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Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wildernesses

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Five Ponds Wilderness Location Map

The 107,230-acre Five Ponds Wilderness and the 23,816-acre Pepperbox Wilderness are part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Together they provide some of the remotest wilderness in the Adirondacks as few trails access these lands.

There are five privately owned inholdings associated, four of significant size, within the wildernesses. Two lie within the Pepperbox Wilderness, two lie within the Five Ponds Wilderness and one lies between the two wildernesses. Trespassing on these private lands is forbidden.

The landowners have rights to use motor vehicles to access the inholdings via designated corridors across forest preserve lands. The public may walk, ski and snowshoe on these corridors until the reach the private lands but cannot use motor, motorized or mechanized vehicles.

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. All trails are open now and the area has more young forest growth, which will work to the benefit of wildlife such as deer and snowshoe hare.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

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

The unit has over 52 miles of marked foot trails. The remoteness of the area and heavy beaver activity provide more rugged trail conditions than on the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest to the north.

High Falls Loop Trail (red) extends 15 miles between the Dead Creek Flow Trailhead and High Falls Trailhead, which are only 0.4 miles apart on South Shore Road. There is a 220 feet difference of elevation in the 0.7 mile between Janack's Landing Trail and the Cowhorn Junction Trail. There is also a 170 feet difference in elevation in a 1.2 mile stretch along Skate Creek. Otherwise the trail is fairly flat.

Janack's Landing Trail extends 0.2 miles from a trailhead and lean-to on the shores of Dead Creek Flow of Cranberry Lake to the High Falls Loop Trail.

High Falls Spur Trail extends 0.4 mile along the banks of the Oswegatchie River to High Falls and two lean-tos.

Sand Lake Trail (blue) extends 7.3 miles from the southwest corner of the High Falls Loop Trail to the shores of Sand Lake. The trail crosses the only bridge over the Oswegatchie River within this wilderness and ascends 275 feet in 4.1 miles to the high point near Wolf Pond. Beaver flooding is very common along the beginning of the trail. The trail passes the Five Ponds and Wolf Pond.

Wolf Pond Trail (yellow) extends 3.5 miles between the Sand Lake Trail and Buck Pond, passing both Wolf Pond and Cage Lake. There is a 155 feet difference in elevation in the 0.7 mile stretch of trail between Wolf Pond Outlet and a height of land above Muir Pond. There is a 135 feet difference in elevation in the 0.45 mile stretch off trail between a height of land above Cage Lake and the shores of Cage Lake. Wolf Pond Outlet provides a wide expanse of lowland that is usually wet and must be crossed on beaver dams. The remainder of the trail to Cage Lake is on high ground, but beaver activities on Hammer Creek often necessitate trail relocation beyond Cage Lake.

Buck Pond Primitive Corridor extends 8.5 miles from Youngs Road to Buck Pond, passing Little Otter Pond. It is used by the owners of a private parcel on Buck Pond to access their property. The trail travels along old logging roads and an old logging railroad bed. There is a 180 feet difference in elevation in 0.7 mile stretch north of Buck Pond. Deep ruts are found in several places, especially at Little Otter Pond. Beaver activity is usually evident at Little Otter Pond Outlet.

Boundary Line Trail (yellow) extends 0.6 mile from the Youngs Road Trailhead to Buck Pond Road. There is a 145 feet difference in elevation in a 0.3 mile section of the trail south of the trailhead.

Cowhorn Junction Trail (yellow) extends 1.8 miles between the High Falls Loop Trail and Cowhorn Junction. The trail provides access to the Cat Mountain Trail, there is a 240 feet difference in elevation in the 0.7-mile section between the High Falls Loop Trail and the shoulder of Cat Mountain. The trail passes Glasby, Cat Mountain and Bassout Ponds.

Cat Mountain Trail (red) extends 0.7 mile and ascends 390 feet from the Cowhorn Junction Trail to the summit of Cat Mountain (2,262 feet) where a fire tower was formerly located. The summit provides a good view of the blowdown from the July 1995 derecho.

