Monday, September 14, 2020

Backpacking the Northville- Placid Trail

The Northville- Placid Trail (NPT) runs 138 miles through the Adirondacks from the town of Northville in the south to Lake Placid in the North.  Despite a nearly 100 year existence, the trail doesn't seem to be as well known or popular as many other trails of its length.  Unlike other longer trails, the NPT doesn't hike over any significant mountains.  It travels through some of the more remote sections of the Adirondacks traversing between numerous backcountry lakes and wild streams.  Throughout its length, the NPT passes through four Wilderness Areas and another four Wild Forests.

I knew of the NPT before I moved to the Adirondacks, however it wasn't that high on my radar.  After moving to the Adirondacks last year, the trail moved higher on my list of future hikes.  The NPT has a fairly short window to hike it under ideal conditions.  The long Adirondack winter combined with the trail's remoteness leaves the trail nearly impassable to all but the most extreme travelers much of the year.  Since the trail travels close to water in lower elevations, mud and wet conditions leave the trail less than ideal in spring and early summer.  Black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, and other insects can make for an unpleasant hike through midsummer.  I planned a fall hike of the NPT last year.  Unfortunately, I waited too late in the season and my window of opportunity closed.

With summer winding down, I decided to attempt the NPT beginning in early September.  I planned for a 7 day trip.  On the morning of Tuesday, September 1st, Puma drove me the two hours to Northville.  The forecast seemed relatively promising for a week long trip.  My starting day forecasted sunshine with increasing clouds at night and a showery 2nd day.  Unfortunately the forecasted sun failed to appear and nearly continuous showers fell throughout the morning. 

Day 1
Northville- Rock Lake
22.38 Miles

I wanted to eat before my hike.  To provide a last minute pre-hike calorie boost, I decided to eat the better part of a pizza and a Boston Cream donut before the hike.  Surprisingly this held me over until my dinner at 7PM.  The trail's official start is across the street from the Stewart's where I had the pizza.  After saying goodbye to Puma, I began my hike about 1045AM.

Pre-hike fuel

The trail begins at an arch in the middle of Northville.  Fortunately, the rain at least temporarily stopped.  The route travels through town before turning onto quieter roads.  The first 3.5 miles of the trail follow paved roads before turning into the forest.  The road walk, for the most part, sees little traffic after leaving town.  The trail originally followed an additional 7 miles of road, however, new trail eliminated most of this.  During the road walk I saw a flock of turkeys and a red eft (juvenile eastern newt) along the road.  The rain held off for about 45 minutes before a light drizzle started.  

Mile 0

138 miles according to the guide

Crossing the Sacandaga River

Great Sacandaga Lake

Red Eft

End of the road walking

The trail travels through the Shaker River Wild Forest after leaving the road.  The NPT has a reputation as a flat trail.  While this is somewhat true compared to more mountainous trails, the trail tends to continuously roll over small hills.  This is the case from the beginning of the walk in the forest.  As I hiked, the rain never picked up and maintained a steady mist and occasional light drizzle.  The trees seemed to keep much of the moisture off of me, however, the day was foggy and grey with the feel of perpetual twilight.  The trail continued as a pleasant woods walk with not much to see in the first day.  I passed the first lake of the day in the mist, Mud Pond.  The trail hikes along its shore.  Perhaps the most interesting feature on the first leg of the hike is West Stony Creek.  In late summer the 90 foot creek becomes a rock bed that can easily be step stoned across without getting wet feet.

Chicken of the Woods

Mud Lake
Mud Lake

More Chicken of the woods

Ford of West Stony Creek

 West Stony Creek

Almost looks like orange cauliflower

Trail passing between two glacial erratics

Despite the mist and occasional light rain, I managed to stay dry for the most part.  Around mile 19, the trail rejoins the original path of the trail.  This section of trail featured denser vegetation that rubbed against my legs as I hiked.  I managed to keep my feet dry.  Despite the later start, I ended the day hiking 22 miles, reaching Rock Lake around 7PM.

