William C. Whitney Wilderness Area
NOTE: A downloadable map of the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area is under development, a link to the map will be found here when the map is completed.
The 14,700-acre William C. Whitney Wilderness Area is located near the center of the Adirondack Park in the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. The centerpiece of the wilderness area is Little Tupper Lake. Nearly six miles long and up to a mile wide, it is a broad avenue leading into the remote heart of the forest. Except for two private holdings, the entire lake is State-owned.
Lake Lila, with a surface area of 1,400 acres, is the other major lake on the property. Ten additional lakes and ponds within the area provide more recreational opportunities.
The landscape surrounding the waters of the area is composed of low, forested hills with a few modest mountains. Extensive wetlands stretch out from the ponds and streams.
Within the Whitney C. Whitney Wilderness Area, you can enjoy a number of recreational activities during your visit, including canoeing, fishing, hiking, camping, watching wildlife, hunting, trapping, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding, all within a setting of quiet and peaceful solitude. The Department manages the Whitney Wilderness in a manner that offers unique and outstanding opportunities to all its visitors, including those with disabilities.Visitors to the Whitney Wilderness should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildlands experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. Be sure to properly plan and prepare before going into the backcountry. Know safe hiking practices, camping & hiking 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.
See the section on Recreational Facilities for information on parking lots and trailheads, including location and directions.
Accessible walkway to Little
Tupper Lake waterway access site
Accessible Features: A number of accessible features for people with mobility disabilities are located at the DEC Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters site. These include accessible parking, accessible restrooms and an accessible walkway to the docks and boathouse. A floating aluminum dock inside the boathouse allows people with mobility disabilities to board canoes or kayaks.
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
A 13.5-mile foot trail system utilizing former logging roads provides hikers the opportunity to access many of the waters and some of the designated campsites typically reached by paddling. Be aware that, through natural processes these roads are deteriorating. Sections of the roads may be washed out or flooded and vegetation is growing into the trails.
The first four trails listed below can all be accessed from the Burn Road Trailhead.
Lilypad Pond Trail (red markers, 8.2 miles) - This trail begins at the Burn Road parking area on the Sabattis Road. The trail proceeds in a westerly direction paralleling the northern side of Little Tupper Lake eventually crossing Charley Pond Outlet and ending at Lilypad Pond.
Rock Pond Trail (blue markers, 2.8 miles) - This trail begins 5.7 miles west of Sabattis Road on the Lily Pad Pond Trail. The Rock Pond Trail proceeds in a southerly direction, crossing over Rock Pond Outlet on a bridge and ending on the eastern shore of Rock Pond.
Hardigan Pond Trail (yellow markers, 1.5 miles) - This spur trail begins on the Rock Pond Trail approximately 1 mile south of the Lily Pad Pond Trail. The trail proceeds southwesterly, turning onto an old railroad grade just before Hardigan Pond.
Camp Bliss Trail (yellow markers, 1.0 miles) - This trail begins on the Lily Pad Pond Trail approximately 4.7 miles west of Sabattis Road. The trail proceeds in a southeasterly direction passing by the eastern edge of Bum Pond to a large cleared area on the western shore of Little Tupper Lake.
Southshore Trail (yellow horse markers, 4.0 miles) is accessed from the Stony Pond Road Trailhead. See the section on Recreational Facilities for information on parking lots and trailheads. This marked horse trail starts along this woods road heading west along the south shore of Little Tupper Lake.
Mount Frederica Trail (4.8 miles from parking area or 1.6 miles from shore) can be reached on foot from the Lake Lila Trailhead or by boat. See the section on Recreational Facilities for information on parking lots and trailheads. Those traveling on foot start at the Lake Lila parking area and follow the private road along the north shore. An actual signed trail to the summit is on the right approximately 0.2 mile after the road moves away from the lake shore. The summit of Mt. Frederica is approximately 1.2 miles from there. Paddlers can start at the former lodge site on the western shore of the lake.
There are 60 designated campsites in the Whitney Wilderness with 24 designated campsites each on Little Tupper Lake and Lake Lila. These are primitive tent sites which provide space for no more than three tents and will accommodate a maximum of eight people in the Whitney Purchase Area and nine people in the Lake Lila Area. Large groups (more than eight people) are not allowed to camp in the Whitney Wilderness.
Camping regulation in the Whitney Purchase Area of the Whitney Wilderness are different than the Lake Lila Area of the wilderness. See the map for the boundary between the two areas. Camping is only allowed at designated campsites, these are marked with yellow "Camp Here" disks in the Whitney Purchase Area. Camping in the Lake Lila area is allowed at designated campsites, more than a ¼ mile from the Lake Lila parking area, and more than 150 feet from lakes, ponds, streams, trails and roads.
