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Hudson Gorge Wilderness

Polaris Mountain Primitive Area

Hiking paddling camping fishing hunting trapping cross country skiing snowshoeing boat launch hand launch parking and directionsicon key

Hudson Gorge Wilderness locator map

The 24,477 acres of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness and Polaris Mountain Primitive Area are located in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Much of the wilderness is characterized by low mountains and the valleys between. The Hudson River runs through the center of the wilderness and creates its awe inspiring namesake - the Hudson Gorge.

The gorge is known for the rugged beauty of the steep cliffs that climb up on either side of the many rapids and cascades of the river. Related to the gorge are the 200+ foot high OK Slip Falls and the unique Blue Ledges, located on the south side of the Hudson River.

The Hudson River is classified as a Scenic River above the Cedar River and below the Boreas River and a Wild River in between.

Backcountry Information for the East Central Adirondacks provides general information regarding backcountry and seasonal conditions; specific notices regarding closures and conditions of trails, roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and links to weather, state land use regulations, low impact recreation and more.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

Whortleberry Pond Trail extends 3.1 miles from its trailhead climbing 240 feet from Bell Mountain Brook over the shoulder of Bell Mountain before dropping down to eastern shore of Whortleberry Pond.

A 0.25-mile spur trail leaves the trail 2.2 miles from the trailhead and leads to the southern shore of Ross Pond.

Another 0.5-mile spur tail leaves the trail 2.6 miles from the trailhead and leads to the southeastern shore of Big Bad Luck Pond.

OK Slip Falls Trail leaves the Whortleberry Pond Trail a half mile from the trailhead the two trails share and extends another 2.6 miles to an overlook of one of the highest waterfalls in the Adirondacks. The total distance between the trail and OK Slip Falls is 3.1 miles. The trail gently rises and falls for the first 1.5 miles until it reaches a dirt road that provides access to a private inholding. A short distance up the road the trail enters the woods and descends 230 feet to an overlook of the falls.

Do not trespass on the private inholding - a summer boy's camp. Be cautious of busses and other motor vehicles using the road during the summer - especially on weekends.

Hudson River Access Trail extends 0.7 mile from the OK Slip Falls Trail (turn is just before the overlook) descending more than 300 feet to the confluence of OK Slip Brook and the Hudson River.

Outer Gooley Take-out Trail extends 0.1 mile from the Outer Gooley Parking Area at the end of the Chain Lakes Road South to the edge of the river.

Blue Ledges extends 2.5 miles from the trailhead to the Blue Ledges on the northern rim of the Hudson Gorge.

Paddling

paddling

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

The Hudson River provides primary opportunities for paddling in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness. The river between Newcomb and North River is the most dramatic white water trip in the Adirondacks. Paddlers can travel nearly 12 miles on the Hudson River from Harris Lake to a landing just above the confluence with the Indian River. There are several stretches of flatwater and moving waters that people of all skill levels can enjoy.

The river also contains numerous rapids and shallow rocky areas. Depending on water levels, the rapids are mostly rated Class 1, 2 or 2+. Under certain water levels a few of the rapids may rate Class 3, such as Long Rapids and Ord Falls. Portages around both these rapids are on the river right (western) bank. Signs mark the start of the portage and the trails are flagged.

Paddlers may put-in at the Town of Newcomb Boat Launch on Harris Lake and paddle one mile across the lake and down the outlet to the Hudson River. Paddlers can take advantage of a long stretch of flat water above and below 28N or continue downstream where they will encounter Long Rapids and Ord Falls.

The Essex Chain Lakes Complex Map (PDF 760 KB) depicts Harris Lake and the Hudson River between Harris Lake Outlet and the Polaris Bridge.

Approximately three miles downstream of the confluence of Harris Lake outlet and the Hudson River is Polaris (aka Iron) Bridge hand launch in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex. The hand launch is downstream of the bridge and is reached via a 0.3-mile carry from the Polaris Bridge Parking Area located along Drakes Mill Road off the Chain Lakes Road North. The bridge and the roads on either side of it serve as the northern boundary of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness on the western bank and the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area on the eastern bank.

