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West Canada Lake Wilderness

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West Canada Lake Wilderness locator map

The 168,920-acre West Canada Lake Wilderness is the second largest wilderness in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Although many foot trails penetrate the interior, parts are trackless, making it one of the more remote areas in the Adirondack Park.

The 2,935-acre West Canada Mountain Primitive Area (WCMPA) is the largest of the three primitive areas associated with the wilderness. It is surrounded by private lands on the north, east and west. The southern boundary is the access road to the Miller Camp south of the Indian River.

The unit's terrain ranges from swamp flats and rolling hills to steep rugged mountains. The topography is gently rolling from west to east and rises from south to north. Most of the mountains are of moderate height (2,000 - 3,000 feet elevation), easily identifiable and named. The most outstanding topographic features include: Panther Mountain, T Lake Mountain, Fort Noble Mountain, Indian Lake Mountain, Lewey Mountain, and West Canada Mountain.

The area contains a large number of streams, lakes, ponds, beaver flows and wetlands. Water is an important component of the natural ecosystem and provides a wide range of aquatic environments. Many of the waters are remote and not easily accessed. However, they provide great habitat for brook trout and other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals and add greatly to the scenic beauty of the area.

Backcountry Information for the West 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.

The wilderness contains many trails, with a variety of lengths and difficulty levels throughout the unit. The trail network, combined with numerous lean-tos and designated primitive tent sites, provides many opportunities for long distance overnight loop hikes from many of the trailheads. Due to the geography of the area the majority of the trails have gentle or moderate changes in elevation.

More than 23 miles of the famed 135-mile Northville-Placid Trail (leaves DEC website) passes along and through the wilderness in a north-south direction. This section of the long trail may most easily be accessed from three trailheads: the Northville-Placid Haskell Road Trailhead at the southern end of the wilderness, the Spruce Lake Trailhead in the Perkins Clearing Easement Tract, and the Northville-Placid Wakely Dam Trailhead in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest at the northern end.

NOTE: Due to large amounts of blowdown and muddy areas and flooding from beaver activity, the Sucker Brook Trail between the Northville-Placid Trail and Lewey Lake Campground is currently closed.

The following trails are unmaintained and may be difficult to follow. Use of a GPS or compass and map are recommended.

