There are some wilderness trails that lure you back over and over. The Mountaineer Trail along Massawepie Lake is one such trail for me and I hike it several times a year. In my opinion, it is one of the prettiest treks in the Adirondacks! I recently hiked it with my friend David Buckley.
The First Half-Mile of the Trail
The first half-mile of the Mountaineer Trail is on a wide, road-sized path. It drops down from a hill up above Massawepie Lake. There are huge coniferous trees bordering the route.
The trail traverses a narrow section of land between Massawepie Lake and Boottree Pond. And, yes, Boottree Pond is indeed shaped like a boot. There are large pines at this location with breeding Pine Warblers.
Continuing on, the trail reaches the shores of Massawepie Lake at a scenic spot by a bay. This is good location to look for Common Loons. Last fall, I observed an adult loon with a juvenile.
Visitors often ask about the origin of the name "Massawepie." It is Iroquois in origin, meaning "the beaver's lake."
St. Lawrence University's "Adirondack Semester"
There are often canoes along the shoreline at this location. The students, faculty, and staff of St. Lawrence University's "Adirondack Semester" boat across Massawepie Lake from this spot to reach "Arcadia." The Adirondack Semester is a fall option for students. They need to apply and only twelve students are selected to participate in this wonderful outdoor experience. Here is the Adirondack Semester mission statement:
"The Mission of the Adirondack Semester is to enable students to study nature and human relationships with nature through academic classes enriched by direct experience. The Semester takes place at Arcadia, an off-the-grid yurt village in the heart of the Adirondacks. The goals of the program are to foster a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, to create a vibrant living and learning community at Arcadia, and to cultivate a strong connection to the Adirondack region."
If you hike the trail in the fall, you may meet some of the students living at Arcadia!
The Second Half-Mile of the Trail
The road-sized trail now becomes a foot path as it traverses the perimeter of the bay. There are lots of wooden walkways over wet areas that were built by the Massawepie Boy Scouts who maintain the vast 20-mile network of trails on their land.
Osprey used to reuse a nest along this bay each year, but it hasn't been used in the past few years. I found a vocalizing Osprey a few days ago between Boottree Pond and Massawepie Lake, so it looks like they may take up residence in the area once again.
Halfway around the bay, a trail junction is reached. Continue straight to stay on the Mountaineer Trail.
David and I spent some time at the junction since we found a beautiful, singing Cape May Warbler and a Black-backed Woodpecker pair! The female Black-backed Woodpecker came within a couple feet of us as she hopped on the ground to reach a large flying ant to eat.
The trail heads up and over a hill. You now enter a scenic boreal forest on the northern edge of Massawepie Mire.
There is a camping location on a lovely bluff sticking out into the lake called Distillery Hill.
The trail continues on a mix of dirt paths and wooden walkways along Massawepie Lake. I often find Black-backed Woodpeckers and Gray Jays along this section of trail.
The route then parallels the outlet of Massawepie Lake on mostly wooden walkways.
The Boy Scouts recently rebuilt the bridge over the outlet. If you happen to be canoeing the outlet, you can simply paddle under the high bridge now instead of taking your boat out to carry around the old, low boardwalk over the water.
On the other side of the outlet, continue on the trail to another high bluff with huge pines overlooking the lake. This is another campsite. It is a great place to stop for a food break. This is usually the location where I turn around. It is roughly the one mile point, so the round trip is two miles.
On our hike out, David and I waved to a paddler on Boottree Pond. He appeared to be enjoying the solitude.
Accessible Dates for the Public
This trail is open to the public outside of Boy Scout camping season. From June 16 to August 31, the Boy Scouts have exclusive use of their property - trails, lakes, and ponds. So you can hike the trail in the spring, late summer, and fall.
To reach the trail, drive a little more than two miles on Massawepie Road to a large parking area on the left. The trail is just beyond the parking area on the right hand side of the road (across the road from the parking area). There is a wire gate at the start of the road-sized trail.