Arriving at Rock Lake, another group consisting of a couple with a dog and toddler, had set up camp.  I set up camp and ate for the first time since my gorging before the hike without getting too wet in the light drizzle.  The drops falling from the trees were worse than the actual drizzle.   I slept well.  At one point in the night I heard a barred owl calling.  Rain and drops falling from the trees occasional woke me up.

Fog and mist over Rock Lake

Day 2
Rock Lake- Fall Stream
22.84 Miles

I woke up to  a light rain.  I packed as quickly as I could.  My tent fly was quite wet and heavy from the rain.  As I was packing my Camelbak seemed light. I picked it up and sure enough water spilled from it.  It appeared a rodent may have chewed it.  This isn't the first time I had a rodent chew it but it had been over 10 years when a snowshoe hare chewed on the hose on another trip.  I was down to just my liter bottle for water, but fortunately the NPT has no shortage of water.  I went to the lake to filter more water and accidentally spilled the bottle I just filled.  It didn't look like this day was off to a great start.  One bright side, while filtering water, dozens of newts swam in the lake right in front of me.   

I began hiking for the day around 730AM.  The vegetation was tight along the trail and rubbed against my legs continuously.  My dry shoes and socks quickly became wet from the wet foliage. I didn't particularly enjoy the hiking in the damp conditions.  The best case, I traveled in mist, at the worst, the rain was steady.  The mist made for some interesting scenery over the numerous lakes.  The trail never seemed too muddy despite the rain.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the bog bridges, which were so slippery that it felt like walking on ice.

Waterfall just off the trail

Into the mist

Gloomy morning

Dense fog on Meco Lake

Silver Lake Lean to

Very slick bog bridges

Brook flowing in a meadow

About 11 miles into the day, the trail reaches ruins at an old settlement called Whitehouse.  The trail crosses the West Branch Sacandaga River over the first of many suspension bridges on the trail.  By the time I reached Whitehouse, the rain temporarily stopped and the sun almost peeked through the clouds.  Unfortunately it was short lived and about an hour later the drizzle continued.

Suspension bridge over W. Branch Sacandaga R.

W. Branch Sacandaga River

Old chimney at former settlement of Whitehouse

Easy trail

Around the 40 Mile mark the trail leaves the forest and travels through the town of Piseco.  For travelers hoping to lighten their packs, Piseco has a post office that the NPT passes directly by for a resupply.  Otherwise Piseco doesn't have too much else for supplies.  I decided against using resupplies on this hike and carried enough food for the entire trip from the beginning.  I used the opportunity to call Puma to let her know of my location and that I was still alive.  I don't think I was very pleasant to talk to however after hiking through the rain the past two days.

Looks fresh, found this not long
 after Whitehouse on the trail

Rickety suspension bridge

A nice campsite with picnic tables sits at the edge of Piseco.  In the rain, I didn't want to stop, and continued another 4 miles to Fall Stream.  Fall Stream features a beautiful campsite.  Unfortunately it was difficult to enjoy with everything saturated.  I went about my camp chores and ate quickly before retiring to my tent around 7PM.  I fell asleep quickly.

Not long after dosing off, I was awakened by a heavy downpour at 730PM.  This seemed to continue until at least 1030PM.  Shortly after midnight I woke up again and saw the moon glowing on my tent.  By now it looked to be clear skies.  However, the wet trees dripped through the night, sounding like rain.


Day 3
Fall Stream- Cedar River Flow
24.61 Miles

By morning, the dripping trees let up and the sky was actually clear with sunshine.  Everything was quite clammy from the condensation in my tent.  My soaked tent fly felt like it weighed an extra few pounds.  Mud splashed onto the fly from the heavy rain.  At least the rain had stopped.  I lowered my food from its bear hang first thing after waking up.  I discovered a tiny hole.  I opened it and found another bag with a hole with most of my gorp missing, but nothing else.  The bear hang was text book with at least 12 feet of clearance above the ground and below the branch with another 15 or more feet from the trunk.  I'm assuming it was a flying squirrel given the way it was hung and it happened over night.   I began hiking around 720AM.

