A place to walk or paddle between Saranac Lake, Bloomingdale
By Tim Rowland
It might be melodramatic to call Moose Pond the Boreas Ponds of the north, but the 140 acre pool does have a beautiful curtain of peaks setting off its blue waters nestled cozily among low rolling hills, much like its southern cousin.
Located between the village of Saranac Lake and the hamlet of Bloomingdale, it is also one of those rare “one if by land two if by sea” recreational opportunities, allowing you to launch your boat from the north or hike in from the west.
Having done both in the past couple of weeks, I found that each has its charms. A 2.5 mile paddle can be completed in a little over an hour, although certainly there are more opportunities for exploring or beaching the canoe to sit for a spell on numerous rock outcroppings on the western shore.
But, particularly in the fall, the hike might be the better option due to the beauty of the trail.
It might just be the easiest trail of over a mile in the Adirondacks, although it doesn’t attract the crowds that its limited degree of difficulty and marvelous payoff might suggest.
On the most resplendent autumn afternoon to date, we saw only a small handful of people on the trail — this on a day when we counted 55 cars along the trailhead of Cobble Lookout, a previously “undiscovered” trail of about the same length and similar reward a few miles east in Wilmington.
The boat launch is reached from Saranac Lake by taking Route 3 to Bloomingdale, turning right on River Road. Moose Pond Road is 1.5 miles from the turn, and marked by a DEC sign on the right.
The hiking trail is reached by taking Route 3 north out of Saranac Lake, four miles from its intersection with Route 86. There is no sign, and only a farm road heading down to the Saranac River to let you know you’ve arrived. At the end of the lane you will find the official trailhead, but it’s just as easy to park at an ample pull-off on Route 3 and hike the tenth of a mile to the river.
After crossing a bridge over the Saranac, the trail plunges into a dark tunnel of balsam and striped maple before entering a higher canopy of evergreens and hardwoods, where the sun shining through the colored leaves resembles light streaming through the stained glass window of a cathedral hall.
This is honestly an easy trail — it follows the route of a road to a planned resort that never got off the ground — without the typical Adirondack caveats and qualifications, viz, “It’s a really easy trail except for that 30 foot ravine you have to climb out of using grappling hooks.”
No, you’re good the whole way, the only noticeable elevation change at the lakeshore itself.
At 1.3 miles from the highway, the trail splits, presenting a nice opportunity for a small loop. Stay to the left and in another couple tenths an obvious road comes up from the lake. The road leads to the site of an old camp, the foundation and fireplace of which remain.
You will notice immediately that a sizable boulder pokes up out of the ground in front of the fireplace to a height that exceeds the level of the hearth. Whether the fireplace has sunk, the boulder has risen or the lodge-owners felt it would be cool to have a massive stone protruding from the floor, I can’t say. But it’s an interesting puzzle.
From here, a slab of rock fronts the lake, with mesmerizing views of the McKenzie Range, Whiteface, Esther and a host of lower hills, all set off in fall colors and dark evergreens. It’s a scene that can go toe to toe with most any in the park, and is accessible to those whose joints tend to limit climbing mobility.
Instead of going back the way we came, we headed back by way of a herd path along the shore. You’ll be treated to partial views of the mountains along the way until you come to another sizable rock outcropping where we saw no people, but did see a trail of deliberately cast-aside clothing littering the top of a ledge.
And I’m not talking about a jacket or a fleece, I mean the whole ensemble, including coats, boots, socks, pants, shirts to the point where, even if they had been wearing as many layers as a Martha Stewart wedding cake, they must have been getting pretty close to base camp, if you know what I’m saying.
We didn’t spend as much time at this second overlook as we had the first.
The herd path at this point heads back toward the main trail, which it joins at the aforementioned junction. From the shore, this path can be a bit tricky to find, which is an argument for doing the described loop in a counterclockwise direction instead of the way we hiked it.
Either way, there is plenty of time for a leisurely stroll to the lake, a nice picnic and exploration of the shoreline and some of its past developments and campsites in the space of a late morning or early afternoon. Which is good, because it’s an adventure you won’t want to rush.
- Distance: 3 miles round trip
- Elevation gain: 206 feet
- Time: 2 leisurely hours