseshoe Pond it's distinctive "horseshoe" shape. To access this site, you'll need to follow the marked path around the west end of the pond and out onto the peninsula. Note that this path can be pretty wet in spots if the beavers have been active. The site is small but otherwise really nice- again, a solo camper won't have any issues here.
  • Tubmill Marsh does not have any designated sites in addition to the lean-to, so you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this spot, just in case the lean-to is full (although Tubmill Marsh gets very little use, so the chances of the lean-to being full are pretty low). The lean-to itself is nice, although it's set back a good distance from the water. The marsh is also pretty iffy as a water source (better water is available at Rock Pond Brook, about a quarter mile south). The Tubmill Marsh lean-to can also get really buggy if the bugs are out.
  • Similarly, there are not additional designated tent sites at Lillypad Pond in addition to the lean-to there. This is a nicer lean-to that Tubmill Marsh, so the chances of the lean-to being occupied/full are greater here.
  • Rock Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the 2 lean-tos located there (technically, the second lean-to is on Little Rock Pond, but the two ponds are close enough to be grouped together). All 3 tent sites are on Rock Pond and are pretty easy to find from the trail. The first site is a 1-2 minute walk north of the Rock Pond Lean-to, and is nice with plenty of flat ground, although set back from the water a bit. The second site is on the north shore, and has a spectacular view out over the pond and a fun stone table with benches, although flat ground is in short supply here- most of the ground is gently slopping down towards the lake. The third site is on the west side of Rock Pond, just north of the outlet, and is also set back from the lake but is spacious and has plenty of flat ground.
  • Bear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore, near where the trail makes a sharp turn to the south. The main site is set back from the pond although has plenty of flat ground and is spacious.
  • Heart Pond also has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore that is easy to find from the trail. This is a smaller site, but once again, for a solitary hiker it should work just fine.
  • Clear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the southwest shore in a clearing that can be readily spotted from the lean-to. You also can't miss it if you're hiking around the west shore of the pond. It's a moderately-sized site, located on a bit of a rocky bluff and with nice views across the pond.
  • Grizzle Ocean has a single designated tent site in addition to the lean-to there. It can be a bit tricky to locate- it's not near the lean-to, but rather some distance around the east side of the pond. It's also across the trail from the water and uphill a short distance. It's a small but otherwise nice site.
  • Berrymill Pond has no designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to, so again you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this area for overnight use. I believe that the DEC does have plans to designate a couple of sites here at some point in the future.
  • Springhill Ponds has two designated tent sites, but they are both hard to find. Both are located on the north shore, and aren't really readily accessible. There is a brushy and not-always-obvious herd path that swings around the east side of the shore from the end of the marked spur trail used to access the pond that will eventually take you to the eastern-most site, which is small but nice and is located on a rocky prominence at the end of the lake. The western-most site is inaccessible unless you carry in a boat or are willing to bushwhack. (Note that the obvious site on the rocky cliffs located mid-way down the north shore is not designated and is technically an illegal site.)
  • Pharaoh Lake has 15 designated tent sites in addition to the 6 lean-tos there. That's a bit much to list in detail here- but suffice to say that every lean-to has at least 1 overflow site somewhere in the not-too-distant vicinity. The east shore is a bit devoid of sites due to rocky terrain limiting possible options, but generally speaking if you keep hiking around the lake you'll pass sites somewhat regularly. The sites range in quality from OK to really nice, although a couple are on the smaller side, with room realistically for a single tent or maybe 2 small tents at most.
  • The designated campsite on the summit of Pharaoh Mountain can add some nice variety to your trip also if you decide to stay there- but there's no water sources anywhere near the summit, so you'll need to carry up what you need for the night and the next morning. (Keep in mind that it will be noticeably colder up there at night as well.)
A few other tenting options that aren't located on the main loop around the PLWA, but worth mentioning since the above list is so exhaustive already:
  • Goose Pond has 3 designated tent sites, all located on the north shore. At the end of the marked trail, turn right (east) and follow the north shoreline. You'll come to each of the 3 designated sites in turn.
  • Burge Pond has 1 designated tent site, on the north shore. It is accessible only by bushwhack. The easiest way to do this is to paddle across Crane Pond (or bushwhack around it) and then bushwhack to Burge Pond from there. This site gets very little use (although it does get the occasional die hard bushwhacker camping there).
  • Lost Pond has 4 designated tent sites, spaced somewhat equidistantly around the pond. Working clockwise from the outlet: The first site is located just east of the junction where the trail splits to loop around the lake. Note that it is not any of the obvious clearings along the water, but is rather set back away from the lake, uphill. It's a nice site with plenty of flat ground. The second site is on the southeast end of the lake, and is smaller but also has good flat ground. The third site is on the south end of the lake and doesn't really have any good ground for pitching tents and doesn't really get much use. The fourth site is on the northwest end of the lake, set back behind the clearing where the lean-to used to site. This is the largest and most popular site.
  • Whortleberry Pond has 2 designated tent sites, one on the northeast shore, and another on the north shore down at the western end of the pond. Both sites are nice, with good flat ground in the vicinity. Whortleberry Pond can be accessed via a brushy herd path that starts at Pharaoh Lake near Lean-to #1. The herd path splits a bit before arriving at Whortleberry Pond, with the left (eastern) leg taking you to the first of the aforementioned sites, and the right (western) leg following the north shore through interesting rocky terrain to the second site.
  • There is a single designated site located on Pharaoh Lake Brook, at the midway point between Mill Brook and Pharaoh Lake, on the south side of the bridge over Pharaoh Lake Brook. It's a really nice, large site in a stand of pines and hemlocks at the edge of expansive beaver meadows and ponds.
  • There are 2 designated sites located on the south side of where the Pharaoh Lake Trail crosses Mill Brook. One of these is on top of the obvious knoll on the western end of the old parking lot at Mill Brook. The second of these is located a short distance down the spur trail to Crab Pond (the southern Crab Pond), in an obvious clearing on the north side of this trail.
  • Crab Pond (the southern of the two Crab Ponds) has a single designated tent site, located at the end of the marked trail on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the pond. The views from the site are spectacular, but the site itself is not really all that great- flat ground especially is in pretty short supply here. (Note: An old trail/herd path leads north from Crab Pond to Whortleberry Pond and eventually Pharaoh Lake, but it was never an official trail and is pretty overgrown and brushy at this point- essentially a bushwhack now, with occasional fragments of old trail spotted along the way.) (Also worth noting that the official DEC trail to Crab Pond is relatively new and is not shown yet on any maps. It departs the Pharaoh Lake trail just south of where that trail crosses Mill Brook.)
  • There is a single designated tent site on Spuytenduivel Brook, located a stones throw from where Route 8 crosses that brook. Due to the proximity of this site to the road, it is essentially a "car camping" site. The site doesn't get a huge amount of use but it can occasionally be a party spot, as evidenced by the trash that tends to pop up there. It is otherwise a nice site. (An old herd path, again never officially designated as a trail or maintained by the DEC and now challenging to follow in spots, can be followed upstream along Spuytenduivel Brook for some distance.)
  • Spectacle Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the left (north) side of the trail, just before the terminus of that trail at the eastern of the two ponds that give Spectacle Pond its distinctive shape. It's an OK site, slopping a bit in spots but relatively close to the water. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here at some point in the future also.
  • Gull Pond has a single designated tent site, on the northwest side of the pond. Note that it is not the obvious clearing at the end of the marked trail- there are "no camping" and "no fires" signs up in this clearing. Rather, the trail to the designated tent site departs the marked trail a few hundred feet west of the pond at a junction that is marked but is also easy to miss. Follow the marked site path around the northwest end of the pond and it will take you to the designated site. It is a nice site with good flat ground. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here in the future as well.
I hope that helps. This is almost certainly way more information than you were looking for... but I'm sure someone stumbling across this thread in the future will find it useful.
n