Sixmile Creek Trail (blue) extends 5.3 miles and gains 285 feet in elevation from the trailhead on the shore of West Flow in South Bay of Cranberry Lake to Cowhorn Junction at Cowhorn Pond.

Cowhorn Pond Trail (yellow) extends 0.2 mile from Sixmile Creek Trail to the Cowhorn Pond lean-to.

Olmstead Pond Loop Trail (yellow) extends 3.2 miles from the Sixmile Creek Trail approximately 0.5 mile from West Flow Trailhead. The trail passes Spectacle, Simmons and Olmstead Ponds and continues to rejoin the Sixmile Creek Trail 1.5 miles south of the West Flow Trailhead. There is a 140 feet difference in elevation in the first 0.5 mile section on the northern portion of the trail and a 195 feet difference is the first 0.5 mile section on the southern portion of the trail.

Darning Needle Pond Trail (yellow) extends 2.4 miles and ascends 235 feet from the trailhead on the shores of Chair Rock Flow in the South Bay of Cranberry Lake to Darning Needle Pond. The trail follows Chair Rock Creek and is subject to beaver activity.

Red Horse Trail extends 5.3 mile from a trailhead on the shores of Big Burnt Lake on the north side of Stillwater Reservoir in the Independence River Wild Forest to Clear Lake. Trout Pond Lean-to and Salmon Lake Lean-to are located along the trail. The trailhead is accessible from the water only.

Jakes Pond Trail extends 3.5 miles into the Pepperbox Wilderness from the North Sand Pond Trailhead in the Croghan Tract Easement to the Keck Trail in the Watson East Triangle Wild Forest. The trail follows the Alder Creek Primitive Corridor for the first 1.5 miles before veering north to Jakes Pond. The trail can also be accessed from the Jakes Pond/Keck Trailhead via a 2.0 mile hike on the Keck Trail.

Sand Pond Trail extends 800 feet on a hardened path from the Sand Pond Trailhead in the Croghan Tract Easement to Sand Pond in the Pepperbox Wilderness. It passes through a woodland setting, crossing two small wetland areas over an elevated wooden boardwalk as it winds along toward the lake shoreline. There is a lake view available at the end of the trail.

Gregg Lake Trail leaves the Tied Lake Primitive Corridor 0.3 miles south of the Tied Lake parking area and extends 1.3 miles to the shores of Gregg Lake.

Although unmarked the designated primitive corridors used to access the privately owned inholdings in the wildernesses can be used by hikers until the cross onto the private lands. Hikers are prohibited from trespassing on private lands.

Alder Creek Primitive Corridor extends 2.0 miles from the North Sand Pond Trailhead in the Croghan Tract Easement.

Bear Pond Primitive Corridor extends 3.75 miles from a parking area at the end of Bear Pond Road in the Watson East Triangle Wild Forest.

Tied Lake Primitive Corridor extends 1.25 miles from the end of Bear Pond Road in the Watson East Triangle Wild Forest. The trail climbs 100 feet in the first 0.3 mile.

Raven Lake Primitive Corridor extends 5.75 miles from the Necessary Dam Road in the Independence River Wild Forest. The trail climbs 565 feet in the first 3.7 miles.

Camping

primitive camping

General Information on Backcountry Camping - includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

All designated primitive tents sites and lean-tos are available on a first come - first served basis and cannot be reserved. Designated tent sites are marked with a yellow "Camp Here" disc. Designated tent sites are for tents only.

There are fourteen lean-tos in the Five Pond Wilderness, all are available on a first come - first served basis and they cannot be reserved.

Trout Pond Lean-to and Salmon Lake Lean-to are located along the Red Horse Trail. The Red Horse Trailhead is located on the north shore of Stillwater Reservoir (Burnt Lake) and is accessible from the water only. The Stillwater Reservoir Boat Launch is in the Independence River Wild Forest.

Cage Lake Lean-to can be accessed from the Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor and the Wolf Pond Trail or by using the High Falls Loop Trail, the Sand Lake Trail and the Wolf Pond Trail.

Wolf Pond Lean-to can be accessed from the Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor and the Wolf Pond Trail or by using the High Falls Loop Trail, the Sand Lake Trail and the Wolf Pond Trail.

