Five Ponds Wilderness

The Five Pond Wilderness is one of the most significant areas that can be accessed from Wanakena. A long trek which can include lean-to camping.

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

While in winter it gets little to no use past High Rock, this is a great way of exploring true wilderness.

From the trailhead you will be on a very flat kick and glide along an old railroad grade (no ties) with Skate Creek on your left. You will cross over Skate Creek a couple times with no issues other than a shallow dip in the trail. Enter an attractive hardwood forest before a wide tributary of the Oswegatchie River opens up the views again to your right.

The flat trail continues and eventually you will come to an area where you can see the Oswegatchie River off in the distance through the trees. High Rock comes soon after with an outstanding overlook above the river, you may wish to remove your skis to approach the view.

The trail continues keeping the river to your right and not ever too far away. At about 4.5 miles from High Rock you will come to the Five Ponds Trail and Bridge to your right, this is where you need to turn off the High Falls Loop Trail.

Once across the bridge the feel of true wilderness should be upon you. Wolf Pond Outlet will be to your right as you ski on a moderate trail. While this is called Five Ponds, you will only come to three of them along the trail, the two others are a short bushwhack over a narrow ridge. There is a lean-to on Big Shallow and Little Shallow Ponds. The trail does continue past to Wolf Pond, Sand Pond and eventually Cage Lake, where additional lean-to’s are available.

To continue past Five Ponds you will need additional time, food, and gear for the secluded stay in the winter wild. The choice is yours but the trails will certainly be untouched under most days of the season. If you so desire to do a two-car loop, a second car could be spotted at the end of Young’s Road in Star Lake. This would allow you to make the extended outing.

Approximate Time, Round Trip

Family with Kids:        Not recommended in full, but in parts the trail is excellent for all users

Experienced Skier:        This is a 2 day outing for just Five Ponds, 3-4 days for traverse

Out of Shape/Beginner Skier:    Not recommended in full, but in parts the trail is excellent for all users

Distance Round Trip

21.0 miles

28.5 miles, two-car traverse

Difficulty: 1=beginner, 5=advanced

Five: Due to overall distance and winter trail conditions

Additional Important Information:

The Five Ponds Wilderness is expansive with trails of various condition and use, be fully prepared for every winter situation and condition.

Hiking

From the trailhead you will be on a flat trail that follows along an old railroad grade (no ties) with Skate Creek on your left. You will cross over Skate Creek a couple times which can be wet under the right conditions. The flat trail continues and eventually you will come to an area where you can see the Oswegatchie River off in the distance through the trees. High Rock comes soon after with an outstanding overlook above the river with decent spots to tent camp if you so desire.

The trail continues keeping the river to your right and not ever too far away. At about 4.5 miles from High Rock you will come to the Five Ponds Trail and Bridge to your right, this is where you need to turn off the High Falls Loop Trail. Once across the bridge the feel of true wilderness should be upon you. While this is called Five Ponds, you will only come to three of them along the trail, the two others are a short bushwhack over a narrow ridge.

To extend this outing to a second car and make it a wilderness traverse; continue on the lightly used trail. To continue past 5-Ponds you will need additional time, food, and gear for the secluded stay in the wild. The choice is yours but the trails will certainly be much less used and bit more rugged.

If you so desire a second car could be spotted at the end of Young’s Road in Star Lake. This would allow you to make the extended outing. 

Trailhead

From the intersection of Route 3 and Route 30 in the Village of Tupper Lake follow Route 3 toward Cranberry Lake. Follow Route 3 for 33.4 miles to CR61 (Wanakena Road) on the left. Follow here and stay straight on the main road to South Shore Road. Follow South Shore Road for around 0.25 miles to the trailhead parking on the right. You will have to walk back up the road for a couple hundred feet to the road on the left and walk this to its end, which is about 0.1 miles.

Distance

21 to 30 Miles

This is a multi-day outing of two or more days which is only for experienced hikers. Skills with map and compass required to stick with with route.

Camping

There is a lean-to on Big Shallow and Little Shallow Ponds. The trail does continue past Five Ponds to Wolf Pond, Sand Pond and eventually Cage Lake, where additional lean-tos are available. High Rock has some decent spots to tent camp if you so desire.

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