If that isn't helpful, nothing will be.
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Old 04-26-2019, 11:48 PM   #16
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Thanks very much. Last summer I did a loop, parked at Crane Pond Road, walked up the road to Crane, continued on to Oxshoe, Crab, Lilypad, Rock, Clear, Grizzle Ocean, Pharoah, Glidden Marsh and back out from Crane. I prefer loops rather than out/back hikes, which is why I am considering starting and ending on route 74. I am also planning on doing the Crab/Whortleberry hike; I hammock camp, so flat campsites are not a necessity. Thanks again for all the info.
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Old 04-27-2019, 08:02 AM   #17
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In that case then, I'd recommend picking the Short Swing over the Long Swing. If nothing else, the trail is a bit more interesting (IMO).

If you ever consider the New Hague trailhead, it is worth mentioning for future reference that the trail between Springhill Ponds and Pharaoh Lake is not in great shape. It's an old road most of the way, so the tread is usually pretty obvious (even though markers are usually few and far between), but there's some blowdown on it especially as you get closer to Pharaoh Lake.
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Old 04-27-2019, 09:11 AM   #18
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If you’re comfortable with hiking off-trail the Pharaoh region is great for bushwhacking, which allows for some pretty fun loop options as well. Lots of nice views from many of the peaks & hills through out the region.
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:47 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Just shy of 4 miles, according to Google Maps. I prefer starting (and ending) at the Short Swing trailhead, personally. Crane Pond is in a similar situation as the road to Mill Brook from Brant Lake- the old road to Crane Pond from Schroon Lake (along Alder Creek to the west) is legally closed at the state land line but is being treated as "drive at your own risk" by the DEC, and conditions permitting, high clearance 4WD vehicles can drive all the way in to the old boat launch at Crane Pond.

Accordingly, if you start at the Long Swing trailhead, you end up passing what is essentially another trailhead a few miles in. It sort of jarring to feel like you've "entered the wilderness" for a good stretch, only to pass a parking area (likely with a number of trucks parked there) after a few miles of hiking. Additionally, even if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, it's still less distance hiking to park at the "official" trailhead at the end of the legally open portion of Crane Pond Road and walk the old road than it is to hike from the Long Swing trailhead. Still a bit of an affront to the "wilderness feel" but at least with the obvious dirt road it's not like you're feeling like you've already entered the wilderness for a bit only to then get a dose of civilization. For both of these reasons, the Long Swing Trail actually gets relatively little use between Rt 74 and Crane Pond.

My second ever visit to the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness was a circum-navigation of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area loop, starting and ending at the Short Swing trailhead. More recently, I hiked essentially the same loop with friends this past fall, starting and ending at Crane Pond instead. I've also hiked variations on this loop starting and ending at Putnam Pond, Brant Lake, and New Hague. Wherever exactly you start/end, the full loop is worth hiking, and even if it is muddy, now is a good time to visit the area generally, while it is still quiet and the summer crowds are a few weeks off yet.

In any case, if you can manage it, I definitely recommend incorporating Pharaoh Mountain and/or Treadway Mountain into your itinerary. Pharaoh can be traversed with your overnight pack to minimize added mileage, Treadway is a side trip and adds about 4.2 miles total to the overall distance. Both are worth hiking for substantial views. On top of Pharaoh, be sure to walk through the designated tent site on the north side of the summit to a rocky ledge with the best views of the High Peaks. On Treadway, a bushwhack a few hundred feet south of the summit from the end of the marked trail will get you the best views of Pharaoh Lake.

There is also a waterfall on the outlet of Rock Pond, located between Lillypad Pond and Rock Pond itself. This time of year with all of the runoff, it should be pretty spectacular/scenic. You may not be able to see it from the trail if the leaves are out, but you'll definitely hear it.

Taking the trail around the north shore of Rock Pond is worthwhile also, if you want to check out the old graphite "mine." It's not actually a mine, but rather a drainage tunnel that was dug for the quarry located up the hill (doesn't really seem to be working since the old quarry is presently filled with water). Still neat to check out nonetheless.