Sand Lake Lean-to can be accessed from the Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor, the Wolf Pond Trail and the Sand Lake Trail or by using the High Falls Loop Trail and the Sand Lake Trail.

Big Shallow Pond Lean-to and Little Shallow Pond Lean-to are located along the Sand Lake Trail and can be accessed via the High Falls Loop Trail or Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor, the Wolf Pond Trail and the Sand Lake Trail.

The two High Falls Lean-tos are located on the banks of the Oswegatchie River near the end of a 0.4 mile spur trail off the High Falls Loop Trail.

Janacks Landing Lean-to is located on the southeastern shore of Dead Creek Flow of Cranberry Lake it can be accessed from the water or via the 0.2 mile spur trail off the High Falls Loop Trail.

Cowhorn Pond Lean-to is located at the end of 0.2 mile spur trail and can be accessed from the High Falls Loop Trail via the Cowhorn Junction Trail and the Sixmile Creek Trail or from the West Flow Trailhead via the Sixmile Creek Trail.

Olmstead Pond Lean-to is located along the Olmstead Pond Loop Trail via the Sixmile Creek Trail and West Flow Trailhead.

Cage Lake Springhole Lean-to and Griffin Rapids Lean-to are located on the banks of the Oswegatchie River downstream of the foot bridge over the river. These lean-tos may only be accessed by water.

There are 46 designated primitive tent sites on the shores of Cranberry Lake. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at the Cranberry Lake boat launch.

There are 45 designated tent sites on the banks of the Oswegatchie River serving the canoe route between Lows Lake and the Oswegatchie River Inlet hand launch.

There are 30 designated tent sites on Lows Lake in the Bog River Complex.

There are 21 designated tent sites on the northern shore of the Stillwater Reservoir which are described in the Independence River Wild Forest.

A designated primitive camp sites located on the shores of Tied Lake in the Pepperbox Wilderness can be accessed from the Tied Lake Hand Launch.

A designated primitive tent site on the shores of Gregg Lake can be accessed from the Tied Lake Parking Area via the Gregg Lake Trail.

There are a number of designated tent sites along the boundary of Pepperbox Wilderness that campers may use and access the wilderness. An accessible campsite is located on Buck Pond in the Watson East Triangle Wild Forest and an accessible campsite is located at the upper end of Moshier Reservoir at the end of the Necessary Dam Road in the Independence River Wild Forest.

Paddling

Paddling Cranberry Lake
canoeing

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

Premium paddling opportunities are found in and around the Five Ponds Wilderness. Cranberry Lake in the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, Stillwater Reservoir in the Independence River Wild Forest, and Lows Lake in the Bog River Complex all border the wilderness.

Cranberry Lake may be accessed from the Cranberry Lake Boat Launch and Stillwater Reservoir may be accessed from the Stillwater Reservoir Boat Launch. Motorboats are allowed on and frequently use this two large water bodies during the boating season. The designated tent sites along the shores of these waters can be accessed by paddlers.

Tied Lake Hand Launch provides access to Tied Lake.

Lows Lake can be accessed from the Lower Dam Hand Launch on the Bog River. Paddlers must pass through Hitchens Pond, carry around the High Dam and then paddle the Bog River to the lake. Public motorboat use is prohibited on Lows Lake but private shore owners may use motor boats on a limited basis.

Adventurous paddlers may continue their journey by paddling to the western shore of Lows Lake follow the 3.5-mile Canoe Carry Trail and travel downstream on the Oswegatchie River to the Oswegatchie River Inlet Hand Launch after which the river becomes unnavigable. Although beaver dams are often encountered, the only major obstruction is High Falls. Two minor rapids might not be navigable during periods of low water.

Canoe Carry Trail extends 3.5 miles between Lows Lake and the Oswegatchie River passing Big Deer Pond approximately 1 mile from Lows Lake. Some paddlers choose to cross Deer Pond rather and begin their carry again on the opposite shore. The trail alternately ascends and descends between Big Deer Pond and the Oswegatchie River with the difference in elevation ranging between 50 feet and 120 feet.

