Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest
- Open for recreation: year round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 5 Office (M-F 8:30am-4:45pm): (518) 897-1200 e-mail (Info.R5@dec.ny.gov)
- Backcountry Emergency (Search, Rescue & Forest Fire): (518) 891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
- State Land Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1300
- Fishing, Hunting & Trapping Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1326
- Location: Towns of Essex and Westport in Essex County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 5G
- Map: View the Split Rock Wild Forest Map (PDF, 600 KB) ||Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
The 3,700-acre Split Rock Wild Forest is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Located in the eastern foothills of the Adirondack Mountains along the shore of Lake Champlain, it comprises the largest tract of undeveloped Lake Champlain shoreline in New York.
The wild forest is named for Split Rock Mountain, the main feature of the area. The Lake Champlain Palisades and Webb Royce Swamp are within its boundaries. The trail system provides many scenic views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Westport Boat Launch Site, located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, is the nearest location to launch on the lake and access the shoreline campsites on Split Rock Wild Forest.
Trail Information for the Northeastern 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.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
The Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest has about 11.5 miles of trails that provide access to many locations including the shores of Lake Champlain. The trails travel through a variety of terrain and forest types and offer a unique opportunity to experience the "wild side" of the Lake Champlain Valley. Views of Vermont, Lake Champlain, and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks are available from several overlooks along the trail system.
- Lewis Clearing Bay Trail is a 1.7-mile trail from the Lewis Clearing Bay Trailhead on Lake Shore Road to its namesake bay on Lake Champlain. A 0.2-mile spur trail at the 1.4-mile mark leads to the Snake Den Harbor Overlook. The trail climbs 200 feet in the first 0.7 mile before dropping 450 feet down to the lake.
- Calamity Trail traverses 1.6 miles from the Lake Shore Road Trailhead to the Barn Rock Bay Trail climbing 100 feet in the first 0.5 mile and descending 150 feet in the last 0.8 mile. The trail passes through the remnants of a 19th century granite quarry.
- Gary's Elbow Trail is a 0.5-mile trail that leaves the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail at the 0.1-mile mark and climbs 200 feet before rejoining the trail at the 0.7-mile mark.
- Cross-Over Trail connects Gary's Elbow Trail at the 0.5-mile mark with the Calamity Trail at the 0.5-mile mark traversing 0.9-mile trail and ascending 125 feet. The trail provides a loop hike to Barn Rock from the Lewis Clearing Bay Trailhead.
- Barn Rock Bay Trail traverses 1.5 miles from its intersection with the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail at the 1.2-mile mark. The trail climbs 80 fee in the first 0.2 mile before dropping 400 feet to Barn Rock Overlook. Rough, spur trails lead from this trail to Barn Rock Bay and a primitive campsite located to the north of Barn Rock. The trail also provides access to the Split Rock Mountain Trail System from Lake Champlain.
- North Rim Trail is a 2.8 mile trail which connects with the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail at the 0.2-mile mark and climbs 260 feet in the in the first 1.7 miles to summit of Split Rock Mountain before descending 165 feet to the North Rim Overlook.
- South Rocks Overlook Trail is a new 0.6-mile spur trail at the northern end of the North Rim Trail which drops nearly 450 feet to the scenic South Rocks Overlook.
- Ore Bed Overlook Trail leaves the North Rim Trail at the 1.4 mile mark and travels 0.1 mile to the overlook.
- Robin's Run is a 1.7-mile trail which connects with the North Rim Trail at the 0.6-mile mark and at the 2.6 mile mark near the northern end. The trail traverses the lower portions of Split Rock Mountain descending 100 feet in the first 0.5 mile and climbing 280 feet in the last 0.6 mile.
- Robin's Run Trail and the North Rim Trail combine to provide a 4.5-mile loop trail.
Champlain Area Trails (Leaves DEC website) can provide information on other trails in the area.
General information on boating includes safety tips with links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.
Lake Champlain from Ore Bed Overlook
Boating is a popular activity on Lake Champlain. The large lake provides for a variety of boating opportunities. Many sizes and models of sailboats and motorboats, even small yachts, can be found in the waters off Split Rock Wild Forest. Many enjoy viewing the Champlain Palisades of Split Rock Mountain.
Local access for boaters is available at the DEC Westport Boat Launch in the hamlet of Westport. The site provides parking for 30 cars with trailers plus six vehicles without trailers.
Strong winds and large waves are not uncommon on Lake Champlain. Boaters should check weather forecasts and know their own abilities before setting out. Waters are typically calmer in the morning and evenings, so plan accordingly. During periods of rough weather, small boats are advised to stay near shore or stay off the water.
General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Lake Champlain provides great opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. Split Rock Wild Forest is part of the Lake Champlain Paddlers Trail (Leaves DEC website).
Paddlers can access this part of Lake Champlain using the DEC Westport Boat Launch.
Strong winds and large waves are not uncommon on Lake Champlain. Boaters should check weather forecasts and know their own abilities before setting out. Waters are typically calmer in the morning and evenings, plan accordingly. During periods of rough weather, small boats are advised to stay near shore or stay off the water.