Black bears are present in the area and have been known to raid campsites to obtain food - even island sites. Campers should store food in bear resistant canisters or utilize food hangs to prevent attracting bears and losing food to them. Black Bears in New York's Back Country provides more information on bears and preventing problems with them.
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!
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.
Little Tupper Lake
The Whitney Wilderness contains an extensive and historic system of navigable lakes and streams which are readily accessible by canoe or non-motorized boat. There is a waterway access site at the Little Tupper (Whitney) Headquarters parking area. This site is hand launch only - boats must be carried to the water. From this put-in site you can explore Little Tupper Lake and, with a short carry on Rock Pond Outlet, paddle into Rock Pond. Some of the carries to other interior ponds consist of unimproved paths. The canoe carries from Little Tupper to Shingle Shanty Brook are signed and marked.
A State Supreme Court Justice has ruled on the navigability of the waterway that flows through privately owned land between Lilypad Pond and the boundary of State lands on Shingle Shanty Brook. These include Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet, and Shingle Shanty Brook downstream from Mud Pond Outlet to the boundary of State lands. The court held that the waterway is navigable-in-fact and thus subject to the right of public navigation, meaning that members of the public may travel through the waterway. The right of navigation also includes the right to portage around obstacles, such as the shallow rapids flowing out of Mud Pond. The right of public navigation does not allow use of the private lands for other purposes, such as hiking, picnicking, or camping. Hamilton County Supreme Court Judge's Decision (PDF 1.11 MB) and Order & Judgement (PDF 614 KB).
Safety Note: The prevailing winds and shallowness of Little Tupper Lake often results in large waves. During periods of rough weather, canoeists are advised to stay near shore.
Motorized vessels of any kind are prohibited from waters located in wilderness. No motorized vessels are allowed on any waters in the Whitney Wilderness, except on Little Tupper Lake by the owners of the two private land holdings.
Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
- 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 an aquatic invasives.
Little Tupper Lake and Rock Pond are the home waters of a genetically unique "heritage" strain of brook trout. Regulations are in place to protect the native brook trout. Catch and release regulation are in effect for brook trout. All brook trout caught must be immediately returned to the water alive. Only artificial lures may be used - the use of bait fish or worms is prohibited on all water bodies within the wilderness area. Statewide regulations apply for largemouth bass and brown bullhead.
Largemouth bass were illegally introduced to Little Tupper Lake some time after it was opened to the public. The bass have proliferated to the detriment of the brook trout population.
Protect native Adirondack fish populations:
- Do not move fish from one water body to another
- Do not use bait fish on Adirondack waters where it is prohibited
- Do not release unused bait fish even where using them is allowed
Lake Lila contains smallmouth bass and lake trout.
Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.
Hunting & Trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed. Trapping is not permitted at Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters area.
Hunters and trappers must comply with all applicable State laws and regulation.
Bicycles are prohibited in the Whitney Wilderness area. However bicycles may be ridden on the Sabattis Road (County Highway 10) as far as the old train station site and also on the Lake Lila Road as far as the Lake Lila parking lot.
Horses are not permitted on marked foot trails. A marked horse trail starts at the Sabbattis Road parking area located just east of the Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters entrance road. Horseback riders will have to proceed along the shoulder of Sabattis Road and take a right on County Route 10A to the trail intersection with the Stony Pond Road/Southshore Trail.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on all trails in the Whitney Wilderness.
The entrance road to the Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters on Little Tupper Lake is on the left side of Sabattis Road, approximately 1.5 miles west of the Circle Road intersection. It contains a parking area, an information station, bathrooms, a registration box and the only waterway access site on Little Tupper Lake. The remaining buildings around the site are DEC facilities, including housing for the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program, and are off limits to the public. The public are allowed to enter the Forest Ranger's office in the headquarters building.
The Burn Road parking area is on the left side of Sabattis Road, approximately 3 miles west of the Circle Road intersection - 1.5 miles west of the headquarters entrance road - and provides access to points along the north shore of Little Tupper Lake and several interior waters.
The Lake Lila Road is on the left approximately 4.5 miles west of the intersection. This is a seasonal road and the gate closed and locked from late fall to late spring each year. During this period, motorized public access is prohibited, however, hikers, skiers and snowshoers are allowed on the road. Remember the surrounding lands are private - do not trespass.
The parking area for Lake Lila lies approximately 5.6 miles down the Lake Lila Road. It contains information kiosk, registration box and the entrance to the carry for Lake Lila. Do not block the gate at the end of the parking area. The road beyond is for motorized access of the private lands west of Lake Lila. Hikers, skiers and snowshoers may use the road, but no bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed beyond the gate.
