Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness

HikingFishingPrimitive CampingHorseback RidingCross-country SkiingSnowshoeingHuntingTrappingParkingicon key

Location Map for Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness

The Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness contains 26,600 acres and is located in the western foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, west of the hamlet of Old Forge and the Fulton Chain of Lakes and east of Independence River Wild Forest. While not the grandeur of a "High Peaks" wilderness experience, Ha-De-Ron-Dah has plenty to offer for those seeking solitude within the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Its proximity to urban areas however, makes the unit of priceless value to those who treasure wilderness, rarely seeing another person and well worth the effort to explore the miles of trails.

The Ha-De-Ron-Dah terrain features hilly, rocky, scenic views, with a variety of streams, swamps, meadows, lakes and ponds. It has tranquil, rolling woodland areas and interesting rock-faced shorelines on ponds and lakes. Big Otter Lake, part of the Independence River Wild Forest lies adjacent to the northwest boundary of the area and it is the largest, most scenic of the many lakes in the vicinity. There are no outstanding topographic features in this Wilderness Area. Unit elevations have a total difference of 800 feet and they rise from 1,500 feet in the western portion to the higher hill elevations in the east which do not exceed 2,360 feet. The area appears as gently rounded, rocky hills, interspersed with swamps, beaver meadows, small streams, ponds and lakes.

Featured Activities



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

The unit has approximately 35 miles of marked foot trails. These trails do not receive a high level of maintenance, especially in the northern part of the Wilderness area. This provides the Forest Preserve user an opportunity to enjoy the area in its natural state. Wilderness areas are not for everyone.

  • Big Otter Trail - (Blue) 7.8 miles, Thendara to Big Otter Lake. This former truck trail is now closed to vehicular use by 2 barriers at Thendara.
  • Lost Creek Trail - (Red) 1.9 miles Big Otter Trail northerly to a dead end on Lost Creek
  • East Pond Trail - (Yellow) 2.8 miles Big Otter Trail to East Pond via Little Simon Pond.
  • East Pond-Lost Creek Link Trail - (Blue) 2.1 miles Connects Lost Creek Trail with East Pond Trail.
  • Blackfoot Pond Trail - (Red) 1.0 miles East Pond Trail to Blackfoot Pond and remnants of mica mine.
  • Middle Branch Lake Trail - (Yellow) 1.6 miles Former Cedar Pond lean-to to Big Otter Trail.
  • Middle Branch Lean-to Trail - (Red) .25 miles Middle Branch Lake Trail to former lean-to site on Middle Branch Lake.
  • Middle Settlement Lake Trail - (Yellow) 3.7 miles Cedar Pond lean-to to Brown's Tract Trail via Middle Settlement Lake.
  • Vista Trail - (Blue) .15 miles Middle Settlement Lake Trail to top of scenic cliff.
  • Middle Settlement Lake Access Trail - (Blue) 1.2 miles Middle Settlement Lake Trail to Brown's Tract Trail.
  • Cedar Pond Lean-to Trail - (Red) 2.15 miles Brown's Tract Trail to Cedar Pond Lean-to.
  • Grass Pond Trail - (Yellow) .45 miles Cedar Pond lean-to Trail to Grass Pond.
  • Brown's Tract Trail - (Yellow) 5.85 miles Thendara to Copper Lake Road.
  • Scusa Access Trail - (Red) .6 miles Route 28 to Brown's Tract Trail.
  • Lost Lake Trail - (Blue) 3.75 miles Middle Settlement Lake Trail to Pine Lake Trail via Lost Lake.


primitive camping

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

There are two lean-tos on the unit, one is located on Middle Branch Lake and the other at Middle Settlement Lake. Privies are located at both lean-to sites. These are prime camping sites. A designated tent site is also located on Middle Settlement Lake. There are no additional designated campsites on the unit, but primitive camping more than 150 feet from a road, trail or the water is allowed..



General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations. You can ensure of continued good fishing opportunities in the future by fishing responsibly. If you have never been fishing but want to try, it's easy to learn how to fish.

