Easy hike to a great view
By Phil Brown
If you happen to be in the vicinity of Santa Clara Flow on a nice day, whether biking, driving, or canoeing, you’d be remiss not to stop and take the short hike to the Pinnacle, which offers a superb view of the northern Adirondacks.
I hesitate to call it a hike. The trail is so short (a half mile) and gentle (several switchbacks) that it’s more like a pleasant amble in the woods. If it were a real climb, there wouldn’t be a picnic table at the end.
Yes, a picnic table. You’re probably wondering what it’s doing in the wilderness. The answer is that the Pinnacle isn’t in the Forest Preserve; it’s on land owned by the Forestland Group, a timber-investment company. The state purchased a conservation easement on this land in 1998 as part of a massive deal with Champion International that protected 144,000 acres.
The Adirondack Mountain Club built this well-designed trail in 2001, under a contract with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
To get to the trailhead, you drive up a well-maintained logging road for 1.8 miles to a parking area. Each year, the road is closed after the Columbus Day holiday and reopened after the next spring’s mud season. If you don’t mind walking up the road, you can still use the trail—except during rifle season for deer, when the easement lands are closed to the general public. This year, the hunting season runs from October 24 to December 6.
The trail ascends gradually through a young hardwood forest and past numerous glacial erratics—boulders deposited in the last ice age. Thanks to the switchbacks, the trail never gets steep. An average hiker probably could reach the top in fifteen or twenty minutes.
The trail ends at a rocky ledge with a 180-degree view, from south to north. The landmarks include the Santa Clara Flow, an impoundment of the St. Regis River; the valleys of two branches of the St. Regis; Azure Mountain and numerous lesser-known peaks, and the village of St. Regis Falls in the distance.
There’s a good chance you’ll also see ravens. In Discover the Northern Adirondacks, Bill Ingersoll says ravens frequent the Pinnacle, and sure enough, when I arrived at the ledge, I saw one soaring overhead—along with a red-tailed hawk.
In winter, the Pinnacle would be a good snowshoe destination. Because the logging road is not plowed, however, you might want to ski to the trailhead.
Directions: The logging road begins on the north side of NY 458, about 0.5 miles east of the bridge over the Saint Regis River in Santa Clara. If you’re coming from the east, the turn is 9.6 miles from NY 30. Look for a DEC sign set back from the highway.