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Cranberry Lake Complex

Cranberry Lake Wild Forest locator map

Including Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement and Massawepie Conservation Easement

hikingprimitive campinglean-tobikingboatingpaddlingfishinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilingcross-country skiingsnowshoeingfire towerparkingboat launchhand launchicon key

The Cranberry Lake Complex includes almost 50,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve and Conservation Easement Lands within the Adirondack Park. The complex is comprised of:

  • Cranberry Lake Wild Forest
  • Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement
  • Massawepie Conservation Easement

This 25,671-acre Cranberry Lake Wild Forest consists of four separate parcels to the west, northwest, and east of Cranberry Lake. It contains 6.2 miles of administrative roads, 26.9 miles of foot trails, 9.3 miles of snowmobile trails, 12.6 miles of ski trails, a 0.4-mile canoe carry, and three Adirondack lean-tos. Generally, the trails in this forest are more easily traveled than those in the wilderness to the south.

Cranberry Lake 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.

View of Cranberry Lake From the top of Bear Mountain
View from Bear Mountain

The conservation easement lands are private property with an easement held by the DEC on behalf of the people of New York State. Conservation easements allow the forests to remain working forests while also providing public recreation opportunities. Public use is limited, however. Please respect posted signs. For more information about DEC's Conservation Easement Program or public recreational opportunities on the conservation easement lands, contact DEC's Potsdam Office at (315) 265-3090.

The Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement (CE) encompasses nearly 20,000 acres over 7 separate tracts in the towns of Clifton, Colton, and Piercefield. It features a trail to the summit of the Mt. Arab fire tower as well as opportunities for mountain biking and exploration on foot or horseback. Easements can be complicated; see Special Rules for use of this property.

The 3,048-acre Massawepie Conservation Easement features opportunities for outdoor recreation on both land and water. This boy scout camp is located on Route 3 and allows public access from September 1 - June 14 each year. Public recreation is only allowed outside the Basecamp area (south of the developed area of the camp) and the Camp Forester area. There are hiking trails and a boat launch (car top only) on this property. Easements can be complicated; see Special Rules for use of this property.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

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

The unit has over 25 miles of foot trails available, which are generally flat and well suited to persons of all abilities. Named trails are listed below along with the color of the trail markers.

cranberry lake 50 patch

The Cranberry Lake 50 Trail provides a challenging 50-mile loop around Cranberry Lake. The trail is marked with special blue "Cranberry Lake 50" trail markers, in addition to regular foot trail or ski trail markers. Please do not remove the trail markers for souvenirs. Instead, you can visit the Cranberry Lake 50 (leaves DEC website) and order your own trail patch. A map of the Cranberry Lake 50 trail is available either as a download from the Cranberry Lake 50 website or can be purchased from local businesses in Cranberry Lake and Wanakena.

Bear Mountain Trail (red) provides a 2.4-mile loop that begins and ends at DEC's Cranberry Lake Campground & Day Use Area. The main trailhead is located adjacent to campsite 27 with a parking area and trail register kiosk. The trail passes the Bear Mountain lean-to at 0.6 miles and continues past several scenic vistas overlooking Cranberry Lake. The trail ends on Loop IV of the campground, and a paved access road can be walked 1.1 miles back to the starting point.

Campground Trail (yellow) travels 2.2 miles from the Bear Mountain Trail east to the Brandy Brook Flow snowmobile trail. Midway along the trail at 0.8 miles it intersects with the Cranberry Lake 50 East Connector Trail, which leads north to the Gilbert Tract Ski Trail trailhead on State Route 3.

Curtis Pond Trail (red) leads 1.2 miles from Cranberry Lake at East Inlet to Curtis Pond.

Dog Pond Loop Trail (blue) begins at the intersection of the Brandy Brook Flow and Burntbridge Pond snowmobile trails, which is 2.9 miles south of the Brandy Brook Flow trailhead. Heading in a counter clockwise direction, hikers will pass the Hedgehog Pond Trail at 2.2 miles, East Inlet at 2.7 miles, Curtis Pond at 4.8 miles, Irish Pond at 5.9 miles, and Proulx Clearing at 6.5 miles. The trail now turns north and passes Dog Pond Mountain at 7.5 miles and arrives at the Burntbridge Pond snowmobile trail at 10.5 miles. Users can then hike the snowmobile trail west to reach the starting point, a total of 12.9 miles for the loop.