Despite the sunshine, everything in the forest was still quite saturated.  Although the mud wasn't unbearable, the wet vegetation made the hiking unpleasant. Foliage often crowded the trail and passing through it was unavoidable, leaving me soaked from the waist down including my feet.  Luckily by early afternoon the vegetation began to dry.

Rocky trail

Easy ford of Jessup River

Jessup River

Fresh mud after the rain

Bog bridge through worst of the mud

Witch Hobble often crowds the trail leaving you soaked

The NPT travels through the remote West Canada Lakes Wilderness in this section.  The West Canada Lakes Wilderness features numerous ponds and lakes.  The trail often passes along the shores of the lakes and crosses many streams.  The Wilderness also passes through many boggy areas.  This part of the Adirondacks offers good habitat for the rare Adirondack moose.  I didn't see any moose, but there were plenty of signs.  Perhaps the biggest downfall to hiking this section after the rain is the frequent bog bridges.  After the rain they were incredibly slippery.  I definitely enjoyed the many bodies of water.  As with the first two days, red efts appeared frequently on the trail, enjoying the wet forest.

Many fungi along the trail

Moose on the loose

One of many red efts

Sampson Bog

Waterfall on Sampson Bog Outlet

West Canada Creek

West Canada Creek

South Lake
South Lake Outlet

Looking into a meadow

The lakes are endless in the West
Canada Lakes Wilderness

Wild overgrown stream

Nearly constant bodies of water

Beaver Pond


The lake with the mergansers

First Cedar Lake

First Cedar Lake

Old ruins

Near First Cedar Lake Lean to

Cedar Lakes Dam

The trail leaves the densest concentration of lakes after Cedar Lakes Dam.  The NPT follows close to the Cedar River for a while, sometimes right on its banks.  Other times the NPT climbed steeply away from the river to avoid blowdowns only to drop right back to it.

Trail along Cedar River

Cedar River

Nice trail

Just shy of Mile 70, the trail passes a junction for Carry Lean to.  Just beyond this junction, the trail ends abruptly at a watery mess.  Beavers flooded the trail.  I knew of this damage prior to the hike.  I carried Crocs with me for this situation.  I switched over to my Crocs and trudged through the muck.  The flooding covered maybe a hundred yards of trail and at its deepest came up to just below my knee.  The footing was rather mucky.  After crossing I dried my feet and switched back to my hiking shoes.  

The NPT flooded by beavers

Mucky walk, thankful for Crocs

About 3/4 of the way to my knees in here

After the beaver flooding, I planned another 2 miles of hiking to the Cedar River Flow tent site.  Even after hiking close to 25 miles, I arrived at the tent site not long after  5PM.  I couldn't have asked for a better place to camp.  Just before I arrived, I could hear loons calling.  The tent site sits right on the shore of the lake.  I could see two beavers working around their lodge.  They slapped their tails at me many times if I came to shore.  The sky was clear with a light breeze.  Since I had several hours of daylight, I was able to set out and dry all my gear, including the saturated tent fly.  The view across the lake looked at several mountains and was a great place to spend the evening  Best of all, I had it to myself. 


Closer look at the beaver

Cedar River Flow

My only complaint with the camping at the Cedar River Flow would be the water for drinking.  Since the water was stagnant and there were several groups of beavers, I was extra cautious with the water for drinking.  The stagnant water managed to clog my filter pretty good.  With the water came a few mosquitoes, but they didn't really come out until dark and weren't too bad.

Cedar River Flow

My home for the night by Cedar River Flow

Through the night, numerous wildlife sounds entertained me.  I heard an occasional loon call.  At one point a flock of geese landed with honking enthusiasm.  Perhaps most interesting was the constant beaver tail slap coming from both sides of my tent from what seemed to be two separate beaver families.  The moon provided a nice show as well as it reflected on the water at night.

