Hiking and Camping
To get the best current local info on trails, visit the conditions page at the Mountaineer web site, look at the boards at the store or give them a call.
If you plan to rely on your cell phone (or other GPS), be certain the device is fully charged, take extra batteries, and turn it off when it is not in use. A number of recent rescues have been due to lost hikers that run out of power for GPS units. This is embarrassing. Do not let this happen to you. The best solution is to carry a map and a compass for backup, learn how to use it (this is not hard) and always take a flashlight to avoid using your GPS device for light.
During peak summer weekends parking at the trail head called “The Garden” gets full so there is a shuttle from it from to a Hiker Parking area off Airport Road on Marcy Field. This link brings you details on the shuttle. If it is not running, that means there is room at The Garden (which is a parking lot, not a garden). Be aware of street parking rules and please avoid the residential streets in the hamlet.
Founded in 1897, the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) conducts a two week camp in June and a program of day hikes, shorter camping trips, and nature education for ages 4-15 on weekdays during July and August. it is based at the Ausable Club, but membership in ATIS is open to all. Parents whose children participate are expected to join ATIS and make a contribution to operations, help with transportation, etc. The website provides information on membership and trip sign-up procedure. ATIS also maintains a number of trails in the area.
ATIS also runs an extensive adult program in cooperation with the two local chapters of the Adirondack Mountain Club. The ADK Hurricane Chapter is very active all year with an extensive trip calendar and popular monthly potluck dinners. The Keene Valley Chapter owns a lean-to on John’s Brook available to its members. Both of these ADK Chapters have 4-500 members.
Many of the more popular State campgrounds, like the Saranac Lake Islands or the Lake George Islands, are now operated by reservation through this national site: www.reserveamerica.com. You have to search for the campground of interest but this is the way to get a perfect island of your own for a few days. It is inexpensive, but those remarkably beautiful perfect sites book a year ahead.
The ADK Mountain Club also runs Johns Brook Lodge which includes two leantos, right on the brook, with firewood, and two cabins available summer and winter. Meals are available only to people staying in the lodge. It is about a 3.5 mile walk from “Garden” trail head. It open to the public but must be reserved. For me, these lean-tos and their camping experience are similar to what we did in my childhood days.
Consider Using a Guide Service
Guided hikes, climbs, fishing and so on offer a different way to explore and learn about our area. There are several groups you can contact.
Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides in Keene Valley will help you with rock and ice climbing. Rock and River in Keene can work with you on all sorts of experiences. Adirondack Mountain Guides in Keene works on rock, ice, hiking and paddling trips. Alpine Adventures in Keene handles rock and ice climbing, mountaineering and back country skiing. These groups offer these kinds of experiences, world-wide.
High Peaks Mountain Guides has very broad all-season offerings and is based in Lake Placid.
Use this NYS Licensed Guide Association to find individuals in the area who offer specific sorts of adventures like those above but also including hunting, fishing. nature trips, photography and more.
Reporting a Lost Hiker
If you are lost in the woods: Contact the Forest Rangers, call 518–891-0235,
Captain John Shreiff runs our area from Ray Brook. His number is 518-897-1303. Two rangers live in Town: Jim Giglinto lives in Keene 576-9210 or cell 518-335-5283. Charlie Platt lives in Keene Valley 576-4715 or cell 518-335-3881.
Where to Swim
So where are all the hidden best places to swim on a hot summer day?
There are a number of great swimming spots on public land. Please repect posted signs and do not swim on private land without permission.
Please be careful in the rivers and streams.
People do drown here. Stay out of fast moving water. Jumping into a waterfall where you cannot see the bottom is a bad idea. Good swimmers with knowledge of local swimming holes have drowned this way. In 2003, 4 friends, 18-19 yo, all died in high water at Split Rock Falls (NY State land). They were all strong swimmers who were familiar with the river there. On July 22, 2010 a 12yo boy swimming with his father died after drowning at Champagne Falls in Keene (posted private land). They had been swimming there for years. Due to these accidents, both locations are now closed and patrolled at random times by NY State police. They give out tickets, typically for parking, but possibly for trespassing.
