A New Trail to an Old Favorite
By Phil Brown
Is it possible to hike to the top of a mountain without climbing? I started to ask myself that question while trying out the new trail on Coney Mountain south of Tupper Lake.
With its wide-open views, Coney has been a popular destination for years, but until this past summer, it lacked a state-sanctioned trail. Hikers and snowshoers followed a herd path that went more or less straight up the mountain.
Last year, the Adirondack Mountain Club crew finished work on a new trail that is the antithesis of the old herd path. Instead of making a beeline for the summit, it winds around the mountain like a hawk circling its prey.
ADK laid out a route that ascends the 2,280-foot mountain gradually—a modern design that’s easy on the land and on the knees. Marked by blue disks, it begins on the west side of the mountain, angles up the north and east slopes, and finally approaches the summit from the south.
Despite the circumnavigation, the trail is only 1.1 miles long. With just 550 feet of ascent, Coney is an ideal hike or snowshoe trip if you have only a few hours to spare.
The trail begins on the east side of Route 30. Look for the new trailhead sign set back from the road in an open area. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversaw the ADK work, plans to build a parking lot here sometime in the future, perhaps this summer, but meanwhile you have to park on the highway’s wide shoulder or in the snowplow turnaround on the opposite side of the road (a little to the south of the new trailhead).
Soon after entering the woods, the trail turns right and leads to a register and a kiosk with an article about Coney Mountain’s history. The original herd path followed the boundary between Franklin and Hamilton counties, which coincided with the northern boundary of the historic Totten and Crossfield Purchase, first marked in 1772. Steel I-beams from a later survey can still be found in the woods along the county line.
From the register, the trail heads east but soon makes a ninety-degree turn to the left, or north, and begins traversing the base of the mountain. In winter, you can look through the bare hardwoods and see the snowy slabs on Coney’s summit.
Over the next 0.25 miles the trail gains no elevation. While hiking this section in early December, I kept thinking, “It’s going to turn right and start getting steep.” Eventually, the trail does turn right, and it does start to ascend—but just barely. The grade is so gradual that it hardly feels like climbing.
As the trail curls around the back of the mountain, the grade increases only slightly. It doesn’t get steep until you reach the saddle between Coney and a knob to the south. You may very well get to this point, just below the summit, without breaking a sweat.
Over the final tenth of a mile, the trail ascends more steeply through scrub and over slabs to the bare summit. The panoramic vista includes nearby Goodman Mountain to the north, Mount Morris to the northeast, a number of High Peaks to the east, and Blue Mountain to the southeast. Also visible are Tupper Lake, Round Lake, and Little Tupper Lake. N
DIRECTIONS: From Tupper Lake village, drive south on NY 30. Look for the trailhead on the left, 8.5 miles south of the Raquette River and 1.5 miles south of NY 421. If you’re coming from the south, the trailhead will be on the right 0.9 miles past Sabattis Circle Road (County 10A). There is no parking lot, so you have to park along the shoulder or in the snowplow turnaround on the west side of the highway.