The parking area for the Stony Pond Road Trailhead and the south shore trail is found along the southern portion of the Circle Road approximately 2.5 miles west of the intersection with Route 30 and 0.25 miles east of the intersection with the Sabattis Road. The parking area includes an information kiosk and a registration box.
The parking area for Round Lake is along the Sabattis Road, on the right side approximately 100 yards west of the intersection with the Circle Road. The registration box and the carry to the outlet of Little Tupper Lake that flows into Round Lake are nearby on the same side of the road.
There are 13.5 miles of trails, see the Hiking section above for more information.
Six carries allow paddlers numerous opportunities to access the remote waters of the Whitney Wilderness, they can be found:
- Along Rock Pond Outlet
- Between Rock Pond and Hardigan Pond
- Between Hardigan Pond and Salmon Lake Outlet
- Between Little Salmon Lake and Lily Pad Pond
- Between Lily Pad Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook
- Between Lake Lila and the Lake Lila parking area.
Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities
Round Lake Wilderness
The William C. Whitney Wilderness Area lies in the ecological transition zone between the temperate deciduous forest and the boreal forest to the north. The main forest types are northern hardwoods (mostly beech, red maple, and yellow birch), mixed woods (hardwoods with hemlock, red spruce, and scattered white pine), and spruce flats. Logging operations were undertaken on the property from 1898 and continued until after the State purchased the property in 1997. This has resulted in a young, open forest over much of the area. A narrow band of mature trees was preserved along shorelines to protect the view from the water and to reduce erosion into ponds and streams.
Timber harvesting has not been the only agent of change in the forest. In the first decade of this century, a combination of intense drought and an abundance of logging debris set the stage for major forest fires across the Adirondacks. A great fire in 1908 burned much of the northwest quarter of the wilderness area. The "Great Blowdown" of 1950 damaged trees in the vicinity of Antediluvian and Doctors Ponds and a few areas south of Little Tupper Lake. The most powerful windstorm since that time was the microburst of July 15, 1995. Winds of over 100 miles per hour flattened much of the western part of the property.
There are a number of residents of the Adirondack forest that you are likely to see or hear during your visit to the Whitney Wilderness. White-tailed deer live here, along with black bears, and you may catch a glimpse of a moose. Forest residents that usually escape detection include bobcat, fisher, and pine marten. Working mostly after the sun goes down, beaver have made their mark by damming many streams. Coyotes have become increasingly common in recent years. Other local animals include river otter, raccoon, red and gray fox, muskrat, striped skunk, porcupine and snowshoe hare.
These remote forests and wetlands are home to songbirds such as woodpeckers, flycatchers, wrens, thrushes, vireos, warblers, blackbirds, finches, grosbeaks and sparrows. Boreal birds like the spruce grouse, Wilson's warbler, Cape May warbler, bay-breasted warbler, three-toed woodpecker and yellow-bellied flycatcher breed in or near the area. These species generally are found in habitats associated with bogs, spruce swamps and other wetlands.
As you canoe these waters, look for common loons as they dive for fish and listen for their haunting calls echoing across the water and surrounding lands. Another Adirondack fish eater you may encounter is the common merganser. Great blue herons are often seen standing motionless in the shallows. Along with osprey, or "fish hawks," herons make their large stick nests in trees near water. Bald eagles are known to frequent the area, roosting at the tops of dead trees or soaring over the lakes. At night, the wild call of the loon may be joined by the distinctive hoot of the barred owl.
Little Tupper Lake is the home waters of a genetically unique "heritage" strain of brook trout. Along with a variety of native minnows, the "Little Tupper" strain brook trout are the direct descendants of the first trout to have reached the lake after glaciers receded about 12,000 years ago. The Whitney family, the previous owners of the lake, successfully prevented the introduction of predatory and competing non-native fish species such as smallmouth bass, northern pike and yellow perch. Consequently, Little Tupper Lake is the largest lake in the eastern United States with its original strain of trout. Special fishing regulations are in effect to continue to protect this priceless fish population.
Of a total of 12 waters in the Adirondacks known to harbor native populations of the Little Tupper strain, three are in the William C. Whitney Wilderness: Little Tupper Lake, Rock Pond and Bum Pond - nearby Round Lake also contains Little Tupper strain brook trout. Lilypad Pond and Little Salmon Lake support brook trout, but not the Little Tupper Lake strain.
Sometime after the Whitney Wilderness was opened to the public largemouth bass were illegally stocked in Little Tupper Lake. They now have proliferated throughout Little Tupper Lake and Round Lake. This has had a negative impact on the native brook trout.
Protect native Adirondack fish populations:
- Do not move fish from one water body to another
- Do not use bait fish on Adirondack waters where it is prohibited
- Do not release unused bait fish even where using them is allowed
Rules and Regulations
Motor vehicles, float planes, snowmobiles, motor boats, bicycles, chainsaws, or generators are prohibited in the wilderness area.