  • Otter Lake Trail extends 1.7 miles and climbs 270 feet from the trailhead on the Jessup River Road to the shores of Otter Lake.
  • Little Moose Pond Trail begins 0.5 mile from a parking area on the Jessup River Road. The trail extends 1.2 miles from the wilderness boundary and climbs 380 feet to the shores of Little Moose Pond.
  • Whitney Lake Trail extends 1.8 miles from the French Louie Trail to the eastern shore of Whitney Lake.
  • Whitney-Cedar Lakes Trail is a 1.1-mile trail that connects the eastern shore of Whitney Lake to Pillsbury Bay on Cedar Lake.
  • Pillsbury Lake Spur Trail is a 1.2-mile foot trail that heads north from the French Louie Trail, skirts the edge of the western shore of Pillsbury Lake and continues on to connect with the Whitney-Cedar Lakes Trail.
  • South Branch Trail extends 3.7 miles along the border of the wilderness from its trailhead to the Twin Lakes Outlet.
  • Beaudry Brook Trail leaves the South Branch Trail at mile mark 2.0 and continues 2.8 miles into the wilderness. At mile mark 0.75 the trail ascends 140 feet in 0.3 mile.
  • T Lake Trail climbs 820 feet and 3.7 miles from the trailhead to the south shore of T Lake.
  • Spruce Lake Trail climbs 190 feet and 0.7 mile from the trailhead to the intersection with the Northville-Placid Trail. The trail climbs another 450 feet in 1.3 miles before dropping 160 feet in 0.7 mile to the southeast shore of Spruce Lake for a total distance of 2.7 miles.
  • French Louie Trail extends 8.0 miles between the Pillsbury Mountain Trailhead in the east and the Northville-Placid Trail near Mud Lake in the west. The trail climbs 400 feet in 1.6 miles to the intersection with the Cedar Lake Trail. The trail extends west 6.4 miles, moderately rising and falling along its course, with a high elevation of 2,745 feet near its midpoint and low elevation of 2,345 feet where it joins the Northville-Placid Trail.
  • Cedar Lakes Trail extends 2.7 miles, connecting the French Louie Trail in the south and the Northville-Placid Trail in the north. It drops 80 feet in the first 0.75 mile, then climbs 305 feet in the next 1.9 miles and drops 60 feet in the last 0.6 mile to the intersection with the Northville-Placid Trail.
  • Brooktrout Lake Trail extends nearly 8.0 miles between the Northville-Placid Trail at the eastern end and the Indian Lake Road in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. Most of the trail gently rises and falls with two moderate changes in elevation between 100 feet and 200 feet in 0.25-0.5 mile. However there is a 490-foot change in elevation in the 1.5-mile section between Falls Pond and Indian Lake Road.
  • Several spur trails off the Brooktrout Lake Trail provide access to other bodies of water. These are the 0.9-mile Deep Lake Trail, the 0.9-mile Wolf Lake Trail off of the Deep Lake Trail and the 0.5-mile Falls Pond Trail.
  • Lost Pond Trail extends 2.6 miles between the Northville-Placid Trail at the southern end and the Otter Brook Trail in the north. A 0.5-mile spur trail leaves the main trail 0.2 mile from the Otter Brook Trail and provides access to the shore of Lost Pond.
  • Otter Brook Trail extends 12.5 miles between the Indian Lake Road in the west and the Northville-Placid Trail, 2.7 miles south of the Cedar River Flow Trailhead. The trail is not in the wilderness but rather is a corridor that serves as the boundary between the Little Moose Mountain Wilderness and the West Canada Lake Wilderness.
  • Little Squaw Brook Trail can be reached by hiking 4.5 miles south on the Northville-Placid Trail from the Cedar River Flow Trailhead. The trail extends 4.2 miles from the Northville-Placid Trail and climbs 430 feet as it follows Little Squaw Brook up the valley between Buck Mountain and Lewey Mountain.
  • Muskrat Pond Trail is a 0.1-mile trail between Indian Lake Road and Muskrat Pond.
  • Indian River Trail extends 7.7 miles from the trailhead at the end of Indian Lake Road. The first 2.0 miles of the trail is actually the old Indian Lake Road which climbs 160 feet in the first 0.6 mile and drops 70 feet in the last 0.25 mile to the start of the old trail - in between are gentle rises and descents. The trail drops 350 feet from the pass on the shoulder of Indian Lake Mountain to Indian River and then climbs 100 feet in 0.75 mile before leveling and continuing another 0.9 mile. The trail provides access to Horn Lake, Balsam Lake and Stink Lake.
  • Horn Lake Trail is a 2.2-mile trail that leaves the Indian River Trail 6.0 miles from the trailhead and climbs 370 feet to the southwestern shore of Horn Lake.
  • Balsam Lake Trail is a 0.3-mile spur trail which leaves the Indian River Trail 6.1 miles from the trailhead and leads to the southern shore of Balsam Lake.
  • Stink Lake Trail is a 0.5-mile spur trail off the end of the Indian River Trail and leads to a bay on the southern shore of Stink Lake.

Camping

primitive camping

lean toGeneral 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.

