Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Tupper Lake Triad

Peak bagging is a style of hiking that usually involves a list of peaks.  A peak bagger’s goal is to climb all the peaks on the list.  The saying goes, as you knock off a peak on the list, it’s another peak in the bag. 

Many mountainous regions have these lists.  Some of the more popular lists in the places I have lived are the New Hampshire 48, New England 100 Highest, Adirondack 46ers, and the Colorado 14ers.  While the above lists can be quite difficult and sometimes take the average hiker years to finish, there are also easier lists out there that the less serious hiker can achieve.

One such  hiking challenge is the Tupper Lake Triad.  The challenge consists of climbing three peaks in the immediate vicinity of the Adirondack town of Tupper Lake.  The Tupper Lake Triad seems to be geared toward families.  The roundtrip distances of the three peaks range from only 2-3.4 miles, making them obtainable by almost anyone.  Anyone that climbs all three peaks can submit their accomplishment and receive a patch. Normally, I wouldn’t have thought too much about such a challenge.  I now make Tupper Lake my home, however, and thought it would be nice to visit these local hikes.

While the J Man was visiting, we hiked two days in a row, including a pretty tough hike the first day.  Our second hike, while short, involved a fairly rugged mountain.  With another nice day forecasted, we decided to hit the trails for a third day.  We weren’t looking for anything too strenuous, just some time in the forest without too much travel.  The Tupper Lake Triad fit the bill.  While it isn’t necessary to climb all three peaks in one day, climbing all three requires less than 8 miles of hiking, so we just hit them all in one day.  My dog, Choya, went along with us.

Coney Mountain

We decided to hit Coney Mountain first.  This is the southern most of the three Triad peaks, about ten miles south of town.  The trailhead is reached immediately before the county line when heading south from Tupper Lake.  The hike never gets too difficult and the grade stays fairly gentle as it travels through a pleasant forest.


South end of Tupper Lake and the other Triad Peaks to the north

Gentler terrain to the west and south

Looking toward the High Peak

After 1.1 miles of gradual climbing, you reach the 2,265-foot summit.  The summit offers 360-degree views from its bare top.  The southern end of Tupper Lake pokes out just to the north and Little Tupper Lake to the southwest.  The High Peaks dominate the eastern views.  Mt Morris stands prominently a few miles to the north.  After enjoying the summit views, return another 1.1 easy downhill miles to the trailhead.

Forest just below the open summit

Mount Morris

Choya always enjoys a summit

Pink Lady Slipper around the summit

Goodman Mountain

Goodman Mountain’s trailhead is just past the southern point of Tupper Lake and just north of Coney’s trailhead.  The turnoff has a sign for the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest that is more obvious then the sign for the peak.  The trailhead features a kiosk telling the story of Andrew Goodman, the peak’s namesake.

Despite less dramatic views from Goodman, the summit was still nice and open

At 3.4 miles roundtrip, Goodman is the longest of the Triad summits.  It is also the lowest in elevation at 2,178 feet.  The trail starts on an old road before turning onto an actual trail.  The climbing never gets too steep.  The trail stayed relatively dry for majority of its length. Unlike Coney’s 360-degree views, Goodman’s views are somewhat limited to mostly the south and west.

Choya enjoying a moment on the summit

Despite its slightly longer length, Goodman isn’t any more difficult than Coney.  My biggest problem with Goodman was the constant barrage of mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes were pesky the entire time in the woods.  At the summit, the mosquitoes let up and the black flies took over.  Bug spray and a head net are recommended during the season.

Mostly wooded views from Goodman

Mt Arab

Unlike the other two mountains of the Triad to the south of town, Mt Arab stands to the west of Tupper Lake.  At 2,545 feet, Mt Arab is the highest of the three peaks.  Despite the higher elevation, the hike travels only two miles round trip, making it the shortest of the three hikes.  Heading west on Route 3 from Tupper Lake, the route to the trailhead is well marked.

From the large parking lot, the trail begins on the opposite side of the road.  The trail climbs consistently from the onset, but the grade stays mellow throughout.  Since the summit is reached in a mile, the climb goes by quickly.  As you approach the summit, several trails branch out.  The main trail is marked, however, they all lead to the summit.

Stairs along the trail

Whiteface in the distance over Tupper Lake Village

Unlike the other two peaks of the Triad, Mt Arab’s summit is completely wooded.  A lookout tower stands on the summit however.  The tower has remained open and hikers are allowed access to the viewing platform.  The old observer’s cabin sits on the summit next to the tower.  A group called the Friends of Mt Arab maintains the area.  A few volunteers from the group man the summit in the busy hiking season.  Hikers can enter the cabin as well which appeared to have some displays and possibly some items for sale to support the group.  (I didn’t go inside since I had my dog with me)

The south end of Tupper Lake

Mt Arab and Eagle Lakes

From the top of the tower, the 360-degree views are quite impressive.  Lower elevation forests are broken by the occasional small hill in the western half of the view.  Several lakes dot the landscape, most notably Tupper Lake and its northern extension Raquette Pond to the east.  The Village of Tupper Lake can easily be seen with its numerous smoke stacks plainly visible.  Beyond Tupper Lake, the High Peaks rise in the background.  Small children or anyone not keen about heights may not enjoy climbing the tower

View over endless forest

After enjoying the summit, the route returns on the same trail.  If you follow the markings from the cabin, there is a short spur that rejoins the main trail in a few feet.  This spur takes you to an open rock outcropping with a bench.  The spur doesn’t add any distance.

Raquette Pond and Tupper Lake Village

While it’s not likely that the Tupper Lake Triad will be a hiking destination on its own, these three small peaks are worth visiting if you are in the area.  The Triad would be a great place to introduce someone to hiking as well.  The peaks shouldn’t be a problem for most people.  The distance to reach any of the summits stays manageable.  A new hiker, especially a kid, might like the added motivation of receiving a patch for achieving the goal of hiking all three summits.  For a little variation, climb the Triad peaks in winter and receive a second winter patch.

Even as a seasoned hiker, I enjoyed the time in the woods on these short hikes.  These hikes would be a great early or late season outing.  The lower elevations will have a slightly longer hiking season than the higher mountains of the Adirondacks.  All three trails were generally mud free compared the higher mountains we climbed previous days. Since the trails travel through predominantly hardwood forests, they would make nice foliage hikes in the fall. 

I will add that our late May hiking coincided with black fly season.  The summits off all three mountains had a resident colony of black flies that kept you swatting.  As I mentioned, Goodman’s trail had a persistent buzz of mosquitoes that found more than one meal on my behalf.  Prepare as necessary for a bug season outing.

Of the three Triad peaks, if you could only visit one, I recommend Mt Arab.  The views from the tower were the best of the three hikes.  I also enjoyed the view into the Village of Tupper Lake since I now live there and could see my neighborhood.  I would place Coney as a close second, since the summit still offered 360-degree views.  Goodman, while still offering a partial view, didn’t have as extensive views of the other two peaks.

Someone seeking the Adirondack 46ers list probably won’t make the trip to Tupper Lake, specifically to hike the Triad.  If you are passing through visiting the area and have a little time, check out one or all of the three peaks for some short, but worthwhile, time in nature

For more information about the Tupper Lake Triad, click on the below link.
Tupper Lake Triad

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