Regarding additional camping options:
  • Crane Pond has 10 designated tent sites, although most of these are boat access only. They are numbered sequentially, starting at the boat launch and following the shoreline clockwise around the pone. Sites #1 and #2 are accessible on foot by following marked paths from the boat launch area (site #1 is visible through the trees from the boat launch, #2 is about a 2 minute walk following a marked path that leaves the boat launch area to the left of site #1). From site #2, and informal and unmarked but somewhat obvious path can be followed along the north shore to sites #3 and #4. All 4 of these sites are nice (and also fairly popular).
  • Oxshoe Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to. All 3 are located on the west shore, north of the lean-to. To reach them, follow a path north from the lean-to site- you'll cross through several closed sites (marked with "No Camping" discs) and cross a wet area. Just after the wet area, the path branches- the right (straight path) leads you to the first tent site after a short distance. The left path passes around the first site and takes you a few hundred feet further along the shore to the second site. The third site is located all the way up on the north end of the lake- there is a somewhat obvious (but again unmarked and unmaintained) path that continues northward from the second site that will eventually take you to the third site after about 5-10 minutes of walking. The first and second sites are pretty nice, the third site is small and doesn't have a lot of flat ground but a solo camper should be able to make it work without any issues.
  • Crab Pond (the northern of the 2 Crab Ponds) has a single designated site on the southeast end of the pond. This is a nice site with a beautiful view out over the pond, and it is easy to find from the trail (note that it is not the closed site located near the junction with the cross-over trail back to Glidden Marsh, which has unfortunately been advertised in some guidebooks). Note that the lean-to shown at Crab Pond on some maps is an error- there never was a lean-to here.
  • Horseshoe Pond has a single designated site, located on the peninsula that gives Horseshoe Pond it's distinctive "horseshoe" shape. To access this site, you'll need to follow the marked path around the west end of the pond and out onto the peninsula. Note that this path can be pretty wet in spots if the beavers have been active. The site is small but otherwise really nice- again, a solo camper won't have any issues here.
  • Tubmill Marsh does not have any designated sites in addition to the lean-to, so you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this spot, just in case the lean-to is full (although Tubmill Marsh gets very little use, so the chances of the lean-to being full are pretty low). The lean-to itself is nice, although it's set back a good distance from the water. The marsh is also pretty iffy as a water source (better water is available at Rock Pond Brook, about a quarter mile south). The Tubmill Marsh lean-to can also get really buggy if the bugs are out.
  • Similarly, there are not additional designated tent sites at Lillypad Pond in addition to the lean-to there. This is a nicer lean-to that Tubmill Marsh, so the chances of the lean-to being occupied/full are greater here.
  • Rock Pond has 3 designated tent sites in addition to the 2 lean-tos located there (technically, the second lean-to is on Little Rock Pond, but the two ponds are close enough to be grouped together). All 3 tent sites are on Rock Pond and are pretty easy to find from the trail. The first site is a 1-2 minute walk north of the Rock Pond Lean-to, and is nice with plenty of flat ground, although set back from the water a bit. The second site is on the north shore, and has a spectacular view out over the pond and a fun stone table with benches, although flat ground is in short supply here- most of the ground is gently slopping down towards the lake. The third site is on the west side of Rock Pond, just north of the outlet, and is also set back from the lake but is spacious and has plenty of flat ground.
  • Bear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore, near where the trail makes a sharp turn to the south. The main site is set back from the pond although has plenty of flat ground and is spacious.
  • Heart Pond also has a single designated tent site, located on the east shore that is easy to find from the trail. This is a smaller site, but once again, for a solitary hiker it should work just fine.
  • Clear Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the southwest shore in a clearing that can be readily spotted from the lean-to. You also can't miss it if you're hiking around the west shore of the pond. It's a moderately-sized site, located on a bit of a rocky bluff and with nice views across the pond.
  • Grizzle Ocean has a single designated tent site in addition to the lean-to there. It can be a bit tricky to locate- it's not near the lean-to, but rather some distance around the east side of the pond. It's also across the trail from the water and uphill a short distance. It's a small but otherwise nice site.
  • Berrymill Pond has no designated tent sites in addition to the lean-to, so again you'll want to plan accordingly if you target this area for overnight use. I believe that the DEC does have plans to designate a couple of sites here at some point in the future.
  • Springhill Ponds has two designated tent sites, but they are both hard to find. Both are located on the north shore, and aren't really readily accessible. There is a brushy and not-always-obvious herd path that swings around the east side of the shore from the end of the marked spur trail used to access the pond that will eventually take you to the eastern-most site, which is small but nice and is located on a rocky prominence at the end of the lake. The western-most site is inaccessible unless you carry in a boat or are willing to bushwhack. (Note that the obvious site on the rocky cliffs located mid-way down the north shore is not designated and is technically an illegal site.)
  • Pharaoh Lake has 15 designated tent sites in addition to the 6 lean-tos there. That's a bit much to list in detail here- but suffice to say that every lean-to has at least 1 overflow site somewhere in the not-too-distant vicinity. The east shore is a bit devoid of sites due to rocky terrain limiting possible options, but generally speaking if you keep hiking around the lake you'll pass sites somewhat regularly. The sites range in quality from OK to really nice, although a couple are on the smaller side, with room realistically for a single tent or maybe 2 small tents at most.
