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Old 05-13-2021, 06:02 PM   #8
hikingandwildex's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2019
Location: On the road again
Posts: 153
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Have you done the full North Fork Mountain traverse? It's a route that I'd like to do at some point. I've hiked half of it- lead it as a day hike with a Syracuse University Outing Club group during the Outing Club's annual spring break trip to WV. We started at Seneca Rocks, climbed to the summit of the rocks from the visitor's center, then followed a pipeline from there up to the ridge, turned south, and hiked along the ridgeline to the southern terminus at US 33.

The full traverse is also frequently touted as a particularly "challenging" backpacking trip but honestly, once you are up on the ridge it's mostly a pleasant stroll by ADK High Peaks standards- ups and downs to be sure but easy hiking most of the way through with non-stop views for relatively little effort along the way. I think the real challenge is carrying enough water- at 25 miles in length, it's more than most can do as a day hike (even in the easier south to north, all-downhill-direction) an water availability is limited- so it does demand some careful logistical planning.

If you have a sharp eye, not far from the south end of the trail you can spot a memorial marking the spot where a 4 year old child was lost and succumbed to the elements in 1891.
I hiked the northern part of the North Fork Mountain Trail from Smoke Hole Road to the Redman Trail junction, with detours to Chimney Top (a short Class 3 scramble with outstanding views that you won't want to miss) and the North Fork Benchmark (a horrific bushwhack that I wouldn't recommend to anyone who isn't a complete masochist).

That stretch offers some of the finest views I've seen anywhere on this side of the country, right up there with the likes of Marcy/Algonquin/Cascade despite not being 360 degrees. There are 180-degree viewpoints everywhere off the side of the trail. If you're like me, you'll probably spend as much time at the countless overlook spots as you will on the actual hiking trail. I was completely blown away by the scenery!

As you mentioned, the most difficult part is the initial push up the mountain. I rated the "climb" from the northern terminus as being moderate, though others I passed that morning found it to be a bit more difficult than I did. YMMV. For someone like you who's used to hiking in the Adirondack High Peaks, it shouldn't be challenging at all. Once you're on the ridgeline, it's an incredibly easy and flat hike with fewer ups-and-downs than you would encounter on the Finger Lakes Trail. Any reasonably fit hiker could easily do 4-5 mph on the NFMT.

You're right about water availability being a primary concern on this arid mountain. Hiking Upward's guide mentions a spring around the midpoint that may or may not be reliable. I would recommend treating this as a desert hike for all intents and purposes.

The journey you took from Seneca Rocks to NFMT's southern terminus might be an itinerary for me to consider since I was planning on visiting Seneca Rocks later this year -- likely in the autumn. I never even thought of that option until you mentioned it. That sounds like a great backpacking trip.
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