Paddlers can launch here and paddle the Blackwell Stillwater section above and below the Polaris (Iron) Bridge. Paddlers may also access the lower Goodnow River from the Blackwell Stillwater. The paddler put-in/take-out is located just south of the bridge on the west side of the river.

Eight miles downstream of the Polaris Bridge is the Hudson River Take-out, located 0.2 mile upstream of the confluence of Indian River. Paddlers who do not exit the river here will paddle several miles of the Hudson River Gorge before reaching another point where they can exit the river.

The Hudson River Take-out is reached via 0.1-mile carry from the Outer Gooley Parking Area located along the Chain Lakes Road South at the Old Gooley Farmhouse.

During low water conditions (water levels below 4.0 feet at the North Creek gage (leaves DEC website) a considerable amount of portaging, dragging and lining of kayaks and canoes will be required especially in the portion of the river between the Polaris Bridge and the take-out just prior to the confluence with the Indian River.

Hudson Gorge Whitewater

Only experienced white water paddlers should attempt kayaking or rafting the river through the Hudson Gorge. The river contains many Class 3 and Class 4 rapids in the 12 mile section between the Indian River and the North River Take-out.

A river ride through the Hudson Gorge is an exciting experience because of the scenic beauty of the gorge and the thrill of paddling the rapids. One of the best ways to enjoy a river ride through the gorge is by rafting with one of the numerous commercial rafting companies in the area offer guided trips.

The Town of Indian Lake releases water into the Indian River which flows into the Hudson River above the gorge four days a week during the summer to facilitate rafting through the gorge. The Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce (leaves DEC website) can provide information about commercial rafting companies.

Camping

camping

General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations

All designated primitive tents sites, campsites and lean-tos are available on a first come - first served basis and cannot be reserved. Designated campsites are marked with a yellow "Camp Here" disc. Designated tent sites are for tents only. Tents or small campers can use designated campsites. There are no hook-ups for water or electricity at campsites.

Campers who desire more amenities may camp at the nearby Lake Harris Campground or Indian Lake Islands Campground and take day trips into the Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

There are numerous primitive tent sites within the Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

Seven designated primitive tent sites are located on the banks of the Hudson River, all are accessible by water only. The tents sites are located as follows:

  • Polaris (Iron) Bridge Tent Site is located on the river right (western) side of the river, on the northern side Drakes Mill Road (43.8947°N, 74.1650°W)

  • Cedar River Tent Site is located immediately below the Cedar River on the river right (western) bank of the river. (43.8522°N, 74.1894°W)

  • Virgin Falls Tent Site is located .35 mile from Virgin Falls on the river left bank of the river. (43.8276°N, 74.1614°W)

  • Harris Rift Mountain Tent Site is located near the Gunsight In Rapids on the river right bank at the foot of Harris Rift Mountain. (43.8043°N, 74.0899°W)

  • Boreas Tent Sites (3) are on the point on the river right bank opposite the Boreas River. (43.7958°N, 74.0477°W)


There are two designated primitive tent sites on the shore of Whortleberry Pond, one on the northeastern shore and one on the southern shore.

A designated primitive tent site is located on the northern shore of Big Bad Luck Pond and another on the southern shore of Ross Pond.

There are three designated campsites on the northern shore of Huntley Pond that can be accessed from the Northwoods Road.

Other designated primitive tent sites located on nearby Forest Preserve lands provide access to the Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

Six designated primitive tent sites are located along the North Woods Club Road in the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest. Three are located near the bridge over the Boreas River. Two are road side campsites located at two different locations between the Boreas River Bridge and Huntley Pond. The last one is near Huntley Pond but on the opposite side of the road.

Eight designated primitive tent sites are located in the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area. Four are located along the Chain Lakes Road South between the Outer Gooley Parking Area and the Cedar River and four are located along the Camp 6 Road. Three of the sites along the Chain Lakes Road South and all of the sites along the Camp 6 Road can be accessed by motor vehicles during the big game season.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations

All waters within the Hudson Gorge Wilderness are open to fishing. Anglers may use the same trailheads and trails as hikers, the same boat launches and hand launches used by boaters and paddlers, and the same camp sites as campers to access and fish these waters.