Dog Pond to Otterbrook Trail (red) begins at Proulx Clearing where it joins the Dog Pond Loop Trail. It proceeds 0.3 mile south to Dog Pond, then continues another 1.1 miles south where it ends at the Otterbrook Trail. There is a trail register at this intersection.

Hedgehog Pond Trail (yellow) is a short trail which leads 0.5 mile from the shore of Cranberry Lake to Hedgehog Pond. It intersects the Dog Pond Loop Trail 0.2 mile before reaching the pond.

A view of the Oswegatchie River from Moores Trail
Oswegatchie River from the Moore Trail

Moore Trail (yellow) follows the Oswegatchie River for 2.0 miles between Inlet and Wanakena. Canoeists sometimes use this trail as a carry around rapids in the river.

Otterbrook Trail (blue) begins at the junction with Otterbrook Road, which is accessed via State Route 421 near Horseshoe Lake. This trail follows an old road westward and intersects with the Dog Pond to Otterbrook Trail at 2.1 miles, where there is a trail register. The trail then continues 3.9 miles where it enters Five Ponds Wilderness, and eventually reaches Chair Rock Flow on Cranberry Lake, which is 7.5 miles from the starting point at Otterbrook Road.

Conifer-Emporium CE is open to hiking and other recreation. The Mt. Arab Trail ascends 700 feet to the Mt. Arab fire tower and is 1 mile long, with the first 0.7 miles located on the easement and the rest on the neighboring Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest. The Lost Pond Trail is a loop trail around Lost Pond on the northwest side of Cranberry Lake that serves as part of the Cranberry Lake 50 Connector Trail. There are also several unpaved roads on the easement that are open to non-motorized recreation.

Massawepie CE provides hiking opportunities from September 1 - June 14 on the areas open to public recreation.

Camping

primitive camping

General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

On Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, primitive tent sites, designated with yellow markers, have been established for the convenience of campers. There are also three lean-tos: at Bear Mountain, Burntbridge Pond, and Peavine Swamp. Forty-six of the tent sites line the shores of Cranberry Lake and Joe Indian Island - see the map for locations. All camp sites and lean-tos are available on a first come, first served basis. Campsites on the north side of the lake within the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest require a permit from a Forest Ranger for stays longer than 3 nights or for groups of more than 9 people. For the campsites on the south side of the lake within the Five Ponds Wilderness, groups of more than 9 people on a site are not allowed.

Just east of the Village of Cranberry Lake, DEC maintains the Cranberry Lake Campground & 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 station, and showers are available. Also available are accessible campsites, picnic area, restrooms, shower house and fishing pier.

At-large backcountry camping is also allowed throughout the complex. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than 3 nights or in groups of 10 or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Biking

biking

General information on mountain biking includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules and regulations.

All trails and roads in the complex are open to biking. However, Massawepie CE is only open for public use from September 1 - June 14 each year.

Boating

boating

General information on boating includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.

Boating is allowed on Cranberry Lake. Some of the primitive campsites are accessible by boat, canoe or kayak. A public boat launch is located on Columbian Road at the northern end of Cranberry Lake.

Paddling

paddling

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

On Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, canoes and kayaks can be launched from the boat launch on the northern end of the lake. On Massawepie CE, there is a hand boat launch on the north side of Massawepie Lake, however this property is only open for public use from September 1 - June 14 each year. Hand launches are also located at the Cranberry Lake Campground & Day Use Area and on the Oswegatchie River off Inlet Road.

Balsam Pond Canoe Carry (yellow) provides a short 0.4-mile carry from State Route 3 to the South Branch of the Grass River. It passes scenic Balsam Pond which is only 0.1 mile from the highway.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Cranberry Lake contains smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, brown bullhead and brook trout. The interior ponds and streams of the wild forest contain brook trout. Stocked ponds include Nicks Pond near Inlet Road and Curtis, Dog, and Hedgehog Ponds to the east of Cranberry Lake.

