Champlain Area Trails unveils new Broughton Ledges trek in Moriah
By Tim Rowland
Baseball and the Adirondacks are similar in that, just when you’ve seen it all, something entirely novel and gasp-worthy raises its head in a way or place you never would have suspected. It is, in part, what keeps us coming back for more.
Who knew, for example, that in the Lake Champlain/Adirondack-foothills town of Moriah, home of the lake monster Champ, lurked another beast, a beautiful, monstrous, 364-foot rock face that without warning breaches the forest like a cruise ship arriving unannounced at a backyard barbecue.
This is Broughton Ledge, which is a ledge in the sense that the Indian Ocean is a duck pond. This impressive feature is now accessible thanks to the Eddy Foundation and Champlain Area Trails, which officially opened the Broughton Ledges Trail on Saturday, Oct. 23.
In 2019, Eddy purchased 800 acres north of Ensign Pond Road, a consequential puzzle piece that complements state holdings in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest to the west and east.
This little nook of the Adirondacks is bounded by Ensign Pond Road to the south, Tracy Road to the north and Rt. 9 to the west. Using Crowfoot Pond Trail off of Tracy Road; East Mill Flow Trail off of Rt. 9 at the Sharp Bridge Campground; and Broughton Ledges off of Ensign Pond Road offers any number of tempting adventures both on trail and off.
CATS Executive Director Chris Maron described Broughton Ledges as more “primitive” than the typical CATS trail, in that it plies the backcountry more deeply and is also longer and more rugged. It’s rated as difficult, but it is mildly difficult as these things go, and shouldn’t scare off anyone who hasn’t had a knee replaced in the past month.
The trail was so fresh that the last little segment had only been cut a day or two before. Because it has yet to develop a beaten tread, the fallen leaves can make it hard to identify in places, although it is very well marked and with a bit of care is easy enough to follow. The 5.5 mile hike resembles a balloon — the string leads to an oval loop, and on completion of the loop, the hiker returns to the road by way of the string.
From the trailhead, Broughton Ledges crosses a small stream and then proceeds along the base of a mossy little cliff, from which water prodigiously drips, as if from a sodden sponge. Soon the old logging road climbs steeply. At a point where the Old Loggers got to be too precarious with their infrastructure, the CATS trail breaks off and assaults the ridge with a series of short, surgical switchbacks and a small set of stairs to a point that the guidebooks poetically describe as “a height of land.”
This is the top of a ridge, and when the leaves have abandoned their posts for the year, it is possible to peek out at some promising views to the south. You can find a bit of a vantage point through the scrub, but there’s no need because after the trail continues to ascend the ridge a piece, it will, about a mile into the hike, break out onto some open rock with an unobscured view of Ensign Pond and Harris Hill.
As it ventures further into the backcountry, the trail piggybacks on a variety of woods roads with divergent uses and interesting histories. Aside from the logging roads, there is an old town road that led to Moriah Pond and another trace approved by the legislature nearly 200 years ago with the idea of transporting iron ore.
At the 1.5 mile point, the trail arrives at the bottom of the loop, with the choice of going left or right (well, obviously, I suppose, but never let it be said I was outwitted by a loop). We went right, or counterclockwise, which will get you to the cliff sooner rather than later. At two miles the trail makes a sharp left, with a faint woods road continuing straight. For the best view of Broughton Ledge, continue straight on the woods road (the road is posted, but your conscience needn’t bother you because Maron said the signs are misplaced) for a couple hundred feet along a marsh to a point where you can look to your left and see the grand bastion of rock, the like of which might be more expected in the deep wilderness of the High Peaks.
This cliff had not escaped the notice of rock climbers of course, but what had been a popular destination 30 or more years ago was lost when access to the cliffs was closed by private landowners. If and when the land is sold by Eddy to the state — as is the plan — it’s likely to become a popular destination for rock climbing once again.
Back onto the loop, closer glimpses of the cliff are available through the trees, and Maron said it’s interesting to note the white splotches here and there, the guano from peregrine falcons. The trail here gently ascends another woods road, though an open forest of maple and yellow birch, until arriving at a wetlands that is the tip of Moriah Pond. Here the conifers increase as the trail bumps up onto a ridge. The trail follows the ridge back to the starting point of the loop (along the ridge, another trail appears coming up steeply from the right; this was part of the loop as originally sketched out, but the ridge proved a better, more sustainable option).
The entire route takes two to three hours. The trailhead is reached by taking Exit 29 off the Northway and going east briefly on Blue Ridge Road — offering the chance to check out the newly reopened Frontier Town A-Frame restaurant and supply store — before turning left in Rt. 9. Go 2.4 miles to Caza Turn Road. Turn right and then right again soon thereafter on Ensign Pond Road. The trailhead is just over 7 miles on the left.