Hoffman Notch Wilderness
The 38,488-acre Hoffman Notch Wilderness is located in the east central Adirondack Park within the towns of Minerva, Schroon and North Hudson in Essex County. The wilderness area lies within the watersheds of the Boreas and Schroon Rivers. It is bounded on the north by Blue Ridge Road (County Route 2), on the east by Interstate 87 (the Northway), on the south by Hoffman Road and on the west by the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness is dominated by 3,693-feet Hoffman Mountain, which lies near the center of the Blue Ridge. Hoffman Notch, for which the unit was named, is sandwiched between Blue Ridge and Texas Ridge on the east and Washburn Ridge on the west. Two streams flow from the center of the notch outwards - the North Branch Trout Stream flows south, while Hoffman Notch Brook flows north.
A number of ponds can be found in the wilderness area including Big Pond, North Pond, Bailey Pond and Marion Pond.
A complete description of the wilderness area can be found in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Unit Management Plan.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness offers many recreational opportunities, including hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, camping, canoeing, bird watching, wildlife photography, hunting, trapping and fishing. With 15 miles of marked trails available, the public can easily reach a variety of natural attractions such as Hoffman Notch and Mt. Severance, as well as popular fishing locations at Bailey Pond or Big Pond. Bird watching and wildlife viewing are also popular.
The 7.4-mile Hoffman Notch Trail transects the wilderness from north to south, while one of the most popular trails is the 1.2-mile Mt. Severance Trail. A portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail may eventually pass through the area using a combination of existing and new trails.
Whether enjoying the solitude of hiking the Hoffman Notch Trail, fishing a remote pond, bushwhacking to the top of Hoffman Mountain, camping on the shores of North Pond or hunting on the tens of thousands of acres away from roads and trails, Hoffman Notch Wilderness provides a multitude of truly remote wilderness experiences.
Visitors to the Hoffman Notch Wilderness should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildland experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. Know safe hiking practices, camping rules, how to avoid getting lost (PDF) (191 KB), state land use regulation and current trail conditions.
Use the links in the right column to obtain important information for recreating on these lands.
Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235.
Accessible Features: Currently there are no accessible features in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness however DEC plans to increase the accessibility of portions the Big Pond Trail and the Bailey Pond Trail which retain old road characteristics over portions of their length.
While it is not feasible to make these trails universally accessible, portions of these trails will be improved for accessibility. This will allow improved access for some people with disabilities.
Outlet of Big Pond
The Big Pond Trail will be improved from the trailhead to the first large water body and the Bailey Pond Trail be will be improved from the trailhead to Bailey Pond. Accessible kiosks and signs will be installed at both trailhead access points.
Planned improvements include correcting drainage issues and hardening the more severe muddy portions of these trails. Additionally, drainages that pose a significant barrier to wheelchair use will be bridged.
A hardened turnaround/ resting spot and associated box privy will be opened at the end of the improved portion of the Big Pond trail at the first large water body.
A primitive tent site will be designated and developed at Bailey Pond with accessibility in mind. The site will be leveled and hardened. An accessible fire ring and an accessible privy will be installed.
DEC welcomes all visitors to explore outdoor recreation on state lands and we are committed to providing an ever-increasing range of accessible opportunities.
Full Listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations
The most popular hike in the unit is the short, 1.2-mile hike up Mt. Severance. The summit provides a scenic view of Schroon Lake and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. The trailhead is located on State Route 9 approximately one half mile south of the intersection of Route 74 and directly across from the Alder Meadow Road intersection. The trail passes through tunnels under the Northway (I-87).
Bridge on trail
The 7.4-mile Hoffman Notch Trail transects the wilderness between the northern trailhead on the Blue Ridge Road and the southern trailhead at the end of the Loch Muller Road. This trail is a popular through hike or ski with individuals and groups coordinating to leave vehicles in the parking areas at each end of the trail.
Big Pond Trail is a 5.7-mile marked trail that is accessed from a parking area along Hoffman Road. It passes a water body on Rogers Brook, continues past Big Pond and connects with the Hoffman Notch Trail a little more than a mile north of that trail's southern trailhead. DEC plans to formally designate, mark and maintain an existing unmarked trail south of the Big Pond Trail. This will create a loop trail system opportunity in that area.