Moon with double reflection

Day 4
Cedar River Flow- Salmon River
21.29 Miles

Waking up at Cedar River Flow was even prettier than the night before.  The early morning skies painted quite a picture with the sun to the east and pretty cloud formations reflecting on the lake.  Despite scrubbing the cartridge numerous times, my filter still trickled water through it.  The filtering delay kept me in camp a little longer than I expected but I was on the move around 720AM

Not a bad place to wake up

Morning on Cedar River Flow

Nice reflections


Payne Brook

Not long after leaving my campsite, the NPT joined the quiet Cedar River Road.  The dirt road travels deep into the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.  The road soon entered a road accessed camping area at Wakely Dam.  Despite numerous car camping sites, not much was happening in the 8AM hour and I didn't see another person stirring.  After a couple miles on the quiet dirt road, the NPT leaves the road.  The trail follows an old woods road that eventually fades into a foot path again.

Hiking along Cedar River Road

Wakely Pond

The trail was generally well marked

The trail climbed gradually over undulating terrain through a mostly hardwood forest. The forest looked similar to the trails in Pennsylvania more so than the Adirondacks. I covered about 12 miles before taking my fist real break of the day at Stephens Pond Lean to.  Loons called from the pond while chipmunks showed a little too much comfort with people at the lean to. 

Hiking through open hardwoods

Garage sized glacial erratic

Fungus on a log

Stephens Pond

From the lean to, the trail descended most of the next couple miles toward Lake Durant.  A formal campground is located at Lake Durant complete with showers and water spigots.  Not liking the prospect of filtering a liter of water in ten minutes due to my clogged filter, I was happy to use the spigot for water.  I wasn't happy that the water had a strong sulfur taste.  I didn't use the pay shower facility, but I was happy to wash my hands with hot, soapy water for the first time in days.  

Blue Mountain over Lake Durant

The NPT crosses routes 28 and 30 at Lake Durant.  Beyond the road crossing the trail climbs gradually over long stretches utilizing bog bridges frequently.  The trail passes through recently logged stretches with what appear to be active logging roads.   

Long stretch of bog bridges

The NPT soon reaches one of its nicest locations, Tirrell Pond.  Tirrell Pond sits relatively far from any roads.  Several mountain sit along its shore.  Most impressive is Tirrell Mountain, which rises directly from the water and features a large, bare cliff on its side.  While I enjoyed the pond, a pair of loons swam by.  Two lean tos and a couple campsites sit close to the pond.  While it would have made a great place to camp, I wasn't ready to stop for the day.  

Tirrell Pond

Tirrell Mountain

Tirrell Pond

Tirrell Mountain

Looking south over Tirrell Pond

Going by my guide, there was only one place listed to camp beyond Tirrell Pond without climbing the NPT's high point.  This campsite would be my home for the night.  The NPT followed a quiet, dirt road for about .4 miles where the trail crosses the Salmon River on a bridge.  The guide listed the campsite as unofficial, however, the spot is now marked and official.  I didn't know what to expect of the spot since it was by the road.  The road, while private and secluded, was a fairly well maintained dirt road.  The campsite was on public land in the Wild Forest  I'm guessing its main traffic might be logging vehicles.  I reached the road around 430PM for my earliest stopping point on the trip  I only saw one ATV go by on the road, otherwise it was quiet.  The quick moving and rocky Salmon River babbled loudly, making a nice soundtrack to sleep by.

Trail in coniferous forest

Campsite along Salmon River

Salmon River

Gourmet Ramen dinner 

Since I had several hours of daylight and was finished hiking for the night, I decided to focus on my water filter.  Since the stagnant water of the Cedar River Flow seemed to clog the filter to a trickle, I attempted to clean the filter cartridge.  After nearly a half hour of scrubbing, I seemed to clean it and restored it to normal flow. The rest of the evening I was entertained by a chipmunk that scurried around the campsite for a couple hours. By this point I had covered 93 miles in four days.  It was clear I could easily finish the trail in six days rather than the seven planned.

Day 5
Salmon River- Ouluska Lean to
25.77 Miles

Leaving the Salmon River, the NPT begins its climb to the highest point of the trail.  The NPT climbs somewhat steeply gaining about 1,200 vertical feet to an elevation of 3,008'.  The climb itself is anticlimactic.   From the elevation, there is nothing to see but trees.  If nothing else, your effort is rewarded with a four mile descent and more than 2,000 vertical feet to the crossing of Route 28N.  There are nice views from meadows before the climb.