The wilderness provides a variety of camping opportunities. The interior portion of the unit contains 16 lean-tos and 28 primitive tent sites located along the Northville-Placid Trail or connecting trails and along the shores of the more popular lakes. In addition, at-large backcountry camping is allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Lean-tos and Campsites in the Northville-Placid Trail Corridor
  • A designated primitive tent site is located along the upper reaches of the Jessup River, 1.2 miles south from the Spruce Lake Trailhead (0.5 mile south of the intersection of the NPT and the Spruce Lake Trail).
  • Three lean-tos are located on the eastern shore of Spruce Lake. Spruce Lake Lean-to #1, the southernmost, is 2.7 miles north of the Spruce Lake Trailhead (2.0 north of the intersection of the NPT and the Spruce Lake Trail). Spruce Lake Lean-to #2 and Spruce Lake Lean-to #3 are located 0.8 mile and 1.3 miles further up the trail, respectively. A designated primitive tent site is located near Spruce Lake Lean-to #3.
  • West Creek Lean-to is located near the intersection of the Northville Placid Trail and the French Louie Trail on the banks of West Creek.
  • South Lake Lean-to on the eastern shore of South Lake is 0.5 mile north of the intersection with the French Louie Trail.
  • West Lake Lean-to #1 is located on the southeastern shore of West Lake 1.0 mile north of the intersection with the French Louie Trail.
  • A designated primitive tent site is located near the intersection of the Northville-Placid Trail and the Brooktrout Lake Trail.
  • West Lake Lean-to #2 is located on the northeastern shore of West Lake, 0.2 mile up the Brooktrout Lake Trail which connects with the Northville Placid Trail 1.1 miles north of the intersection with the French Louie Trail. A designated primitive tent site is located nearby.
  • A designated primitive tent site is located on the western shore of Mud Lake, approximately 0.75 mile north of the intersection of the Brooktrout Lake Trail.
  • Cedar Lakes Lean-to #1 is located at the end of a 0.5-mile spur trail which leaves the Northville-Placid Trail 4.5 miles north of the intersection with the French Louie Trail.
  • Cedar Lakes Lean-to #2 is located on the west shore of the Cedar Lakes, 1.0 mile south of the intersection with the Cedar Lakes Trail.
  • Cedar Lakes Lean-to #3 and designated primitive tent site are located on the northern shore of the Cedar Lakes 0.2 mile south (west) of the intersection with the Cedar Lakes Trail.
  • Colvin Brook Lean-to is located on the banks of the Cedar River at what is currently the end of the Sucker Brook Trail, 0.5 miles from the Northville-Placid Trail. The spur trail leaves the Northville-Placid Trail 3.0 miles north of the intersection with the Cedar Lakes Trail.
  • The Carry Lean-to is located on the banks of the Cedar River a short distance from the Northville-Placid Trail along the Little Squaw Brook Trail.
  • A designated primitive campsite is located on the west shore of the Cedar River Flow approximately 1.0 mile from Cedar River/Limekiln Lake Road.
Other Camping Opportunities
  • Brooktrout Lake Lean-to is located along the Brooktrout Lake Trail approximately 2.5 miles from the Northville-Placid Trail and 5.5 miles from the Indian Lake Road.
  • T Lake Lean-to is located on the south shore of T Lake, at the end of the T-Lake Trail.
  • The Pillsbury Lake Lean-to and the Sampson Lake Lean-to can be accessed via spur trails off of the French Louie Trail.
  • Two designated primitive tent sites are located on the eastern shore of Whitney Lake at the end of the Whitney Lake Trail.
  • There are seven designated primitive tent sites on the shores of the Cedar River Flow in addition to the one along the Northville-Placid Trail.
  • Two designated primitive tent sites can be found along the Horn Lake Trail, one near the Indian River crossing and the other near the crossing of an unnamed tributary of the Indian River.
  • One designated primitive tent site is located on the shores of each these waterbodies: Falls Pond, Otter Lake, and Little Moose Pond.
  • One designated primitive tent site is located at the South Branch Trailhead and five are located along the trail near where it crosses Mad Tom Brook.

Campers who prefer more amenities may camp at the nearby Lewey Lake Campground, Indian Lake Islands Campground, Point Comfort Campground, Little Sand Point Campground, and Poplar Point Campground. All of these campgrounds also have boat launches.