Massawepie CE is open for fishing from September 1 - June 14 each year. Townline Pond and Pine Pond both support brook trout populations. Massawepie Lake (PDF, 247 KB) contains lake trout and smallmouth bass. Other ponds on the property that are open for fishing include Catamount Pond, Long Pond, Round Pond, Horseshoe Pond and Deer Pond.

Conifer-Emporium CE has several waterbodies that are open for fishing, including Dead Creek and the South Branch Grass River.

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 and Trapping

huntingtrapping

Wildlife Management Unit: 6F and 6J

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

The complex is open for hunting and trapping though it's not notable for any particular species. Most commonly pursued species are deer and bear. For someone looking to enhance their chances of success, scouting is a must. The animals are few and far between so knowing what they are feeding on as the fall progresses and where they may be feeding is very important.

Hunting and trapping are only allowed by the public on the Massawepie Conservation Easement from September 1 - June 14 of each year.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cranberry Lake Wild Forest contains several snowmobile trails. The C7A, C8 and S88 state snowmobile trails cross the property. Named trails are listed below along with the color of the trail markers.

Brandy Brook Flow Trail (orange) begins at a parking area and trailhead located 2.1 miles east of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake on State Route 3. The trail proceeds 1.4 miles south to a junction with the Campground Trail, where there is a trail register. It then continues 1.5 miles south to the intersection with the Dog Pond Loop hiking trail and the Burntbridge Pond snowmobile trail. This trail is part of secondary trail S88.

Burntbridge Pond Trail (orange) begins at the intersection of the Brandy Brook Flow snowmobile trail and Dog Pond Loop hiking trail near the shore of Cranberry Lake. It proceeds 2.4 miles east where it intersects the eastern leg of the Dog Pond Loop trail. It then continues east another 0.5 mile where it leaves Cranberry Lake Wild Forest and enters the Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement. There is a short 0.7-mile spur near the eastern end which leads to the Burntbridge Pond lean-to. This trail is part of secondary trail S88.

Grass River Railroad (orange) is an administrative road which is open for snowmobiling in the winter months. Beginning at the Massawepie Road, the trail proceeds northwest 5.2 miles to a trail junction. Here the trail turns north on the Shurtleff Bridge Road and continues towards State Route 3. This trail is part of corridor trail C7A.

Old Wanakena Road (orange) begins at County Route 61 (Wanakena Road) and travels 2.6 miles west to Inlet Road. Snowmobiles can then follow the Alice Brook Trail in the neighboring Five Ponds Wilderness for 3.4 miles west to Youngs Road, south of Star Lake. This trail is part of corridor trail C8.

Shurtleff Bridge Road (orange) is a short connector of 0.1 mile that crosses the Grass River Flow just south of State Route 3. This trail is part of corridor trail C7A.

On Conifer-Emporium CE, the C7, C7A, C7C, S78 and S88 state snowmobile trails cross the property. Note that some trails on existing roads may be used as logging roads at times. Temporary trail closures and shared sections of trails will be posted.

On Massawepie CE, the C7C state snowmobile trail crosses the property. This trail is maintained by the St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Association (leaves DEC website). Note that some trails on existing roads may be used as logging roads at times. Temporary trail closures and shared sections of trails will be posted.

Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing

cross-country skiingsnowshoeing

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

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

The 10.7-mile Peavine Swamp Ski Trail system (yellow) begins at the Peavine Swamp Parking Area and Trailhead 2.2 miles west of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake. It contains three loops. Half of the trail passes through lands that have never been significantly harvested. Large specimens of hardwoods, red spruce, and eastern hemlock are common.

Gilbert Tract Ski Trail (yellow) begins at a parking area on State Route 3, just east of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake. It provides a 1.9-mile ski loop which crosses gentle terrain and is suitable for all ability levels.

Conifer-Emporium CE and Massawepie CE are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter but there are no groomed or maintained trails. Several unpaved roads on the Conifer-Emporium CE can be used for skiing and snowshoeing.

For outdoor users' safety, any access during the winter should be on skis or snowshoes since deep snow is sure to be encountered.

Fire Tower

fire tower

General information on fire towers includes historic and current uses of fire towers and links to other locations with fire towers.

A restored fire tower and the former observer's cabin are located on the 2,500-foot summit of Mt. Arab The view from the top offers endless stretches of forests. The parking area and trailhead for the fire tower are located on Conifer-Emporium CE but the fire tower itself is located on the neighboring Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest.