The closing of Champagne Falls has been particularly difficult for the owners. The area is obviously dangerous, even to swimmers who know it well. They regret the change and ask everyone’s understanding. Please do them the courtesy of swimming somewhere else. Here are some suggestions:
Local Favorite Swimming Holes
On the West Branch of the Ausable, where the river cross Rt 86 near the Hungry Trout restaurant, there is a beautiful area called The Flume on State land and lot of people swim there. On June 27, 2014, two teens drowned here while swimming. Be careful people! Don’t go in the river after a big rain. Currents are far stronger than you think. Apparently these teens would have graduated high school the next day, a terrible tragedy.
Chapel Pond, south of Keene Valley, attracts people who love to swim across and around the lake. These people are getting a workout more than relaxing and playing in the water. You can really swim here, unlike the river for example.
Copperas Pond on Rt 86 between Wilmington and Lake Placid. It is a short hike with lovely swimming.
The Boquet River where it crosses Rt 73 south of Keene Valley has nice spots. The easiest to reach pool is just upstream from the road walking up the north bank of the river. It is fun on hot days. The water is really cold. This is a wilderness steam – this spot is the first place it encounters a road. Be careful.
The Marcy Field swimming hole between Keene Valley and Keene, is a nice flat water spot for younger children and people who really like to swim. A stone dam recently replaced the old wood dam that was destroyed by Hurricane Irene.
After a short hike up John’s Brook, you will find the Tenderfoot Pools, lovely crystal clear swimming in cool brook water. Ask around town or at Johns Brook Lodge for directions.
In Keene, behind the old school (now the Community Center), walk across the playing fields and there is a nice beach and swimming hole in the river there.
In Jay, the Covered Bridge Park is now better than ever as a swimming spot. The water flows over nice rock slides and it is much warmer than in Keene.
A great outing on a hot summer day is to visit the Lower Saranac Lake Islands. Take a canoe to the State Landing at Second Pond on Rt 3 past Saranac Lake or rent one (or rent a motor boat) at Saranac Lake Marina (518-891-2060). Many of the islands are day use areas with great swimming spots. Or you can rent boats at Swiss Marine (518-891-2130) like a floating patio pontoon boat – and go up through the locks to Lower Saranac and the islands. It you rent a motor boat, remember to pass paddlers slowly.
Mirror Lake in Lake Placid has a public beach. Park in the main lot and it is a short walk.
Lincoln Pond is a great spot with few people and has a very nice sandy beach. It is a NY State campgound about 20 minutes away. Go through Elizabethtown and just at the eastern edge of Elizabethtown, there is a fork in the road – the right goes to Lincoln Pond.
Please respect private land. Landowners care liable for swimming accidents even when the land is posted. Owners of stream frontage own the bottom of the stream to the middle of the main water course where they border the owner on the other side. To be clear, boaters can paddle on a stream passing through private property, in a boat, without stopping and getting out except to scout and portage around dangerous areas of the stream. The actual ownership of the water is very complicated by old water rights of logging companies and camps that existed long ago and it isn’t clear who or how the actual water is owned beyond these deeded riparian rights for taking water from a stream.
If you are really interested in this topic, this link takes you to the actual law regarding posting land, recreational activity, liability, etc. Note the list of specified activities covered by the law includes: hunting, fishing, organized gleaning as defined in section seventy- one-y of the agriculture and markets law, canoeing, boating, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, sledding, speleological activities, horseback riding, bicycle riding, hang gliding, motorized vehicle operation for recreational purposes, snowmobile operation, cutting or gathering of wood for non-commercial purposes or training of dogs. And note this list does NOT include swimming…almost everything is included, but not swimming. If you want to change the situation with posting get in touch with your elected State respresentative and Senator and make the case to include swimming. It would change a lot of things.
Where to Fish
The two branches of the Ausable river are world renowned for their fishing. The East Branch that runs through the Town of Keene is stocked by DEC and has no particular restrictions other than that you need a fishing license. The West Branch in for fly fishing only and it runs through Lake Placid and Wilmington with stretches that enforce a catch and release policy. Local guides can teach you fly fishing and take you on guided fishing trips.