General information on backcountry camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Four designated campsites are located on the shoreline of Lake Champlain at Barn Rock Bay (2), Palisades, and Snake Den Harbor.
The sites are most easily accessed from the lake. Paddlers and boaters can use the DEC Westport Boat Launch to access the lake and the campsites. The southernmost tent site in Barn Rock Bay can be accessed by foot from the Lewis Bay Clearing Parking Area via the Barn Rock Trail.
General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.
Lake Champlain is renowned for bass, salmon and lake trout fishing. Panfish and other warmwater gamefish species are found in the lake. This area of the lake can be accessed from the Westport Boat Launch.
In the winter when thick ice covers the bays and much of the lake, ice anglers fish for lake trout, land-locked salmon, yellow perch and smelt. A designated 1.7 mile snowmobile trail provides access to Lewis Clearing Bay and Snake Den Harbor from the Lewis Clearing Bay Parking Area.
The Bouquet River, nearby, is stocked with brook trout, brown trout and land-locked salmon. A section of the river near Whallonsburg has public fishing rights along both banks.
A pamphlet is available with maps of state lands and public fishing rights that depicts the Public Access for Fishing the Boquet River (PDF 770 KB).
Beaver Brook and a small tributary flowing down the west side of Split Rock Mountain also support small populations of brook trout.
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.
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules & regulations.
The first 0.2 mile of the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail, 2.6 miles of the North Rim Trail and all of the Robin's Run Trail are open to biking provide a 5.3-mile roundtrip ride from the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail. The trail contains nearly 1,000 feet of climbs, including a number of steep pitches, and a number of muddy areas. This route is not recommended for beginner or casual bikers.
All of the lands are open to hunting and trapping. DEC releases pheasants in the field on the west of Clark Road near the intersection of Lake Shore Road before the before the Pheasant Youth Hunt Weekend and the regular pheasant season. Webb Royce Swamp is open to waterfowl hunting.
General information on rock and ice climbing includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules & regulations
Rock climber above Lake Champlain
Rock and ice climbing are becoming increasingly popular activities in the Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest. The 200-foot Champlain Palisades rises straight out of the waters of Lake Champlain, and plunge deep into those same waters. A short distance south along the shoreline is 60-foot high Barn Rock.
Climbers approach the cliff by land from the Lewis Bay Clearing Parking Lot on Lake Shore Road via the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail and the Barn Rock Trail. More adventurous climbers reach the bottom of the cliff by boat.
General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
The only designated snowmobile trail is the 1.7-mile Lewis Clearing Bay Trail which provides access to Lake Champlain for ice anglers. It can be accessed at the Lewis Clearing Bay Trailhead Parking area.
General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails. The area is popular with skiers and snowshoers due to the width of trails, the opportunity to select trails with gentle ascents and the scenic views.
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.
Webb Royce Swamp is reached by a 700-foot-long accessible trail. A raised viewing pad provides unblocked views across a large expanse of the swamp for birders, wildlife observers and outdoor photographers of all abilities.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
Webb Royce Swamp is reached by a 700-foot-long accessible trail. This hardened trail travels through a field in the early stages of succession, then crosses a hedgerow into another field that is actively mowed before ending at a raised pad overlooking the swamp. The pad provides unblocked views across a large expanse of the swamp and serves as a turn-around spot for wheelchairs. The variety of habitats seen from the access trail provides an opportunity to view a wide range of bird species and other wildlife.
The DEC Westport Boat Launch Site in the nearby hamlet of Westport is also designed to provide access for people with mobility disabilities. These include reserved parking spaces, floating metal docks and accessible restrooms.
There are two designated trailhead parking areas and one boat launch.
All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.
- Lewis Clearing Bay Trailhead Parking Area is located on the east side of Lake Shore Road. (N 44.23403°, W 73.38251°) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
- Webb-Royce Swamp Parking Area is located on the east side of Clark Road. (N 44.24805°, W 73.38240°) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
- Westport Boat Launch is located on State Route 22 in the nearby hamlet of Westport. (N 44.18880°, W 73.43423°) Google Map (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations & 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.
Timber rattlesnakes are found in this area. The timber rattlesnake is a threatened wildlife species and is fully protected by New York State law. It is illegal to take, shoot, import, possess, transport, or sell a timber rattlesnake in New York.
A timber rattlesnake is not aggressive and will not attempt to escape, but it will strike in self-defense. Watch where you sit, step, and place your hands. Do not approach or molest a timber rattlesnake. If you see a timber rattlesnake, stay away from it. If bitten:
- Stay calm;
- Walk slowly out of the woods; and
- Go to the nearest hospital immediately.
How We Manage
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Split Rock Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (PDF, 2.1 MB). 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 & Other Information
Coon Mountain Nature Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy.
Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Port Henry & Elizabethtown
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Westport, Port Henry and Elizabethtown
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Essex, Westport, Port Henry and Elizabethtown
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Essex, Westport and Elizabethtown
Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Adirondack Coast (leaves DEC website) and Champlain Area Trails (leave 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.