The Friends of Mt. Arab (leaves DEC website) is a volunteer group that has partnered with the DEC since 1997 to help restore and maintain the Mt. Arab fire tower, observer's cabin, and hiking trail. They sponsor a summit steward who is on duty Friday through Monday during the summer and early fall months (Memorial Day to Columbus Day) to greet visitors to the fire tower and relate the natural history of the 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

The lands in this complex are sandwiched between Cranberry Lake in the west and Tupper Lake in the east. They can be accessed from Route 3.

Parking Areas and Trailheads

  • Bear Mountain Trailhead and Parking Area (44.205781°N, 74.824493°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Brandy Brook Flow Trailhead and Parking Area (44.237441°N, 74.789585°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Columbian Road Parking Area (44.219521°N, 74.847608°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Gilbert Tract Parking Area (44.221225°N, 74.820106°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website
  • Peavine Swamp Ski Trail Trailhead and Parking Area (44.196137°N, 74.872399°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Moore Trail Parking Area (44.133008°N, 74.924814°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Mount Arab Parking Area for the fire tower (44.213689°N, 74.596110°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Road Parking Area 1 (44.272759°N, 74.637454°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Road Parking Area 2 (44.258777°N, 74.637889°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Road Parking Area 3 (44.246711°N, 74.651367°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Road Parking Area 4 (44.233796°N, 74.664209°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Road Parking Area 5 (44.232313°N, 74.665412°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Otterbrook Road Parking Area (44.160020°N, 74.678438°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Boat Launches and Hand Launches

  • Balsam Pond hand launch on the South Branch Grass River (44.250708°N, 74.753308°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Cranberry Lake boat launch with parking for 55 cars and trailers (44.220610°N, 74.846568°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Cranberry Lake Campground hand launch (44.19622°N, 74.82848°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Inlet Road hand launch on the Oswegatchie River (44.124464°N, 74.960055°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Massawepie Lake hand launch (44.257915°N, 74.638689°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

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 other backcountry users.

All users of the Cranberry Lake Complex 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.

Special Rules for Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement

  • There are currently no roads open to public motor vehicles or ATVs (other than the north end of the Town Line Road north of the gate). Several snowmobile trails are currently designated.
  • The entire property is open for recreation including biking, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding.
  • Hunting, fishing and trapping are open year-round.

Special Rules for Massawepie Conservation Easement

  • There is no public access to the Massawepie Easement from June 15 through August 31 of each year.
  • The property is open from September 1 through June 14 each year for public use including hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, camping, canoeing and other non-motorized water travel.
  • Public hunting, fishing, and trapping are permitted from September 1 through June 14, subject to New York State rules and regulations.
  • The Basecamp and Camp Forester areas are closed to the public year-round, except for the Town Line Road right of way. Caution should be used on Town Line Road when boy scouts are present as the road gets frequent use.
  • The main road from Route 3 can be used by public vehicles. This includes Town Line Road, Russell Road, and Carriage Road. Several snowmobile trails are designated.
  • Please respect posted signs. Contact the DEC office listed above for more information.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with several unit management plans (UMPs). Cranberry Lake Wild Forest is managed through the 1984 Cranberry Lake Wild Forest UMP (PDF), which was amended in 1993 (PDF) to designate bicycle trails and again in 2014 (PDF) to designate new trail segments of the Cranberry Lake 50 trail. DEC is also in the early stages of developing a revision to the whole UMP. A public meeting was held in March 2018 in Wanakena to present information and to solicit feedback from the public.

DEC manages the Cranberry Lake Boat Launch in accordance with the 1996 Cranberry Lake Boat Launch UMP, which was amended in 2018 (PDF) to propose the development of facilities that are accessible by people with disabilities.

Recreational activities on the Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement lands are managed pursuant to the 2002 Bog River Complex UMP (PDF). A revised recreation management plan for the Conifer-Emporium lands is currently being developed. A public meeting was held in March 2018 to solicit public feedback on the future management of the tract.

DEC is also developing a recreation management plan for the Massawepie Conservation Easement which will describe the management activities for these lands.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas, dining opportunities, lodging, food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Long Lake, Star Lake and Tupper Lake.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website) and St. Lawrence County 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.