Cranberry Lake Wild Forest
The Cranberry Lake region is one of the largest remote areas remaining in the state. There has been only minimal encroachment of civilization on the lake itself. Just to the south of the lake lie thousands of acres of rolling hills, numerous lakes, ponds, and unbroken forest lands that show little or no marks of civilization.
Cranberry Lake, the northern gateway to the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, covers 11 square miles and has 55 miles of shoreline, of which more than 40 miles are state-owned. The original lake doubled to its current size in 1867 with the construction of a log crib dam for flow, navigation , and hydraulic power control. A concrete dam replaced the crib in 1916.
The lake was noted at one time for its fine trout fishing. DEC stocks brook trout every spring to augment that popular fishery. Many of the ponds, streams, and rivers in the area also support excellent trout fishing. Anglers also fish Cranberry Lake for smallmouth bass, northern pike and panfish.
On July 15, 1995, the area changed suddenly and dramatically. A violent windstorm blew down thousands of acres of trees south and west of Cranberry Lake. Virtually all trails in the Five Ponds Wilderness were blocked and access to the interior ended for the rest of the year. Ecological impacts will mean more young forest growth, which will work to the benefit of wildlife such as deer and snowshoe hare. This kind of event is not unusual in the Adirondacks, though it may happen only once in a human lifetime. Trails have been cleared, but travel off the trails will be a challenge for decades to come.
Just east of Cranberry Lake Village, DEC maintains a public campground and day-use area on the lake, which includes a picnic area, a beach, and bathhouses. Graded areas for tents or trailers, convenient water outlets, toilets, a trailer dump-out station, and showers are available. Also available are accessible campsites, an accessible picnic area, and an accessible fishing pier. A public boat launch is located on Columbian Road west of Cranberry Lake.
Primitive tent sites, designated with yellow markers, have been established for the convenience of campers. Forty-six of these sites line the shore of Cranberry Lake. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at the Cranberry Lake boat launch. Forty-five numbered sites serve the canoe route between Lows Lake and Inlet. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at Inlet. Forty numbered sites serve Lows Lake, Bog River Flow and Hitchins Pond.
The trails described in this booklet are marked with red, blue or yellow discs three inches in diameter. Yellow markers imprinted with specific symbols mark ski trails and canoe carries; four inch orange markers designate snowmobile trails.
Cranberry Lake Wild Forest Trails
This 24,111 acre forest consists of three separate parcels to the west, northwest, and east of Cranberry Lake. It contains 15 miles of foot trails, 9.4 miles of snowmobile trails, 8.5 miles of ski trails, and two Adirondack lean-tos. Generally, the trails in this forest are more easily traversed than those in the wilderness to the south.
WESTERN PARCEL - This area consists of 2,033 acres that lie between Inlet Road, Route 3, the Wanakena Road, and the Oswegatchie River. It contains the following:
Wanakena Snowmobile Trail (2.6 miles) - This trail follows the original road to Wanakena. It joins Wanakena Road and Inlet Road to allow snowmobilers to travel between Wanakena and Star Lake; together with Moores Trail, it makes a loop.
Moores Trail (yellow) (2.0 miles) - This trail follows the Oswegatchie River between Inlet and Wanakena. Canoeists sometimes use this as a carry trail.
NORTHWESTERN PARCEL - This area consists of 7,535 acres that lie between Wanakena and Cranberry Lake; both north and south of route 3. It contains the following:
Peavine Swamp Ski Trail (8.5 miles) - This trail begins on the south side of Route 3 east of Peavine Swamp. It presently contains three loops. The last half of the trail passes through lands that have never been significantly harvested. Large specimens of hardwoods, red spruce, and eastern hemlock are common.
EASTERN PARCEL - This area consists of 14,452 acres that lie primarily south of Route 3 to the northeast and east of Cranberry Lake. It offers the greatest opportunity for outdoor recreation within this forest and contains the following:
Bear Mountain Trail (red) (2.4 miles) - This is a loop trail beginning at a parking lot adjacent to Campsite 27 in the Cranberry Lake campground and ending in Loop IV. Several vistas overlook the lake from the mountain: a lean-to is located 0.6 mile from the parking lot.
Campground Trail (yellow) (2.2 miles) - This trail connects the Bear Mountain Trail with the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail. It was constructed in 1987 to provide campers at the Cranberry Lake Campground with more access to this parcel.. It also provides hikers with access to Bear Mountain from Route 3. The crew that built this trail refers to it as "the boardwalk" because two 250 foot long bridges cross portions of Bear Mountain Swamp.
Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail (6.8 miles) - This trail begins at a parking lot on Route 3, and is the roadbed of a spur of the Grass River Railroad, which was probably constructed between 1913 and 1916. The tracks were removed prior to state acquisition in 1933.
The Campground Trail joins this trail 1.4 miles from Route 3. It shortly enters a clearing that was the former site of a logging camp. A 1916 Conservation Department map shows this camp serviced by a telephone line. The trail leaves this railroad be 0.8 mile later, and follows old logging roads to Brandy Brook and a grassy area beyond known as the "Potato Patch." From here, the trail branches east to Burntbridge Pond and conservation easement lands lands, while a south branch leads to Brandy Brook Flow on Cranberry Lake. A lean-to was constructed at Burntbridge Pond in 1986.
Dog Pond Loop Trail (blue) (9.8 miles) - Construction of this trail began in 1988. It leaves the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail at Brandy Brook Flow, passes four developed campsites on the flow and heads south, crossing the Hedgehog Pond Trail to Curtis Pond, where it goes east to Irish and Dog Ponds. At Proulx's Clearing, near Dog Pond, the trail turns north to meet the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail west of Burntbridge Pond.
Dog Pond Trail (red) (1.5 miles) - This trail provides access to Dog Pond from Proulx's Clearing to the north (0.4 mile) and the Otterbrook Trail to the south (1.1 miles).
Otterbrook Trail (blue) (7.5 miles) - This trail follows a restricted access road from the South Branch of the Grass River to Chair Rock Flow. It shortens the distance to Dog Pond to 3.4 miles.
Hedgehog Pond Trail (yellow) (0.5 mile) - This short trail runs from Hedgehog Bay to Hedgehog Pond.
Curtis Pond Trail (red) (1.2 mile) - This trail runs from East Inlet to Curtis Pond.