Fishing

fishing

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

The West Canada Lake Wilderness is known for its remote wilderness brook trout fishing opportunities.

All waters within the unit are open to fishing. Anglers may use the same trailheads and trails as hikers and the same camp sites as campers to access and fish these waters.

  • These waters contain brook trout and can be accessed from the Northville-Placid Trail: Cat Lake, Cedar Lakes, Kings Pond, Spruce Lake, West Canada Lake, and West Lake.
  • Little Moose Pond contains brook trout and be reached by a trail from the trailhead on the Jessup River Road in the Perkins Clearing Easement Lands.
  • Pillsbury Lake and Sampson Lake contain brook trout and can be accessed from the French Louie Trail.
  • Whitney Lake and Puddle Hole contain brook trout and can be accessed from the Whitney Lake Trail.
  • Brooktrout Lake contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Brooktrout Lake Trail.
  • Otter Brook contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Otter Brook Trail.
  • South Branch West Canada Creek contains brook trout and can be accessed from the South Branch Trail.

Numerous other remote ponds and lakes contain brook trout but can only be accessed via bushwhacks or unmarked, unmaintained herd paths. A guide should be hired to fish these waters.

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.

NOTE: Use or possession of bait fish is prohibited on any waters within the West Canada Lake Wilderness and the West Canada Lake Primitive Area.

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 and Trapping

huntingtrapping

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

This is a popular area for big game hunters seeking white-tailed deer and black bear and small game hunters seeking squirrel and rabbit.

Hunters and trappers may use the parking areas, roads, seasonal access roads, trailheads, and trails used by hikers to access the lands and waters in this area.

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. Over 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

State Route 30, State Route 28 and State Route 8 provide the main access routes to the wilderness.

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD89/WGS84 datum.

Parking Areas and Trailheads

  • Northville-Placid Haskells Road Trailhead Parking is located at the end of Haskells Road (a seasonal access road) off the Old Piseco Road. (43.4587°N, 74.5224°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Spruce Lake Trailhead Parking is located at the end of the Jessup River Road in the Perkins Clearing Easement Tract. (43.5234°N, 74.5627°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Northville-Placid Wakely Dam Trailhead is located at the end of the Cedar River Road. (43.7277°N, 74.4741°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • South Branch Trailhead is located at the end of Mountain Home Road; park where the road splits. (43.4079°N, 74.6882°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • T Lake Trailhead Parking is off the Old Piseco Road across from Popular Point Campground. (43.4280°N, 74.5409°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Pillsbury Mountain Trailhead Parking is located at the end of the Old Military Road in the Perkins Clearing Easement Tract. (43.5871°N, 74.4853°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Otter Brook Trailhead is located at the end of the Otter Brook Road where it becomes the Indian Lake Road. Vehicles should park on the shoulder of the road. (43.6521°N, 74.6754°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Brooktrout Lake Trailhead Parking is located along the Indian Lake Road. (43.6454°N, 74.6895°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

  • Indian River Trailhead Parking is located at a barrier at the end of the Indian Lake Road. (43.6392°N, 74.7201°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

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

All users of the West Canada Lake Wilderness 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.

Camp at designated sites. A camping permit is required for groups of 10 or more, or stays of more than 3 nights in one spot.

How We Manage West Canada Lake Wilderness

A Unit Management Plan for the West Canada Lake Wilderness is being developed. Once completed the plan will provide management objectives, detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, and natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands & Facilities

Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Indian Lake, Inlet, Piseco and Speculator.
Food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Indian Lake, Inlet, Lake Pleasant, Morehouse, Piseco and Speculator.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Indian Lake, Inlet, Piseco and Speculator.
Dining may be found in the nearby communities of Indian Lake, Inlet, and Speculator.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce (leaves DEC website), Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce (leaves DEC website) and Hamilton County Department of Economic Development and Tourism (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.