A few different ways to access this Hammond Pond Wild Forest destination
By Tim Rowland
Certain clues give you insight into a lake’s raison d’etre, and at Bass Lake it’s not the name so much as the number of frying pans you will find stashed on its shoreline should the desire arise to cook up your catch on the spot.
Bass Lake is located east of North Hudson in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, but as a destination it’s a third banana behind neighboring Hammond and Moose Mountain ponds, both of which receive a decent, but by no means overwhelming, number of visitors.
When a lake has more kitchen implements than a Knights of Columbus hall, it’s a pretty good sign that the fishing is good, although the name is something of a misnomer — Bass was reclaimed as a trout fishery in 1994 and is known for its rainbows. Because of this, it’s illegal to use fish, dead or alive, as bait.
There are also a couple of canoes on the shore, one of which has been patched and grouted to the point of being unspeakably picturesque, along with some rustic furniture and strange wired-together accessories, the use of which I can’t even imagine.
You can access Bass Lake from two different trailheads, and each has its advantages depending whether your intent is business or pleasure. The longer, more hiker-oriented route begins at the trailhead for Hammond Pond on Ensign Pond Road, and runs along a brook and wetlands to Berrymill Flow, then splits from the Moose Mountain Pond trail to the lake.
With waterfalls, mossy seeps and towering hemlock forests, this is a gorgeous route, so from my perspective at least there was little incentive to check out the other approach, which begins just off of Route 9 between Northway exits 29 and 30. This is the “business” approach — primarily used by locals — if fishing is on your mind and you want a shorter, more direct pathway to the trout.
But it’s also a suitable route if you’re short on time and crave a remote, backcountry-pond experience from a location in the Eastern Adirondacks not far off the interstate.
And while this Route 9 approach might not have the majesty of the Hammond Pond trailhead, it has its own charms. It’s accessed off of Caza Road, a little semicircle of macadam that intersects with Route 9 to the north and the south. The trailhead is just a few hundred yards from the southern intersection; there is no DEC marker, but you’ll see a pull-off with what’s left of an old paved road heading into the woods to a trail register.
Online trail guides call this a 1.4-mile hike, but unless my gizmo was suffering from sun spots it’s closer to two, making for a 4-mile round trip — or approaching five if you continue on the through trail to the southeast outlet of the lake and do a little extracurricular nosing around.
From the trailhead, the old paved road follows Black Brook to a point where once upon a time it crossed to the other side — a sizable concrete abutment that’s tumbled down into the ravine is about all that’s left of the old infrastructure.
A couple tenths of a mile further brings you to the dam holding back narrow Gero Pond, which is accessible from a short trail from Ensign Pond Road coming in from the other side — but the dam itself is not crossable to anyone desirous of dry feet, so don’t get any bright ideas about accessing the trail from an alternative direction.
Instead of following the pond, the trail breaks off to the right and begins to climb through some pretty impressive forest that may not be old growth, but is at least an old growth starter kit, and quite handsome.
The trail continues to climb steadily for another mile until it arrives at what is poetically known in the guidebooks as “a height of land,” and by this time you will have ascended about 500 feet, although it’s so gradual that it presents no material hardship. The trail mostly follows an old woods road, but with erosion it can still be rough in spots.
As the trail descends from its high point, you will begin to see glimmers of the lake, before arriving at the shoreline at the site of what seems to be sort of a Bass Lake base camp.
If you do want to do a little fishing here, there is no need to paddle the SS Duct Tape out on the high seas — there are scenic cliffs along the lakeshore, leading to deep water along the shoreline, as opposed to shallow marshes more typical of Adirondack ponds of this size.
Fishermen trails skirt the lake, and the main trail continues on to one other scenic vista at the outlet where there are some High Peaks way off in the distance, one of those spots where tricky photographers with serious telephoto lenses can make it look like the lake is right in the middle of the Tetons or something.
As mentioned, the trail continues on from here, and with two cars a very nice hike of about five miles could be made of traversing from the Hammond Pond trailhead to Route 9. Fall is a great time, as yellow birch leaves illuminated in shafts of light casually drift down against the background of the dark hemlocks. So no matter how you get to Bass Lake, you are unlikely to be disappointed.