By Phil Brown
The Black River Wild Forest encompasses more than 121,000 acres, but it has just one trail leading to a summit—Woodhull Mountain. Since it’s the region’s only mountain with a view, you might expect that hikers would be tripping over each other to get to the top. In fact, few people climb this small peak.
The problem with Woodhull has always been that it’s too far away—about 7.5 miles from the parking lot. Many people will hike that far if the payoff is big, such as a High Peaks vista, but not if the destination is a 2,362-foot summit enclosed by trees. Woodhull has no view to speak of unless you climb its firetower. But don’t cross it off your list of places to visit yet. For a trip to this little-known mountain can be one of the best outings in the southwestern Adirondacks—a day of biking, hiking and swimming amid wonderful scenery.
The first five miles of the Woodhull trail follow a dirt road that is ideal for mountain biking. It’s straight, level, smooth and only occasionally muddy. The road ends at a tributary stream of the South Branch of the Moose River. On the other side of the creek, the trail turns into a conventional footpath. If you ride as far as the creek and hike the rest of the way, you can get to the summit in less than two hours.
The bike ride is quite pleasant. For most of the way, trees arch over the road to form a leafy portico. Once in a while you’ll pass clearings adorned by wildflowers such as common Saint John’s wort, joe-pye weed and meadowsweet. About 2½ miles from the start, take note of a short trail on the left that leads to Remsen Falls. You’ll want to visit the falls on the return trip. A little farther up the road you’ll be able to see the South Moose.
Just before its end, the road descends through a grassy opening. A determined biker might continue riding after crossing the tributary stream, but most people would be deterred from doing so by the frequency of fallen trees across the trail. The footpath is well-marked by red disks. About 1¼ miles from the stream, the trail reaches an unmarked junction. Turn left to go to the summit. If you managed to bike this far, you could take the other trail on the way back (see map).
The ascent from here is so gradual that you might find yourself wondering, even as you near the tower, when the real climb will begin. Once on the summit, you could hunt around for glimpses of scenery through the trees, but you have to climb the tower to get the real reward. Although the observation deck is closed, the views from the tower steps are outstanding. You’ll see Woodhull Lake to the south, the South Moose to the west and wooded hills in all directions, with scarcely a sign of civilization. There’s no other vista like it in this part of the Adirondacks.
If you haven’t got your fill of scenery, don’t forget to check out Remsen Falls. The spur trail will be on the right on the return. The descent to the South Moose is steep, so you may want to walk your bike. Boulders form a natural dam at Remsen Falls. You can walk to the middle of the river to take in the wild setting or just bask in the sun on the flat rocks while listening to the river rushing through a narrow flume. The current at the falls is strong, but quiet waters nearby are suitable for swimming. Follow an unmarked footpath for two-tenths of a mile downriver from the falls to reach Harry’s Point, where there is a memorial tablet.
The whole trip takes only an afternoon. If you’re looking for an easier outing, Remsen Falls is a worthwhile destination in itself. Either way, it will be time well spent.
Directions: From the bridge over the Middle Branch of Moose River in Old Forge, drive 10.3 miles east on Route 28 to McKeever Road on left, just past the Moose’s main branch. After 0.2 mile, turn right off McKeever Road onto a dirt road near a former depot. Follow this road 0.6 mile to its end. You’ll pass a large parking lot before reaching a second lot.