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Hiking in Herkimer County
Hiking in Adirondack Park
Five Ponds Wilderness
Little Otter Pond, Buck Pond,
Cage Lake, Wolf Pond
Sand Lake is located in the 107,230 acre Five Ponds Wilderness. It is a long 13.5 mile hike to reach the very remote lake. On the way you'll pass Little Otter Pond, Buck Pond, Cage Lake and Wolf Pond. There are lean to's at Cage Lake, Wolf Pond and Sand Lake, making this a great multiple day backpacking trip into a extremely remote section of the Adirondacks. This hike starts in St Lawrence County and ends in Herkimer County and features some old growth forest. This is a difficult hike that should not be attempted by novice hikers/backpackers.
The trailhead is located south of the small hamlet of Star Lake, near the end of Youngs Road. There is a small parking area located at the start of what is known as the Boundary Line Trail. There is a DEC sign and Wilderness Area sign located at the parking area. The GPS coordinates are N44 08.027 W75 01.626. Youngs Road is off of NY 3 in the hamlet of Star Lake.
This is a long hike. Do not expect to hike to Sand Lake as a day hike. You will be spending a night in the wilderness, so you will need to be properly prepared before heading out on this adventure. You may not see another human being during your trip. There is no cell service, so do not expect to be able to call for help. This is a 27 mile out and back hike. You will need 2-4 days worth of supplies. Starting from the yellow marked Boundary Line Trail, you immediately enter the Five Ponds Wilderness.
There is a quick climb in the first 0.3 miles of hiking. After 0.6 miles you reach a very rough dirt road known as the Buck Pond Primitive Cooridor. This road is used by the owners of a private parcel on Buck Pond. Turn left and follow the rough dirt road. Don't be suprised to find deep ruts from the vehicle use. At 1.0 miles turn right onto what looks like an old railroad bed. At 2.1 miles the trail passes by Little Otter Pond. At 2.3 miles the trail crosses the outlet of Little Otter Pond. Expect beaver activity in the Little Otter Pond area and you can expect to find the trail flooded by the beaver activity for the next few miles.
The trail crosses the outlet of Little Otter Pond again at 2.8 miles. At 4.5 miles the trail leaves the old railroad bed and turns left. At 6.4 miles, just prior to reaching Buck Pond, the main yellow marked trail turns right as the other trail goes left to the private inholding. The trail passes by the shore of Buck Pond, before turning into a seldom used hiking trail. There is an unmarked trail that you may or may not notice on your left. This is an old trail that once went to Cage Lake Springhole Lean To and on to the High Falls Loop Trail. The trail was abandoned, butt some bushwhacking enthusiests test their skills by heading to the lean to. Only attempt if you are a really good navigator with bushcraft skills.
Your next obstacle is the crossing of Hammer Creek. At about 7.9 miles of hiking you cross into Herkimer County. There are no signs for the county change. The next obstacle is a very boggy section prior to crossing the outlet of Cage Lake. At 8.2 miles you reach the lean to at Cage Lake. A path on the right leads to rocks on the shore of the lake. The main trail continues past the lean to as you are still following yellow markers. At 9.0 miles you'll cross the outlet of Deer Marsh on a small, old footbridge.
At 9.7 miles your reach your next obstacle, the crossing of the outlet of Muir Pond. You'll need to make your best judgement and use whatever is available to cross the stream. At 10.2 miles you reach the next obstacle, the outlet of Wolf Pond. Again you will need to make your best judgement in crossing this stream and use whatever is available. Remember you are a long ways away from civilization and rescue. At 10.6 miles you reach the lean to at Wolf Pond.
At 11.0 miles you reach the junction of the blue marked Sand Lake Trail aka the Five Ponds Trail. To the left leads 4.7 miles to the High Falls Loop Trail, which features the five ponds in which this wilderness is names for and the only bridge over the Oswegatchie River in the wilderness. Turn right at this junction. At 11.4 miles you'll cross a small stream that travels to Wolf Pond. There are some wet spots along this last stretch, but it is the dense forest that really takes your breath away. At 13.5 miles you arrive the lean to just prior to reaching the beach at Sand Lake. This is a really remote location and difficult destination that you just backpacked to.
Signs at parking area off Youngs Road
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