The 0.8-mile Bailey Pond Trail shares the same trailhead as the Hoffman Notch Trail. The one mile trail leads to Bailey Pond. A nearly 2-mile unmarked "bushwhack" trail provides access to Marion Pond from Bailey Pond.
See the Accessible Opportunities section above for information on proposed improvements to the Big Pond and Bailey Pond Trails.
A 12.5-mile segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail, including approximately 6.6 miles of newly constructed trail, will be developed through the southern portion of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness. The trail will be developed as described below.
- Beginning at the southwestern corner of the wilderness the proposed trail will follow an abandoned jeep trail north to Bailey Pond for approximately 2.6 miles;
- At Bailey Pond, the trail will follow the Bailey Pond Trail to the intersection of the Hoffman Notch Trail;
- The trail will then follow the Hoffman Notch Trail north for about 1 mile;
- Then the trail will turn east onto the Big Pond Trail continuing eastward for approximately 4 miles;
- In the vicinity of North Pond approximately 4 miles of new trail will be constructed to a parking area off State Route 9 in the Dirgylot Hill area. The parking area is approximately 1.6 miles north of Exit 28 of the Northway (I-87), the trail will travel through a underpass to cross the Northway.
Numerous old roads and trails provide a network of unmarked "bushwhacked" trails that can be explored by those with good backcountry skills and experienced in the use of map and compass.
DEC plans to designate four primitive campsites and construct a lean-to improve camping opportunities in the wilderness.
- Two tent sites will be designated near Big Pond;
- One tent site near Bailey Pond;
- One tent site near North Pond; and
- A lean-to will be constructed near Platt Brook along the proposed newly constructed 4-mile segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail.
An accessible box privy will be installed at all designated primitive campsites and lean‐to.
The Bailey Pond campsite will be leveled, hardened and an accessible fire ring installed to provide a camping opportunity for people with mobility disabilities.
Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.
Better yet, carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly, are easier to clean and do not leave blackened rocks and partially burned firewood. They are useful in wet rainy weather.
Firewood Alert - Don't Move Firewood!
A regulation prohibits the import of firewood into New York unless it has been treated to kill pests. The new regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source. Bringing your firewood with you? Most people don't realize they move bugs along with their firewood. You could be spreading diseases or insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Our forests are at risk from the transport of firewood infested with tree killers. See Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firewood regulation.
No facilities are provided for boating, canoeing or kayaking as most of the larger waters are a mile or more from trailheads and other access points. There is some use of small boats, canoes or kayaks mainly by anglers who portage their watercraft in to fish Bailey, Big or North Ponds.
- INSPECT your fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to it.
- DRY your fishing and boating equipment before using it on another body of water.
- CLEAN your fishing and boating equipment if it cannot be dried before its use in another body of water.
- More information on how you can avoid spreading aquatic invasive species.
There are no large water bodies in the unit. The largest is Big Pond (63 acres) followed by North Pond (25 acres), Bailey Pond (18 acres), Big Marsh (13 acres), and Marion Pond (10 acres). Most of the waters within the unit are managed as wilderness fisheries. Both Cold water and warmwater fisheries are present in different bodies of water.
The most popular fishing activity focuses on the cold water lakes and Adirondack brook trout ponds located in the unit. Bailey Pond and Marion Ponds are two of the more popular brook trout fishing waters.
Bailey Pond is stocked annually in the fall with brook trout fingerlings. It also contains pumpkinseed, brown bullhead, golden shiner and other fish species. Marion Pond is stocked annually in the fall with brook trout fingerlings. It also contains golden shiner. Due to the presence of golden shiner which impact brook trout population and a good fish barrier below the outlet DEC plans to reclaim this pond sometime in the future. Afterwards it will be stocked with an Adirondack Heritage Strain of brook trout.
Protect Native Adirondack Fish - Obey all regulations regarding the use of baitfish and do not release bait or fish from other waters into any water. Human introductions of non-native fish have, and continue to, substantially and permanently affect the ecosystems of lakes and ponds. Populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.
Big Pond and North Pond contain warmwater fish species. Big Pond is dominated by northern pike, but also contains brown bullhead. North Pond contains northern pike, smallmouth bass and brown bullhead.
Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.
Hunting & Trapping
Due to its remoteness this unit receives very little hunting and trapping pressure. The hunting and trapping opportunities are underutilized.
Big game hunting opportunities include both white-tailed deer and black bear. White-tailed deer are present throughout the unit and the area is perfect for those seeking a wilderness hunting experience. Small game species such as coyote, varying hare and gray squirrel are present in the unit. Game birds found in the unit include ruffed grouse and woodcock. Waterfowl are present on the water bodies and low numbers of turkeys can also be found. A wide range of furbearers are found in the unit including beaver, river otter, bobcat, fisher, American marten, bobcat, mink and muskrat.
Hunting and trapping is allowed on all forest preserve lands. Hunters and trappers much comply with all applicable State laws and regulation.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
The Hoffman Notch Trail and the Big Pond Trail will be maintained for cross country skiing. All trails in the unit may also be used by snowshoers. See the section on Hiking above for descriptions of the trails.
Numerous old roads and trails provide a network of unmarked "bushwhacked" trails that can be explored by those with good backcountry skills and experienced in the use of map and compass.
- Northern Hoffman Notch along the Blue Ridge Road
- Dirgylot Hill Access off Route 9 north of Exit 28 of the Northway
- Mt. Severance along Route 9
- Southern Hoffman Notch and Bailey Pond at the end of the Loch Muller Road
- Big Pond along the Hoffman Road
- Hoffman Notch Trail (7.4 miles)
- Bailey Pond Trail (0.8 miles)
- Mt Severance Trail (1.0 mile)
- Big Pond Trail (5.7 mile unmarked) - to be designated, marked and maintained
- North Country National Scenic Trail (12.5 mile segment) - proposed
None at this time, four campsites and one lean-to are proposed as follows:
- Big Pond (2)
- Bailey Pond
- North Pond
- Platt Brook lean-to
Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities
Dix Mountain Wilderness
Pharaoh Lake Wilderness
Hammond Pond Wild Forest
Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest
Falls on Hoffman Notch Brook
In general, the land in this locale rises from south southeast, along Schroon Lake to north northwest. There are three main ranges which are oriented in a southwest/northeast direction; Washburn Ridge, Texas Ridge, and Blue Ridge Range. Elevation in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness ranges from around 900 ft above Mean Sea Level (MSL) on the parcels near Schroon Lake up to 3,693 ft above MSL on Hoffman Mountain. Hoffman Mountain and Bailey Hill (3050 ft.) are the only points where the elevation rises above 3,000 feet on the unit. There are several other notable peaks on the unit that are easy to distinguish from others because of their size or shape including Blue Ridge (2825 ft), Hayes Mountain (2787 ft) and Severance Hill (1638 ft).
The local climate is generally cool and moist. Conditions on the eastern side of Hoffman Notch Wilderness in the vicinity of Schroon Lake are generally warmer in winter months and have less snow cover. Of course, weather conditions will vary across the unit according to elevation, aspect, tree cover, distance from large bodies of water and local wind patterns. The wilderness contains eleven ponded waters and numerous wetlands.
The area's vegetation has been shaped over the years through the effects of wind, fire, logging, and settlement, and influenced by soils, elevation, aspect, hydrological regimes, and many other processes. In the mid to late 1800's, much of the unit was extensively logged, lessening the softwood component (pine, spruce and hemlock) resulting in extensive areas of hardwoods in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness. The areas of settlement and agriculture were also much larger than they are today, as attested by the number of stone fences and old stone foundations throughout the unit.
Great Blue Heron Rookery
Fish species associated with both Cold water and warmwater habitats can be found in the waters of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness. They include native and non-native species. Cold water ponds contain brook trout, pumpkinseed, brown bullhead, golden shiner and other fish species. Warmwater ponds contain northern pike, smallmouth bass and brown bullhead. A number of minnow species are also found in the waters of the area.
Wildlife communities in the unit reflect those species commonly associated with mature northern hardwood and mixed hardwood/softwood forests that are transitional to the boreal forests of higher latitudes. Significant boreal forest within the unit includes high elevation (limited primarily to the Blue Ridge and Washburn ranges) and lowland spruce‐fir habitats that are important for a number of wildlife species with statewide distributions mostly or entirely within the Adirondacks (e.g., Bicknell's Thrush,Spruce Grouse).
