CAT’s Wildway Passage is enough to fill the afternoon, fool the dogs into thinking it’s hiking day
By Tim Rowland
A certain amount of my time in the woods involves static pursuits — cutting firewood, maintaining trails, clearing invasives. The dogs come along, but they do not consider these activities to be entertainment.
For half an hour or so they’re fine, as they explore the periphery, sniff around for past travelers and roll in unidentified but odiferous organic compounds.
After they have exhausted these activities, their mood begins to turn dark. You can see it. From the corner of my eyes I can see them sitting some distance away glaring at me. Then they will begin to pace and pantomime exaggerated boredom, until finally they come right out and bark/growl at me to please put down the saw and do something fun.
I should add that Fridays are hiking days, and I don’t understand how dogs can know it’s a Friday, but they do, and so they wake up bright and excited and raring to go. Naturally, they take a dim view of it when I try to pass a woods job off as a “hike,” and on this you can kind of see their point.
From my perspective, though, after a morning of serious labor I’m not always up for a dog-worthy expedition in the afternoon. The animals tend to be superior negotiators, but one way I can semi-hoodwink them is to take them upon a trail they haven’t seen or smelled before, the route making up in newness what it lacks in distance.
All this is to explain how we wound up on Champlain Area Trails’ Wildway Passage loop trail, a mellow but novel route that would satisfy both human and canine,
Wildway Passage (not to be confused with the Wildway Overlook up South Boquet Mountain,) is part of a protected wildlife corridor that connects Lake Champlain with the High Peaks for migratory purposes.
If feeling ambitious, a hiker can park at the Split Rock Mountain parking lot on Lake Shore Road and cross the road to access Flying Squirrel Trail, which connects with the Split Rock Preserve loop for an attractive four-mile (give or take) jaunt. Flying Squirrel has more drama to it, passing beneath some high cliffs and along a classic ADK brook that’s worth a little side trip off the trail to visit in more detail.
To reach the Wildway Passage trailhead, turn on the dirt Angier Hill Road south of the Split Rock Mountain trailhead, and drive less than a mile to the trailhead on the right. The loop is wedged between the acute angle formed by Lake Shore and Angier Hill roads, and there it hides tucked away between the far more popular Split Rock and Coon Mountain trails.
And when I saw “far more,” I mean it.
The trail register indicated that it had been three weeks since anyone had hiked the trail — or probably more accurately that it had been three weeks since anyone had signed the trail register.
I had hiked this maybe six or seven years ago when logging damage was more fresh, and in truth had not been that impressed. So it was striking how much scarring can be mitigated in such a relatively short amount of time. Rough edges have been smoothed as nature reclaims the scene, leaving an interesting and charming 1.6-mile trail through mixed woods.
We hiked the loop counterclockwise, through hemlocks on a tread of soft bronze needles down to a small stream. At half a mile it parallels Lake Shore Road for a spell before climbing a small knoll at 0.75 miles that has something of a winter-only overlook to the northwest.
There are a few little ups and downs but nothing severe — total elevation gain is less than 200 feet. At 1.2 miles you’ll come to the junction with the Flying Squirrel trail and the ruins of an old sugar shack.
Sugar shacks being of no particular interest to a dog, they were soon reminding us that it was time to move on. The trail joins a pretty old woods road before climbing back to the trailhead. The whole effort took only 45 minutes, but if the goals are to walk a pleasant, easy trail, enjoy some solitude and perhaps put one over on your dog, Wildway Passage checks all the boxes.
As a nonprofit, we rely on the support of readers like you.
Join the community of people helping to power our independent,