Hudson River contains brown and rainbow trout in the sections in and around the gorge while the upstream flatwater sections contain smallmouth bass and panfish.

Cedar River contains brown and rainbow trout. It can be accessed from the Outer Gooley Parking Area via the Chain Lakes Road South.

Ross Pond is a 22.5-acre pond which contains brook trout and can be accessed using the Whortleberry Pond Trail. Use or possession of bait fish is prohibited.

Big Bad Luck Pond is a 115-acre pond which contains smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and yellow perch.

Huntley Pond is 37 acres in size and 40 feet deep, and contains brook trout and is accessed off the Northwoods Club Road. There are several campsites on the northern shore of the pond. Use or possession of bait fish is prohibited.

Adirondack/Lake Champlain Fishing provides information on fishing in the Adirondacks and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.

Help Protect Native Adirondack Fish. Populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.

Hunting & Trapping

hunting
trapping

General Information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations

Hunters and trappers may use the parking areas, roads, seasonal access roads, trailheads, and trails used by hikers, boat launches and hand launches used by boaters and paddlers to access the lands and waters in this area. Hunters can park on the shoulders of seasonal access roads provided vehicles are out of the travel lane.

Chain Lakes Road South Seasonal Access Parking Area is located north of the Old Gooley Club Parking Area and can be accessed by motor vehicles during the big game hunting season.

Three designated primitive tent sites along the Chain Lakes Road South and four sites along the Camp 6 Road can be accessed by motor vehicles during the big game season.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross country skiing
snowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Seasonal access roads and trail used by hikers are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. OK Slip Falls is a popular place to snowshoe. Be aware of slippery areas near the top of the falls.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The Adirondacks contain large tracts of wildlife habitat with some boreal, bog, alpine and other unique habitats. Many birds (common loon, peregrine falcon) and mammals (moose, black bear) are unique to the Adirondacks or are mainly found here. More than 50 species of mammals and hundreds of species of birds inhabit or pass through the Adirondacks at one time of the year or another.

Directions

Trailheads and Parking Areas

  • Whortleberry Pond Trailhead Parking Area is located off Route 28, approximately 7.5 miles east of the community of Indian Lake. (43.7721°N, 74.1299°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website). The actual trailhead is located on the north side of Route 28, 0.2 mile west of the parking area (43.7712°N, 74.1333°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

  • Blue Ledges Trailhead Parking Area is located along the North Woods Club Road (43.8324°N, 74.1072°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Old Outer Gooley Club Parking Area is located along the Chain Lakes Road South. (43.8275°N, 74.2008°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Chain Lakes Road South Seasonal Hunter Access Parking Area is 1.5 miles north of the Outer Gooley Parking Area. The parking area is only open during the Big Game Hunting Season (43.8407°N, 74.2206°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Boat Launches and Hand Launches

  • Town of Newcomb Boat Launch is located on Harris Lake/Beach Road of State Route 28N. (43.9717°N, 74.1459°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Polaris (Iron) Bridge Parking Area is located at the end of Drakes Mills Road. A 0.3-mile carry brings paddlers to the hand launch on the Hudson River. (43.8952°N, 74.1690°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Old Outer Gooley Club Parking Area is located along the Chain Lakes Road South and 0.1 mile from the Hudson River Take-out. (43.8275°N, 74.2008°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • North River Take-out Parking Area is located along State Route 28 (43.7504°N, 74.0587°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace principles (Leaves DEC website) when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.

All users of Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

How We Manage Hudson Gorge Wilderness and Polaris Mountain Primitive Area

DEC is developing a unit management plan which will describe the management activities for the Hudson Gorge Wilderness. In addition to management objectives, the UMP will contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

DEC Lands and Faculties

Gas, food and other supplies, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Minerva, Newcomb, North Creek and Indian Lake.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (Leaves DEC Website) for information on outdoor guides.