Overgrown trail, thankfully not wet

Passing through a meadow

Moon over the meadow

Long bog bridge

Many hikers choose to travel into the village of Long Lake, about 1.5 miles west at the road crossing for a resupply.  I did not.  From the road, the NPT follows paved Tarbell Road for less than a mile to access the next section of Wilderness.  Although not difficult, the travel on Tarbell Road is surprisingly steep.  I might even say it's one of the longest and steepest climbs on the entire NPT.  I may be exaggerating, but it was steeper than expected.

Exiting Tarbell Road, the NPT reenters the forest and the High Peaks Wilderness, which it travels through the remainder of the hike for the next 35 miles. The hike in the Wilderness starts along Long Lake. Long Lake is the largest body of water along the NPT.  

Unfortunately there is a fair amount of development along the lake.  I hiked this stretch on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, so it was particularly busy.  Motor boats could be heard much of the time along the lake.  The trail often stays away from the lake to avoid sections of private property.  From the lake, structures are often visible on the opposite shore.  The lean tos along the lake also serve boats.  The two lean tos at Kelly's Point were bustling with activity with well-supplied groups that boated to them and had gear strewn about.     

Despite the development, the area is not without its beauty.  Low mountains rise from the lake at places.  The further the trail hiked away from the village, fewer structures were visible.  The lake is rather large and pretty  On another day without the holiday traffic, I'm sure the lake would be much more peaceful.  

First look at Long Lake

Trail along Long Lake

Long Lake

Leaving the lake, the NPT travels into more remote terrain.  I was actually surprised to see a group of 6 or 7 younger guys in this area at least a dozen miles from the nearest road and none of them had a pack of any kind as far as I could tell.  The hike remains fairly uneventful until reaching the Cold River.

Neat fungi



Crossing boggy area

Bridge over Moose Creek

Moose Creek

Upon reaching the Cold River, I was in familiar territory.  Earlier this year, in May, I did an overnight trip that traveled along the river.  The Cold River lies deep in the wilderness and looks like a wild river. The river features several interesting sections of rapids and some small waterfalls.  I stopped several times as I walked along the river.  At times the trail walks within a few feet of its banks. 

Cold River

Small drop on  the Cold River

Mellow section of  the Cold River

View in narrow part of the river 

Rocky part of the river

Big Eddy from above

Rough section of river

Overgrown trail near Cold River

Miller's Falls with low water volume

Miller's Falls

Miller's Falls taken from mid river

The Cold River is bony late summer

Seward Lean to

I would have liked swimming in the river, but it was fairly chilly.  I don't think the temperature was much higher than the mid 60s.  Most of the afternoon was cloudy.  I didn't want to chill myself.  I also noticed that the river was much more turbulent when I passed through in early May when the snowmelt caused much higher water levels

Rocky section of river

Nice view upstream

I decided to make the Ouluska Lean to my home for the night.  When I arrived at the lean to, there were already two other groups there.  A pair of women occupied the shelter and another hiker was tenting just south of the lean to.  I set up my tent between the lean to and Seward Creek, less than 100 yards south of the shelter.  By the end of the night, two other groups set up tents in the area.  Other than the first night, this was the only other time I didn't camp alone.

There was a fire in the pit in front of the lean-to and several of us talked for a couple hours by the fire.  It was nice to have company for the night.  It was also the first night I wasn't in my tent by 8PM.  The first couple nights were cloudy or rainy on my hike, and the previous nights had a bright moon.  On this night you could see the sky clearly.  Deep in the wilderness, miles from any civilizations, the stars were quite impressive.  Perhaps my tent site selection was the best part of all.  I was between the Cold River and Seward Brook.  I could hear both bodies of water on either side of me.  I had tumbling waters in stereo for the night.

Day 6
Ouluska Lean to- Lake Placid
19.47 Miles

My last day, I was on the trail around 715AM.  I quickly reached the Rondeau Hermitage.  At this site, Noah John Rondeau lived alone off the land, mostly away from civilization, in this area for roughly 30 years through 1950.  His life has been the topic of several books and his story is quite interesting.  Other than a few rusty implements and a sign, not much remains and the forest has reclaimed the land that he once cleared.  I recommend reading some of the books about him, especially if you are hiking this area yourself, enjoy Adirondack lore,or just enjoy stories of real life eccentrics.