  • The designated campsite on the summit of Pharaoh Mountain can add some nice variety to your trip also if you decide to stay there- but there's no water sources anywhere near the summit, so you'll need to carry up what you need for the night and the next morning. (Keep in mind that it will be noticeably colder up there at night as well.)
A few other tenting options that aren't located on the main loop around the PLWA, but worth mentioning since the above list is so exhaustive already:
  • Goose Pond has 3 designated tent sites, all located on the north shore. At the end of the marked trail, turn right (west) and follow the north shoreline. You'll come to each of the 3 designated sites in turn.
  • Burge Pond has 1 designated tent site, on the north shore. It is accessible only by bushwhack. The easiest way to do this is to paddle across Crane Pond (or bushwhack around it) and then bushwhack to Burge Pond from there. This site gets very little use (although it does get the occasional die hard bushwhacker camping there).
  • Lost Pond has 4 designated tent sites, spaced somewhat equidistantly around the pond. Working clockwise from the outlet: The first site is located just east of the junction where the trail splits to loop around the lake. Note that it is not any of the obvious clearings along the water, but is rather set back away from the lake, uphill. It's a nice site with plenty of flat ground. The second site is on the southeast end of the lake, and is smaller but also has good flat ground. The third site is on the south end of the lake and doesn't really have any good ground for pitching tents and doesn't really get much use. The fourth site is on the northwest end of the lake, set back behind the clearing where the lean-to used to site. This is the largest and most popular site.
  • Whortleberry Pond has 2 designated tent sites, one on the northeast shore, and another on the north shore down at the western end of the pond. Both sites are nice, with good flat ground in the vicinity. Whortleberry Pond can be accessed via a brushy herd path that starts at Pharaoh Lake near Lean-to #1. The herd path splits a bit before arriving at Whortleberry Pond, with the left (eastern) leg taking you to the first of the aforementioned sites, and the right (western) leg following the north shore through interesting rocky terrain to the second site.
  • There is a single designated site located on Pharaoh Lake Brook, at the midway point between Mill Brook and Pharaoh Lake, on the south side of the bridge over Pharaoh Lake Brook. It's a really nice, large site in a stand of pines and hemlocks at the edge of expansive beaver meadows and ponds.
  • There are 2 designated sites located on the south side of where the Pharaoh Lake Trail crosses Mill Brook. One of these is on top of the obvious knoll on the western end of the old parking lot at Mill Brook. The second of these is located a short distance down the spur trail to Crab Pond (the southern Crab Pond), in an obvious clearing on the north side of this trail.
  • Crab Pond (the southern of the two Crab Ponds) has a single designated tent site, located at the end of the marked trail on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the pond. The views from the site are spectacular, but the site itself is not really all that great- flat ground especially is in pretty short supply here. (Note: An old trail/herd path leads north from Crab Pond to Whortleberry Pond and eventually Pharaoh Lake, but it was never an official trail and is pretty overgrown and brushy at this point- essentially a bushwhack now, with occasional fragments of old trail spotted along the way.) (Also worth noting that the official DEC trail to Crab Pond is relatively new and is not shown yet on any maps. It departs the Pharaoh Lake trail just south of where that trail crosses Mill Brook.)
  • There is a single designated tent site on Spuytenduivel Brook, located a stones throw from where Route 8 crosses that brook. Due to the proximity of this site to the road, it is essentially a "car camping" site. The site doesn't get a huge amount of use but it can occasionally be a party spot, as evidenced by the trash that tends to pop up there. It is otherwise a nice site. (An old herd path, again never officially designated as a trail or maintained by the DEC and now challenging to follow in spots, can be followed upstream along Spuytenduivel Brook for some distance.)
  • Spectacle Pond has a single designated tent site, located on the left (north) side of the trail, just before the terminus of that trail at the eastern of the two ponds that give Spectacle Pond its distinctive shape. It's an OK site, slopping a bit in spots but relatively close to the water. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here at some point in the future also.
  • Gull Pond has a single designated tent site, on the northwest side of the pond. Note that it is not the obvious clearing at the end of the marked trail- there are "no camping" and "no fires" signs up in this clearing. Rather, the trail to the designated tent site departs the marked trail a few hundred feet west of the pond at a junction that is marked but is also easy to miss. Follow the marked site path around the northwest end of the pond and it will take you to the designated site. It is a nice site with good flat ground. I believe that the DEC has plans to designate an additional site or two here in the future as well.
I hope that helps. This is almost certainly way more information than you were looking for... but I'm sure someone stumbling across this thread in the future will find it useful.
Wow! Such a wealth of information. Muchas gracias for posting it all.

I am planning to take my 3 year old daughter somewhere in Pharoah Lakes for her first ever backpacking trip. It'll probably end up being on a weeknight in May. I'm looking for something less than 2.0 mile hike without any significant stream crossings or bogs or anything like that. I am thinking Crane, Spectacle, and Gull would all fit the bill. Do you agree?
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:56 AM   #20
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^maybe not as interesting as a loop, but the first trip I did with my sons, I think they were 6 and 8 or so, we reserved a spot in the Putnam Pond state campground. We got the one adjacent to the trailhead, and did an overnight at Rock Pond. It was nice for us to have a fallback and first night at the reserved spot. The trail to Rock Pond wasn't too rough, flooded, or very extreme elevation gain, lots of stuff to see on the way, I think we counted 60 newts. And Rock Pond is only around 2 miles or less from the campground so we could have backed out at any point.
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