A complete inventory and description of the natural resources, including the geology, soils, terrain, water, wetlands, climate, vegetation, fish and wildlife can be found on pages 15 through 39 of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Unit Management Plan.
Rules and Regulations
The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve.
DEC plans to adopt regulations limiting group size throughout the unit to day use groups of fifteen people or less and camping groups of 8 people or less. Limiting group size will minimize impact to the natural resource and will protect the experiences of other wilderness users.
Additionally regulations will prohibit the marking of trails by anyone other than DEC staff or its volunteers working under an agreement. Over the years, various poorly sited trails have been inappropriately marked by users of this area.
DEC Forest Rangers are primarily responsible for search and rescue, wild land fire suppression and enforcing state land use laws and regulations. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are primarily responsible for enforcing hunting, fishing, trapping and pollution laws and regulation. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.
Hoffman Notch Wilderness can be accessed using Exit 28 or Exit 29 of the Northway (I-87). It can also be reached from the west by taking Route 28N from Minerva or Newcomb and turning onto the Blue Ridge Road - look for signs to the Northway (I-87).
The Northern Hoffman Notch Trailhead can be reached by taking Exit 29 of the Northway (I-87) and turning west onto Blue Ridge Road toward Newcomb and Tupper Lake. The trailhead is on the left approximately 5.5 miles from the Northway Exit. If taking the Blue Ridge Road from Route 28N the trailhead is on the right approximately 13 miles from Route 28N.
Dirgylot Hill Access on the eastside of the wilderness can be reached by taking Exit 28 of the Northway (I-87) and turning left at the traffic light onto Route 9 toward North Hudson (north). Take Route 9 south approximately 1.75 miles and turn left into a small gravel driveway which accesses a small parking area. This is private property but the public has the right to park and use the trail that leads to a culvert that is under the Northway. Do not trespass on the private lands around the parking lot and the trail.
The Mt. Severance Trailhead can be reached by taking Exit 28 of the Northway (I-87). Turn right at the traffic light onto Route 9 toward Schroon Lake. The trailhead is on the right approximately 0.5 mile south of the traffic light and across from the Alder Meadow Road intersection.
The Big Pond Trailhead can be reached by taking Exit 28 of the Northway (I-87). Turn right at the traffic light onto Route 9 toward Schroon Lake. Turn right onto Hoffman Road shortly after leaving Schroon Lake's business district, approximately 3.75 miles south of the traffic near the exit. Take Hoffman Road 2.0 miles and the trailhead parking is on the right.
The Southern Hoffman Notch/Bailey Pond Trailhead can be reached by following the directions for the Big Pond Trailhead but continuing on another 3.0 miles past that trailhead (5.0 miles from Route 9). Turn right onto Potash Hill Road and take it approximately 1.0 mile to the intersection with Loch Muller Road. Turn right onto Loch Muller Road and follow it approximately 1.25 miles to the trailhead parking at the end of the road.
Other Sources of Information
Adirondack Regional Tourism Council and the Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce can both provide information about recreating in this area and other amenities. Use the links provided near the bottom of the right column to access their websites.
Numerous guide books 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.
There are also excellent printed maps and computer map programs from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Geographic and other sources. These are sold in outdoor retail shops, bookstores and on the internet. Use the USGS Maps link in the right column to order their maps online.
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.
The area around the Hoffman Notch Wilderness is rich with history. Beginning with the early settlers through workings of the logging, tanning, mining and tourism industries human activities have left their mark on the wilderness and surrounding areas. Details of the history of the area may be found on pages 3 through 9 of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Unit Management Plan. References to several useful sources of in-depth local history are listed in the bibliography and reference section of the unit management plan.
DEC manages these lands in accordance with manage activities described in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Unit Management Plan. The plan includes an overview on past management, current management practices and management policy (pages 55-66) and future management actions (pages 67-90).
Unit Management Plans assess the natural and physical resources present within a land unit. The plans identify opportunities for public use which are consistent with the guidelines of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. They also consider the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate such use.
Important Phone Numbers
Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: (518) 891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1300
Environmental Law Enforcement: (518) 897-13261
Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) - call the TIPPs hotline to report any environmental violations or report it online.