By Phil Brown
In earlier articles for the Explorer, I wrote about exploring the Sable Highlands by bike, on foot and in a canoe. It’s also possible to enjoy these little-visited easement lands in the comfort of your car.
Two good logging roads—the D&H Road and Piney Ridge Road—cut through the interior of the Sable Highlands. They are connected by Wolf Pond Road, a dirt thoroughfare maintained by the town of Bellmont. Thus, it’s possible to drive from one end of the Sable Highlands to the other.
The motor tour from the Standish Road to Franklin County Route 26 (which runs past Loon Lake) is about a dozen miles. If you want to do it this year, you’d better act soon. Piney Ridge Road closes for the season on September 26. Also, it’s best not to take the drive in early spring, when Wolf Pond Road can be muddy.
If the roads are dry, you can drive the family car on them, but you should go slow and exercise caution. Keep an eye out for rocks, mud, sand and puddles. Bear in mind that, under the terms of the conservation easement, you are not allowed to park along either the D&H Road or Piney Ridge Road.
In 2008, New York State paid $10.8 million for conservation easements on 84,000 acres of commercial forest known as the Sable Highlands in the northern Adirondacks. The deal lets logging continue, but it also allows public recreation in 14 “public use areas,” totaling 21,100 acres, and on “linear recreation corridors” connecting them. The state so far has failed to implement much of its plan. This spring, the Adirondack Explorer spent many days exploring the Sable Highlands on foot, by car, and on a mountain bike. This is one in a series of articles meant to open a window on a land partly owned by the public but rarely seen.
From Standish Road, drive west on Piney Ridge Road. At 2.9 miles, as you pass a clearing, you get a good view of peaks lying to the northwest. In another mile or so, you come to a four-way intersection known as Middle Kilns, where Wolf Pond Road crosses Piney Ridge Road.
This is the most scenic spot on the tour. Turn left onto Wolf Pond Road and pull over to take in the views. From the junction, you can gaze northwest across a wetland toward West Mountain, Ragged Lake Mountain and other peaks. Turn around to enjoy views of Norton Peak, Haystack Mountain and Wolf Pond Mountain.
Piney Ridge Road continues straight in good condition, but when I took the driving tour this summer, a sign warned that the rest of the road was “currently closed to all motorized use.” And so I took Wolf Pond Road instead. It is narrower and rougher than Piney Ridge Road but passable when dry.
In 1.6 miles, Wolf Pond Road meets up again with Piney Ridge Road. Continue straight at this T-intersection. In less than a mile more, the road crosses the Salmon River, which rises in the nearby Elbow Range and flows north to the St. Lawrence.
Just beyond the river you’ll pass a recently logged tract before coming to a junction with the D&H Road. Turn left and drive down the tree-lined corridor for about five miles to Fishhole Pond. There is a public parking area here, so feel free to stop, take a stroll and soak in the views of the pond, the Elbow Range, Catamount and Loon Lake Mountain.
You’re almost done. Continue down the D&H Road for 1.25 miles and take a right. In a few minutes you’ll hit County 26. Not including stops, the tour should take no more than an hour. It’s a good introduction to the Sable Highlands. If you like what you see, you might return to do the trip on a mountain bike.
DIRECTIONS: From NY 3 in Clayburg, drive north on Standish Road (County 1) for 7.8 miles to Piney Ridge Road on the left. When you reach County 26, turn left to return to NY 3 in 6.2 miles.
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