Boating

General Information on Boating - including safety tips with links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.

Cranberry Lake may be accessed from the Cranberry Lake Boat Launch and Stillwater Reservoir may be accessed from the Stillwater Reservoir Boat Launch. Motorboats are allowed on and frequently use this two large water bodies during the boating season. Many of the designated tent sites along the shores of these waters are accessible by boat.

Fishing

fishing

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

Water dominates much of the interior of this area with 12 named rivers and streams and 105 ponds and lakes which are at least 2 acres in size. Acidified water has reduced native fish populations in the south and western portions of the area. Lime treatments have allowed for brook trout stocking is some of the ponds.

Use or possession of baitfish is prohibited on all waters within the wildernesses containing brook trout.

Cage Lake contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor and the Wolf Pond Trail or by using the High Falls Loop Trail, the Sand Lake Trail and the Wolf Pond Trail.

Clear Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed using an unmarked trail off the Canoe Carry Trail.

Cowhorn Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed from the High Falls Loop Trail via the Cowhorn Junction Trail and the Sixmile Creek Trail or from the West Flow Trailhead via the Sixmile Creek Trail.

Darning Needle Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed via the Darning Needle Pond Trail.

Fishpole Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed via an unmarked trail off the Darning Needle Pond Trail that connects to Grass Pond, a bay of Lows Lake on its northside.

Glasby Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed via the Cowhorn Junction Trail from the High Falls Loop Trail.

Gregg Lake in the Pepperbox Wilderness contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Tied Lake Parking Area via the Gregg Lake Trail.

Olmstead Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed via the Olmstead Pond Loop Trail via the Sixmile Creek Trail and West Flow Trailhead.

Simmons Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed via the Olmstead Pond Loop Trail via the Sixmile Creek Trail and West Flow Trailhead.

Tamarack Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed using an unmarked trail off the Canoe Carry Trail.
Tied Lake in the Pepperbox Wilderness contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Tied Lake Primitive Corridor and the Tied Lake Hand Launch.

Wolf Pond contains brook trout and can be accessed from the Youngs Road Trailhead using the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor and the Wolf Pond Trail or by using the High Falls Loop Trail, the Sand Lake Trail and the Wolf Pond Trail.

Deer Pond, Sunshine Pond, and Lower & Upper Moshier Ponds in the Pepperbox Wilderness all contain brook trout but can only be accessed via unmarked paths or by bushwhacking

Pond brook trout fingerling stockings can be seen at under the Herkimer and St Lawrence County lists.

North Central NY 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
hunting

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

All the lands and waters within the Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wildernesses are open to hunting and trapping. 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.

Most commonly pursued species are white-tailed deer and black bear. Pre-season scouting is recommended to enhance chances of success. The animals are few and far between so knowing what they are feeding on and where they may be feeding is very important.

Hunters can look for ruffed grouse and various species of waterfowl, as well as other possible game species including varying hare and woodcock.

Trappers can hope to find furbearers including beaver, fisher, otter, mink, muskrat, raccoon, red fox, and eastern coyote.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross-country skiing
snowshoeing

General Information on Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing - includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can take place anywhere on the property. Any access during the winter should be on skis or snowshoes since deep snow is sure to be encountered.

Wildlife Viewing

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. Please be respectful of wildlife and do not feed them, especially bears.

Accessible Recreation

access for people with disabilities

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Sand Pond Accessible Trail is an 800-foot trail suitable for use with mobility devices leads from Main Haul Road to Sand Pond in the Pepperbox Wilderness. It passes through a woodland setting, crossing two small wetland areas over an elevated wooden boardwalk as it winds along toward the lake shoreline. There is a lake view available at the end of the trail.