Remnants from Rondeau's

Site of Rondeau's

A fat toad

Beyond Rondeau's, I hiked familiar terrain a few more miles before heading toward Duck Hole.  I soon reached the Cold River Lean tos.  Although its not uncommon for guide books and signage to vary some, I came across two signs with great discrepancy within a half-mile of each other.  Take a look below at the Averyville Road distance, the northern trailhead of the NPT.  The distance somehow becomes nearly 3.5 miles further after already traveling several tenths of a mile.  The 15.2 mile distance was closer to reality.

Nice fungus

Mellow trail

Mountain Pond

Muddy section of corduroy

See sign in photo below

These two signs were less than a half-mile apart,
 the numbers for Averyville (trail's end)
 are more than slightly off

Moose Creek

Not long after the contradicting signs, the trail reaches Duck Hole.  Duck Hole was once a lake formed by a dam.  In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused the dam to fail and drained the lake. Now all that remains is the ruins of the dam.  Despite the lake no longer existing, the meadow and stream at Duck Hole still make a scenic spot for a break and are worth checking out. Several lean tos stand within a mile or so of the area.

Duck Hole

Dam remnants at Duck Hole

From Duck Hole, the NPT heads north following a nice mountain creek.  I thought the next several miles up to Moose Pond were some of the worst conditions of the NPT.  The trail was frequently muddy and rough.  Even though several days passed since a steady rain, it may have been the muddiest part of my hike.  The trail follows attractive streams in this stretch with several nice meadow views. 

Trailside water

Small mountain reflecting in a stream

Water levels are low late summer

Peak rising above a creek

Starting near Moose Pond Lean to (the last northbound lean to), the NPT hikes by a handful of streams with small waterfalls.  The falls are not on the map so they are a pleasant surprise  A couple of them required short bushwhacks to get a better look, but the effort was worth it.

Small waterfall

Scenic small waterfall

A nice waterfall along the trail

Another waterfall requiring bushwhack
 to see just off the trail


Beyond the smaller waterfalls comes the main attraction.  Unlike the other falls, Wanika Falls is shown in the guide and maps and is well known.  A short access trail leads to the top of the two main drops but provides only spotty views of the main plunges.  To get a better view of the main drops, I bushwhacked down the steep banks to their bases.  The total drop of the falls is listed at 150, feet with the upper drop falling further.  As a disclaimer, I don't recommend downclimbing to the bases of the two main drops.  The terrain is extremely steep and the footing not very solid.  It may be easier following the Chubb River upstream to the lower falls.  About a half- mile below Wanika Falls, the NPT crosses the Chubb River on  a bridge.  Just below the bridge is one last small waterfall.

While I was above the falls on the side trail, I took the time to strip down and wash some of the trail funk off my body.  The water was quite chilling but refreshing.  I hadn't showered since Monday night, and it was now Sunday.  It's not the same as a shower, but I felt cleaner.  There is also a nice campsite above the falls.

Upper drop of Wanika Falls

Another shot up upper drop

Upper and lower drop of Wanika Falls

Lower drop

Unnamed waterfall on Chubb River

After crossing the Chubb River, the trail generally descends the next 6 miles as it makes its way to the Averyville Road Trailhead.  Other than the occasional bog or small creek, the scenery is limited the last  several miles.  I started to pass a few groups of hikers as I approached the trailhead over the last mile or so.  I soon reached a formal NPT sign and a trail register before reaching the trailhead.

More fungus


Northern trailhead

Sign at northern trailhead,
guide lists distance at 138 miles

The Averyville Road Trailhead ends the trail portion of the NPT and often marks the end of a northbound journey, 136 miles from the Northville terminus.  Puma was due to pick me up after work.  She likely wouldn't reach Lake Placid until 6PM.  Since I had nearly two hours until then, I continued hiking.  I followed the road just under two miles to the former Lake Placid train station.  The train station stands as the traditional northern terminus of the NPT.  The trail guide still includes the train station as part of the hike.  About 430PM on my sixth day of hiking, I finished my hike of NPT.  By the trail guide's measurements, the NPT from the arch in Northville to the train station in Lake Placid covers 138.36 miles.  With a few side trails, my total hike probably finished around 140 miles.  When Puma arrived to pick me up after my hike, I was happy to see her. I was also glad to see she picked up Chinese food, which went down real easy after six days of trail food.

