Cascade and Stephens Ponds are two beautiful gems in the Blue Ridge Wilderness. In any season, you'll find peaceful forests and pristine waters. If you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of an otter; they've been known to frequent these parts. As this trail doubles as part of the Northville- Placid Trail, it's possible for this to turn into a longer trip, but the ponds themselves are excellent destinations.
The ponds can be accessed through the Lake Durant DEC Campground, but that may involve a day-use fee, unless you are staying at the campground. In winter, the campground is not plowed, so alternative parking can be found on NY Routes 28/30. There is a relatively large parking area on both sides of NY Routes 28/30, with a marked trail leading into the campground. This parking area is about 3-miles east of the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.
For the adventurous, there is an alternative trailhead located off Durant Road (County Road 19). This is a short dirt road with free, primitive campsites near the shore of Lake Durant. Starting from here, hikers cross over the floating bridge over Rock Pond. It is just under a 3-mile hike to Cascade Pond from here.
The marked trailhead begins where the Northville- Placid Trail crosses NY Routes 28/30. Follow the blue marked NPT into the campground. Soon after entering the campground, the path crosses the Rock River and continues to follow the main campground road, paralleling Lake Durant. Just after campsite #3, the trail heads into the woods. For the next 3 miles, the trail is very pleasant. There are some rolling hills and some steeper sections. At just over 3-miles, you'll reach a trail junction. Turning left and stay on the Northville- Placid Trail will take you 0.8- miles to Stephens Pond. Bearing right, 0.8- miles will take you to Cascade Pond. Another 0.1 miles beyond Cascade Pond is a wooden footbridge over the Cascade Pond Outlet and a waterfall. Both Cascade and Stephens Ponds have lean-tos, which make for perfect resting spots with great views. This also means this is a great camping destination.
Paddling and fishing
As far as backcountry ponds go, these two are fine paddles. Their distance from the trailhead might make it a challenging carry, but those with a hearty appetite to paddle or fish will find the trip rewarding. Multiple herd paths lead down to the ponds, so shoreline fishing is definitely an option.
This route is one of the finest in the region. It makes for a great cross-country ski or snowshoe hike. There are a few small streams to cross, which may be tricky to cross with skis.