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It’s no mystery that people love to hike, spend time outdoors, and connect with nature. This is especially true in the Adirondacks. So much so that we award people for completing certain hikes! Hiking for patches is very popular, and these challenges are spread out around the Adirondacks, from the 46 High Peaks to the ADK 6-pack Challenge. Tupper Lake even has its own: the Tupper Lake Triad. While these challenges with designated hikes are indeed rewarding and full of adventure, sometimes it’s nice to get away and hike lesser-known trails. For those who prefer the quietness of different hikes, I offer you “Janelle’s Super Fun Alternative Hiking Trio.” Sure, the name isn’t as pretty as the Tupper Lake Triad, but I promise you’ll have just as much fun in any season!

The three hikes featured in this “challenge” are: Deer Pond, Fernow Forest, and Hitchins Overlook.

Here’s everything you need to know:

  1. Get a map. A good map is a great tool to have in your hiking backpack. Cell phone service isn’t always a guarantee and phone batteries can die; hard-copy maps are a better choice.
  2. There is no patch, no prize at the end of this “challenge.” Just your own personal bragging rights and eternal glory. The best way to cement your legacy in the hiking world here is to pledge to always protect the wild lands and waters of the Adirondacks by practicing Leave No Trace ethics and good stewardship.
  3. Enjoy the explorations!
Hiking in boots through the fall leaves.

All set? Let’s lace up those boots and hit the trails!

Deer Pond

Unsuspectingly, Deer Pond’s trailhead is right off the main road: you can find the main access point on Route 3 about 5-miles outside of downtown Tupper Lake. Truth be told, until recently, I hadn’t visited this spot in fall or summer; I’ve only cross-country skied the loop. But I’m always up for something new. I decided to follow in my ski tracks and do the loop clockwise (meaning I’d have to walk up the big hill). Admittedly, I struggled to get up the hill on my skis so I considered this redemption. More than half of this loop is over level ground, but there are some steeper climbs along the way. I took it easy, enjoying the sights and sounds of the late summer forest (especially the calls of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Blue Jays!). The trees along the trail are beautiful. I remember thinking the same thing when I was here last winter and everything was covered in snow.

There are some muddy areas along the trail, but boardwalks help you traverse mud and water.

A wooden boardwalk through a green fern swamp.

No matter which direction you take the loop, though, Deer Pond is a great destination. It’s beautiful shores seem much more remote than they are. Truly, it’s very peaceful. For the best views of Deer Pond, take the side trail toward Lead Pond. There’s a fine overlook there that really makes this trip spectacular. It's only an additional a few minutes of walking.

A woman sits on a rock on the shore of a pond.

Not feeling a hike today? That’s okay! Mountain biking the technical singletrack is another popular activity here in warmer months.

Fernow Forest

Okay, so this is technically called the “Fernow Forest Nature Trail,” but this short path is dedicated to one of the fathers of modern forestry and celebrates professional forest management. Thus, I will call it Fernow Forest. (Hopefully you don’t get confused with the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia.) Bernhard E. Fernow came to America in 1876. At this time, forestry was not a well-known profession, but Fernow made his mark on this land. Fernow Forest came to be because the forester was performing an experiment to see if the 68-acre plot of land could be transformed from a deteriorating hardwood forest to a valuable coniferous one. 

The laminated interpretive brochure at Fernow Forest with numbered stops.

The trail is well-worn and well-marked. And you’ll be well-educated after completing it! A self-guided interpretive brochure will help you better understand the forest and help you see the forest through the trees. There are laminated brochures in the register you can bring along on your hike; please return these when you are done. 

While you are walking through forest history you'll learn about Fernow and his connection to the Adirondacks. I won't spoil everything, but here's one fact ahead of time: the Norway spruce and white pines found here were all raised to seedling size and then planted by Fernow. So, as you're looking up at the enormous conifers, think of them as seedling to appreciate how much they've grown! 

The tall conifer trees at Fernow Forest, looking up from the forest floor.

While not very long, I still had a great time on this trail, learning more about the forests I love exploring. This is a great hike for families or if you just want to stretch your legs before something a little more challenging.

Hitchins Overlook

This is a hike of many names. Some call it Hitchins Overlook, some call it Lows Overlook. Some call it Lows Ridge. Whatever name you call it, there’s only one description that fits: absolutely beautiful. And I don’t mean for that to be taken lightly. I’ve been on a lot of hikes around Tupper Lake, around the Adirondacks, around New York, even around the world. This spot is my favorite. 

The trailhead, 2.3-miles away from the parking area, is reached by foot or by bike. I opted to hoof it. The road was flat, uneventful, and very quiet. When I arrived at the end of the road, I found the remains of some old outbuildings. It may not look like much anymore, but this was actually the site of the largest sugarbush in the world in 1907.

The bright foliage from Hitchins Overlook.

The trail to the Hitchins Overlook is located on the right side of the road near the remnants of a couple of buildings. No bikes are allowed on this part of the trail. Moderately inclined, it never really gets steep, and, if you arrive later in the day, the colorful trees and ferns glow in the fading sun. It’s only 1.1-miles from the old buildings to the ridge overlook. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I emerged from the trees onto the long rock spine, but, boy was I not disappointed. A view that seemed endless with the Bog River, mountains, and the best foliage I’d ever seen lay before me. On my way back, I was in for a big surprise: a black bear was in the road ahead of me! We acknowledged each other and went our separate ways, both keeping a safe distance.

A relaxing evening

Since there is no patch for this made-up challenge, I decided to celebrate the next best way: with a beer and some food at Raquette River Brewing. My recommendation: don’t pass up the Citrus Kolsch. Sure, as we move toward fall it's not as seasonally appropriate, but it’s deliciously refreshing, which is what you want after a day on the trails. (Don't worry, there are other options, too.)

A pint glass with a refreshing beer at Raquette River Brewing.

If you want to try more, maybe stay for awhile; sample other restaurants, take on the Paddling Triad, or go stargazing. There’s always something to discover in Tupper Lake. Just keep an eye open for the wildlife.