The Sabattis Road is a public road, in the winter Hamilton County plows it to the railroad crossing in Sabbattis.
The Lake Lila Road is a private road with public access rights. It is closed and gated to public motor vehicle use from the beginning of winter through the spring mud season.
Park only in designated parking areas. Do not block gates or roadways.
Vehicles with horse trailers may only park at the Sabbatis Road parking site.
Horses are not permitted on marked foot trails.
Horse owners must comply with all state land use regulation including possessing current negative Coggins certificates.
In the Whitney Purchase Area camping is only allowed at campsites designated with "Camp Here" disks and campfires are allowed only in the fire rings at designated campsites.
No groups larger than eight people may camp in the Whitney Purchase Area, and no groups larger than nine people may camp in the Lake Lila Area.
A camping permit from a Forest Ranger must be obtained for stays of more than three nights at one location.
Only dead and down wood may be used for fires. Do not strip bark or deface standing trees.
Do not cut standing dead trees; they provide food and cover for wildlife.
Importing firewood into New York State that has been treated to kill pests is prohibited. Also the transportation of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source is prohibited.
The best way to protect camping areas is by using a portable stove instead of a campfire for cooking.
Catch and release regulation are in effect for brook trout on Little Tupper Lake. All brook trout caught must be immediately returned to the water alive.
Fishing is prohibited in Charley Pond Outlet from July 1st through September 15th.
Statewide fishing regulations apply for largemouth bass and brown bullhead.
Only artificial lures may be used - the use of bait fish is prohibited on all water bodies within the wilderness area.
Trapping is not permitted in the Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters area.
If you carry it in, carry it out. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
Dogs must be on a leash in the Little Tupper Lake (Whitney) Headquarters area. Control your pet. To protect wildlife and respect other visitors, keep your dog close to you and under direct control at all times.
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.
The William C. Whitney Wilderness Area is readily accessible from New York State Route 30. To reach the area, take Route 30 twelve miles south from the hamlet of Tupper Lake to the Sabbatis Circle Road (County Route 10) or seven miles north from the hamlet of Long Lake to the Circle Road (County Route 10A). Turn west and follow to where the two roads intersect. Continue west following signs on the Sabattis Road to parking areas that access the nearby Round Lake Wilderness Area, Little Tupper Lake or Lake Lila.
Other Sources of Information
Adirondack Regional Tourism Council and Hamilton County Tourism 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.
The DEC State Land Interactive Mapper can be used to print maps showing state lands, trails and facilities for this area or any location within New York State. 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 that became Whitney Park was the hub of a system of historic canoe routes used by Native Americans and early Adirondack explorers. Routes linking Tupper Lake, Long Lake, and Lake Lila were documented by E. R. Wallace in his 1887 Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks and W. H. H. Murray's Adventures in the Wilderness.
From 1896 to 1898, William C. Whitney and his business partner Patrick Moynehan, an experienced lumberman, purchased a number of parcels totaling 68,000 acres of virgin forest land in northern Hamilton County. An ardent conservationist, Mr. Whitney invited forester Henry Graves, a protégé of Gifford Pinchot (later the first chief of the US Forest Service) to prepare a forest management plan for the property. Early timber harvesting was therefore conducted through one of the first applications of scientific forestry in the country.
The first logging operation began in 1898 and was completed by 1912. Only spruce ten inches or larger and pine were harvested. After the logging was done, the partners went their separate ways, and Mr. Whitney became the sole owner of the estate he then named Whitney Park. In the second logging operation, begun in 1934, balsam fir, hemlock and over-mature hardwoods were harvested. At this time the extensive road system was started to facilitate horse logging operations.
In both logging operations, spruce and pine logs were cut, skidded by horse, then dragged by sled to waterways for driving down to Tupper Lake. Hardwoods and hemlocks, because they were too dense to float, had to be transported by truck or by a branch line of the New York Central Railroad. The four mile section of railroad built into Whitney Park in 1936 was only used for three years but traces of the old railroad grade may still be seen today in the vicinity of Hardigan and Rock ponds.
The many buildings at the Little Tupper Lake entrance have long been known as Whitney Headquarters. The large main building was constructed in 1923 to house lumberjacks and was later converted into an office for Whitney Industries. In 1946, several residences were built for employees. Other structures were built that served the management of the property including an electrical generation facility, boathouse, pumphouse, storage sheds, and a maintenance shop/garage.
DEC manages these lands in accordance with management activities described in the William C. Whitney Area Stewardship Management Plan.
DEC is currently developing a unit management plan for the William C. Whitney Wilderness. The plan will be made available once it is completed. If you are interested in participating in the public input process for any of these plans, e-mail DEC using the link at the bottom of the right column.
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) 897-1326
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.