Chain Lakes Road South Opens to Public

Hiking the Trails at Chain Lakes Road South

Many new recreational opportunities are now available to the public with the newly opened Chain Lakes Road South access in Indian Lake. This region spans parts of the Blue Mountain Wild Forest, Pine Lake Primitive Area, and Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

Chain Lakes Road South Sign

Three Parking Areas

I recently hiked the trails on a blustery November day. There are three parking areas along the road. The third parking lot is only open during big game hunting season. The main parking area is reached at 3.8 miles along Chain Lakes Road (S) by a yellow camp. It has room for about 5 cars. If this lot is filled, you need to drive back to the first parking area that was passed at the 3 mile point. Outside of hunting season, there is a metal gate at the main parking lot blocking any further driving. Since my hike was during hunting season, I took advantage of the open gate to park at the third lot reached in 5.3 miles from Route 28. One of the other advantages during hunting season is that you can drive to 3 of the 5 designated camping areas, which are located between the second and third parking lots. Outside of big game hunting season, you need to hike to the camp sites.

On the drive in, I stopped the car to watch a female Northern Cardinal foraging near the road. A warming climate has allowed this species to expand its breeding range northward during the past couple decades, and they are becoming an increasingly common sight in the Central Adirondacks.

Northern Cardinal

Trail to Clear Pond

From the third parking area, I hiked to Clear Pond. Most of the hiking in this area is along dirt roads. It was three-tenths of a mile back down the dirt road I had driven to reach the hiking trail. The trail is also three-tenths of a mile, so the round trip from my vehicle was 1.2 miles.

Chain Lakes Road South Clear Pond Trailhead

The trail leads up and around a hill through a mostly deciduous forest before descending to Clear Pond.

Chain Lakes Road South Clear Pond Trail

The trail ends at a lovely spot on the shores of Clear Pond near a huge, impressive, Northern White Cedar tree. I immediately thought of my younger son, now a college student, who is obsessed with climbing anything he can scale! I could picture him sitting in the top of that tree!

Clear Pond at Chain Lakes Road South

Clear Pond at Chain Lakes Road South

Clear Pond at Chain Lakes Road South

Northern White Cedar at Chain Lakes Road South

Northern White Cedar at Chain Lakes Road South

Trail to Cedar River

Next, I hiked back past my car and around the metal gate at the third parking area in the direction of Cedar River.

Chain Lakes Road South 3rd parking area

Chain Lakes Road South 3rd parking area

This newly opened property has been logged, so most of the forest was deciduous. Once again, the hiking is along a dirt road no longer used by vehicles.

Dirt Road Trail at Chain Lakes Road South

Although forests are greatly changed by logging, the results attract a variety of bird species. As the open areas begin to fill with berry bushes, species such as Mourning and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Black-billed Cuckoo will inhabit these areas. The beautiful Mourning Warbler is one of the most sought after birds of the nearly 30 warbler species that nest in Northern NY.

As I continued the hike along the dirt road, I passed a lovely beaver wetland on the left at Mud Pond.

Chain Lakes Road South Beaver House

It was a nice surprise to find four migrant Snow Buntings along the road passing through from the Arctic.

Snow Buntings

I also passed the fourth designated camping location.

Eventually, there is a fork in the road, and a trail sign indicates a left turn to reach Cedar River.

Trail sign to Cedar River

I noticed a wetland to the right, and headed in that direction first. After a few hundred feet, the road was washed out and there was a beautiful wetland on the right with lots of dead snags. Both wetlands appeared to be suitable habitat for Olive-sided Flycatchers and many other bird species that inhabit beaver-created wetlands. I look forward to visiting this area again next year during breeding season and I will report back.

Wetland at Chain Lakes Road South

I heard the sweet call notes of migrant American Tree Sparrows passing through from Northern Canada. There were several birds in the bushes near me.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

I hiked back to the fork and continued on the dirt road trail a short distance to the Cedar River Trail.

Sign for Cedar River

It is only a couple hundred feet on the trail to reach the edge of Cedar River where a sign indicates it is the end of the trail. (But it is not actually the end!)

Trail to Cedar River

End of Cedar River Trail sign

If you carried your canoe or kayak all that way, you can put in at this scenic location along Cedar River.

Cedar River

Cedar River

Trail to Pine Lake

I continued on the dirt road trail toward Pine Lake, which is less than a mile from the little trail to Cedar River. There were no more signs past the trail to Cedar River, but I had studied the map and knew the trail continued on.

I passed a strange looking hunting camp that was covered in a heavy, waterproof material and had a stove pipe sticking out.

The dirt road became less distinct as I neared Pine Lake. The road ended at the eastern shore of Pine Lake at a gorgeous camping area surrounded by huge hemlock trees (the fifth designated camp site). The site even had a picnic table!

Camp Site at Pine Lake

Camp Site at Pine Lake

Camp Site at Pine Lake

Float planes can land on Pine Lake and there is a camp site on the western end available only to people who fly in.

The winds were fierce along Pine Lake that day, so I found a more sheltered location to eat a late lunch.

Pine Lake

Pine Lake

I saw no one until I was hiking back to my car. From a distance, I could see two people and it appeared they had a baby stroller. As they got closer, it was two hunters and one was pushing a cart with all their supplies. As it turns out, it was the owner of the strange looking hunting camp! We had a nice conversation before I headed on.

Trail to the Hudson River

Back at my car, I drove back to the main parking area by the yellow camp.

Camp by Chain Lakes Road South Main Parking Area

Chain Lakes Road South Main Parking Area

There is a nice view of the Hudson River from this parking area.

Hudson River view from Main Parking Area

It was only a short walk (one tenth of a mile) to the trail down to the Hudson River from this location. There is a mileage sign at the trailhead, but no indication that it is the trailhead to the Hudson River!

Sign by Hudson River Trail

It was a short walk down to the river along a trail.

Trail to Hudson River

There is a scary warning sign for canoe and kayak folks to take their boats out at this location before dangerous rapids ahead!

Sign at Hudson River

The Hudson River was quite rocky at this location and there were visible rapids. It did not look canoe-able, at least for me!

Hudson River

Hudson River

It was getting dark by the time I reached the river, but the sun suddenly appeared from low in the western sky and made the tops of the trees glow. It was breathtaking.

Sunset at the Hudson River

Hudson River

The vast network of dirt roads in this area, between Indian Lake and the Essex Chain Lakes in Newcomb, are all open to the public for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and hunting. It is yet to be determined if bicycles will be allowed. Stay tuned!

If you plan a trip to the Central Adirondack region, there are many restaurant and lodging options to help make your stay even more enjoyable!

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