Former Lake Placid train station and
traditional northern end of NPT

While the NPT lacks the mountainous terrain of other longer hikes, it certainly is not without its charms.  Especially when compared to busier sections of the Adirondacks, the NPT remains a relatively lightly used trail.  It travels through lower elevations and often feels quite remote. I'm glad I had the opportunity to explore this quiet slice of wilderness.  Far reaching vistas may not be common place on the NPT. The trail more than makes up for it with its abundance of remote lakes, streams, and pleasant forests.  

The NPT remains relatively lightly traveled.  While I saw several people everyday, I didn't see many as other parts of the Adirondacks.  The exception was the Saturday over Labor Day Weekend.  Most nights it is likely you will have campsites and lean tos to yourself.  I crossed paths with at least half a dozen other thru hikers over the course of my trip.  Compared to some areas of the Adirondacks, such as the High Peaks, traffic is minimal.  Like most outdoor recreation sites, I heard there is an uptick in traffic on the NPT in 2020 during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The camping opportunities are another strong suit of the NPT in my opinion.  The trail features lean tos that are regularly spaced out along its route.  These lean tos are always located near a lake or stream.  The lean tos are also convenient spots for a lunch break or place to wait out a shower.  Away from the lean tos, plenty of other campsites frequently are found along the trail's length, always near a water body.  I thought the campsites were better situated than the lean tos.  I chose to avoid the lean tos and tented every night.  My last night I tented in the vicinity of a lean to, but never in one.

At over 135 miles, the NPT can be thru hiked in as little as a week, or stretched out for a casual two week trip.  The terrain along the NPT remains fairly gentle throughout with mostly rolling hills and modest elevation changes.  Even hiking the trail as I did in 6 days, I never felt like I was rushing or missed anything.  The miles often passed by quickly without too much effort.  Due to its gentler nature, the NPT would make a great trip for someone looking at their first "big" backpacking trip or a shakedown for a longer thru hike.  As an experienced hiker, I found the trail mostly enjoyable apart from the rainy start and would recommend the trip to anyone looking to experience more remote parts of the Adirondacks. Fans of lakes will certainly find the NPT to be an attractive trail. 

My best advise to anyone wanting to explore the NPT would be to plan the time of your hike carefully if you have the flexibility.  The wet and buggy nature of the trail shouldn't be underestimated. Late August into fall seems to be the sweet spot for this trip.  The bugs are mostly gone and the mud is much less abundant.  Heading into late September would have the added bonus of a colorful foliage hike.  Much of the NPT travels through hardwood forest and scenic leaf peeping country.  Hiking during the peak of the buggy season could certainly make the NPT an unpleasant experience. 

For more photos of the Cold River portion of this trip from my early May backpacking trip, click the link below.  

For planning information visit the Northville- Placid chapter of the ADK at the link below.

If you enjoyed this post, check out and "LIKE" Tomcat's Outdoor Adventures on Facebook where I post photos and revisit past adventures.


  1. Nice post and photos for a vicarious break. Thanks.

  2. Looks like you really enjoyed yourself!

    The "unidentified plant" is witch-hobble (aka hobblebush), the "unidentified lake" appears to be Beaver Pond (looking West from the footbridge).

    1. Thanks for reading and with the identification help.

  3. Really excellent report and photos! Appreciate the detailed description of the terrain and natural features. Felt like I was right there with you.

  4. A lot of great information. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nice report and photos. I just completed an 8 day NOBO back in late August, w/dog. It was a definitely a great experience and I'd do it again. Must have seen a couple hundred of those red efts on the trail.