There are 5 lakes and 16 ponds of significant surface acreage in this unit. Of these waters, nine are known to support fish life. The remaining ponds are too shallow, too small, or require additional study. These lakes and ponds are scattered throughout the area. Ten are accessible by an existing trail system, though quite a hike in some cases.

Also occurring in this area is a portion of the Independence River and many small streams, six of which are named, (Indian Brook, Pine Creek, Lost Creek, South Inlet, Middle Branch Creek and Middle Settlement Creek.) At least part of each stream is close to an existing trail.

Brook trout are stocked in and provide fair to good fishing in Pine, Middle Settlement and Middle Branch Lakes. Pond brook trout fingerling stockings can be seen under the Herkimer County list. Brook trout can be found in Cedar, Mud Hole and Grass Ponds also. Brown bullheads and yellow perch may provide some limited fishing opportunities in Pine Lake, Little Pine Lake, East Pine Pond, Mud Hole Pond and Rock Pond. Of all the streams, only Indian Brook and the Independence River have been surveyed. Native, naturally reproducing brook trout are found in both of these waters.

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


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

The area is open for hunting and trapping though 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.

Hunters and trappers may use the parking areas, roads, seasonal access roads, trailheads, and trails used by hikers to access the lands in this area.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross-country skiing

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

  • The Big Otter Trail is an officially designated novice ski trail. 7.8 miles
  • Scusa Access Trail to Big Otter Trail via Middle Settlement and Middle Branch Lakes. (Intermediate) 5.5 miles
  • Middle Settlement Lake to Pine Lake via Middle Settlement Lake Trail and Lost Lake Trail. (Expert) 4.8 miles


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 species of birds and mammals 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 so it is not unlikely to catch site of wildlife during your trip.

More information on Adirondack Flora and Fauna (Leaves DEC Website) from the SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center.

You can protect wildlife and wildlife habitat when viewing them.

Wildlife Found in the Adirondacks

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

The Big Otter Trail is designated as a horse trail. Equestrian use is presently limited to the 7.6 mile section previously used as a truck trail. Proof of current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses and out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate.


Trailhead Parking Areas are located on the eastern and western edges of the area. All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Trailheads and Parking Areas accessed in Herkimer County from State Route 28 on the southeastern side.

  • Big Otter Trail Parking. At the end of Tower Road, north of the hamlet of Thendara (43.706208°N, 75.001841°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • A DOT parking area on Route 28, 3 miles south of the Thendara railroad station (43.676139°N, 75.052199°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • A DEC parking area North of Okara Lakes (43.686960°N, 75.038940°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • South of the Cooper Lake Road, accessible from Old Route 28 near Gull Lake. Take Jones Road north and travel ½ mile to the state boundary and parking lot. N(43.661400°N, 75.101460°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Trailheads and Parking Areas Accessed in Lewis County;

  • Drunkard Creek Trailhead - Parking (Steam Mill Road) The trailhead is located on Steam Mill Road, 3.3 miles beyond the forest preserve boundary line. (43.682270°N, W75.197159°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Pine Lake Trailhead Parking (Partridgeville Road) Located on Partridgevill Road 7.5 miles beyond the intersection with Brantingham Road, on the south side of Otter Creek. (43.725324°N, 75.179772W°) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Big Otter Lake Parking. Continue onto the Big Otter Lake Road 2.6 miles to the parking Area. Note that the Big Otter Lake Road is in extremely rough condition, and requires four-wheel drive and high clearance. (43.721789°N, 75.126285°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

Most trailhead parking areas provide registration books. Please take the time to sign in and out.

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 Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area 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.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the 1995 Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP) (PDF). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities and Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas, dining opportunities, lodging, food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Old Forge or south into Oneida County at Boonville or Forestport.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Herkimer County Chamber (leaves DEC website), Old Forge Visitors Center (leaves DEC website), Lewis County Tourism (leaves DEC website) and TOBIE Trail (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.