Directions

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

Trailheads and Parking Areas

hand launch boat

High Falls Loop Parking Area is located at the Dead Creek Flow Trailhead on South Shore Road (44.1331°N, 74.9153°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

High Falls Trailhead is located on South Shore Road (44.1321°N, 74.9230°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website

Youngs Road Parking Area is located along Youngs Road. (44.1403°N, 75.0272°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Red Horse Trailhead is located on the shores of Burnt Lake, a bay on the north shore of Stillwater Reservoir, and can only be reached via water. (43.8608°N, 75.1691°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Janacks Landing is located on the shores of Dead Creek Flow of Cranberry Lake. (44.1133°N, 75.8913°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Sixmile Creek Trailhead is located on the shores of West Flow in South Bay of Cranberry Lake. (44.1389°N, 75.8256°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Darning Needle Pond Trailhead is located on the shores of Chair Rock Flow in South Bay of Cranberry Lake. (44.1409°N, 75.7956°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Canoe Carry Lows Lake Trailhead is located on the western shore of Lows Lake (44.0727°N, 75.8285°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Raven Lake Primitive Corridor Parking in the Independence River Wild Forest is located at the end of the Necessary Dam Road. (43.8967°N, 75.0546°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Moshier Falls Trailhead Parking in the Independence River Wild Forest is located on Moshier Road off of Stillwater Road and provides access to the southwestern corner of the Pepperbox Wilderness. (43.8677°N, 75.1409°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)

Sand Pond Accessible Trailhead Parking in the Croghan Easement Tract is located on the Main Haul Road Croghan Easement Tract. (43.9498°N, 75.1653°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

South Sand Pond Parking in the Croghan Easement Tract is located at the end of Sand Pond Road and provides access to the western portion of the Pepperbox Wilderness (43.9430°N, 75.1594°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

North Sand Pond Parking in the Croghan Easement Tract is located at the end of Jakes Road and provides access to the Alder Creek Primitive Corridor. (43.9606°N, 75.1532°W) Google Maps (DEC website)

Bear Pond Primitive Corridor Gate Parking Area in the Watson East Triangle Wild Forest is located at the end of Bear Pond Road. (43.9937°N, 75.0600°W) Google Maps (DEC website)

Tied Lake Parking Area is located at the end of the Tied Lake Primitive Corridor a short distance past Tied Lake (43.9797°N, 75.0698°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Jakes Pond/Keck Trailhead Parking is located at the end of Long Pond Road. (43.9947°N, 75.1783°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Boat Launches and Hand Launches

hand launch boat

Cranberry Lake Boat Launch is located along Columbia Road near the lake's dam. (44.2204°N, 74.8468°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Stillwater Reservoir Boat Launch is located at the end of Stillwater Road and includes accessible features. (43.8899°N, 75.0365°W) Google Map (leaves DEC website)

Bog River Lower Dam Hand Launch is located off State Route 421. (44.1158°N, 74.6266°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Bog River Upper Dam Carry Trail is located near the outlet from the dam (44.1088°N, 74.6688°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Oswegatchie River Inlet Hand Launch is located at the end of Inlet Road. (44.1246°N, 74.9597°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Moshier Reservoir Hand Launch is located at the end of Necessary Dam Road. (43.8967°N, 75.0546°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Tied Lake Hand Launch is located along the Tied Lake Primitive Corridor (43.9802°N, 75.0681°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 responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts other backcountry users.

All users of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area must follow all State Land Use Regulation and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

How We Manage Five Ponds Wilderness Area

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Five Ponds Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities and Other Information

DEC Lands & Facilities

Aldrich Pond Wild Forest
Bog River Complex
Cranberry Lake Wild Forest
Independence River Wild Forest
Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest
Croghan Conservation Easement
Oswegatchie Conservation Easement
Stillwater Reservoir
Cranberry Lake Campground

Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Beaver River Station, Croghan, Lowville, Star Lake and Stillwater.

Food and supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Beaver River Station, Cranberry Lake, Croghan, Lowville, Star Lake and Wanakena.

Dining is available in the nearby communities of Beaver River Station, Cranberry Lake, Lowville, and Wanakena.

Lodging is available in the nearby communities of Beaver River Station, Cranberry Lake, Lowville, Star Lake, Stillwater and Wanakena.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (Leaves DEC website), St Lawrence County Chamber (Leaves DEC website), Herkimer County Chamber (Leaves DEC website), and Cranberry Lake 50 - hiking trail system (Leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and printed maps are available with information on the lands and waters 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.