    1. Thanks for reading. I agree about the red efts. I saw them constantly the first 3 days.

  6. I had planned to do the NPT a couple of years ago...but the sudden death of my wife nixed that idea. I will retire in Oct of 2020 and am thinking about doing it again...but im old, fat and slow. Your blog is very helpful and your pics are simply beautiful. I am living in NJ now caring for my elderly this escape for a week or two would be ideal. Are there shuttle options? Thanks again for the great info! Mark Fugel mfugel @gmail com

    1. If you are on Facebook there is a Northville Placid Trail page. There are frequent discussions of the various shuttles available. Thanks for reading and best of luck.

  7. Awesomely detailed travelogue, as usual. Nice bear print photo too.

  8. Six days. What an amazing way to spend a week. Unfortunately I don't have that much time. Is it possible to cover all that up in 4 days? Thanks in advance from my team.

    1. Hi Moon. We have also been there. Yes you can cover it up. But you'll have to miss some places. It also takes considerable amount of stamina to go on for four days. Wish you good luck.

    2. 4 days would require nearly 35 miles a day yes it can be done but would require a lot of hiking in the dark or some running. Perhaps splitting the trail into sections would be a better option.

    3. I agree with TOMCAT. Better splitting the trail. Hiking in the dark is risky and it will slow down your speed also. So, I would say, better safe than sorry.

  9. Hi. I have a question. Does people hunt there? I've never been to that place, that is why I asked.

    1. Yes people hunt in the vicinity of the trail. Fall hunting seasons are best chance of encountering someone.

  10. I'm late to the party, BUT found your account really helpful, truthful, and inspiring. I'm heading out to walk the NPT in August. I thru-hiked the LT last summer, and for some reason feel more nervous about the NPT. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Thanks for reading. I’m glad you found my write up helpful. If you can handle the LT, the NPT should be physically a piece of cake. The biggest challenges are wet trail on the NPT and bugs since it’s a low trail near a lot of water. I would bring maybe two more pairs of socks than you normally backpack with. So far it’s been a wet summer. Have a great trip and feel free to send any last minute questions my way through the contact me page. Happy Trails.

    1. Thanks for the reply :) I do have a questions about shoes. Hiking the LT I opted for 'waterproof' -- of course they still got wet and took long to dry. I'm leaning towards shoes that aren't waterproof for the NPT. It seems inevitable that my feet will be wet so with non-waterproof shoes hopefully they'll dry out faster. Do you have thoughts on this? Any feedback will be helpful!

    2. I no longer backpack with waterproof shoes. Like you said your feet inevitably wet out and the dry out time is longer. I still use Waterproof shoes on day hikes depending on the hike since It can keep your feet drier longer and if they wet out I can make it through one day. Most long distance thru hikers use this methodology as well. I personally prefer trail runners and recommend them if you have good ankles and not a real heavy load. My most recent backpacking trip my feet were soaked, on the next dry day, I changed socks and my trail runners dried out pretty quickly while my socks air dried hanging off my pack. The NPT is docile compared to the LT for terrain and I think heavy boots are overkill unless you have weak ankles or a heavy load. In the end my best recommendation is wear what’s comfortable and works for you though.

  12. Hi, Thanks for thie info. I have an unusual question: do you know if there is a shorter way to get to the suspension bridge? My group won't be able to make this entire hike but I wanted to get them that far. I found a map that said the trailhead to the bridge is 2.5miles but on Google Maps I was able to find West River Road really close to the bridge. Just unsure if the trail goes that way (or is easily accessible).

    Bridge-lover Sandy

    1. Thanks for visiting my website. Which bridge are you referring to? There are several along the NPT. The West Branch of the Sacandaga? Let me know which you are referring to and I’ll try to answer your question to help you out. Sorry for the delayed response, I was camping the past week with minimal online access.

  13. I enjoyed reading your blog about backpacking the Northville-Placid Trail. It sounds like a wonderful adventure in the Adirondacks. I liked how you described the scenery, the wildlife, the challenges, and the rewards of hiking this trail. I also appreciated the tips and advice that you gave for planning and preparing for this hike. You inspired me to add this trail to my bucket list.

    I also want to share with you a website that I found very useful and informative for hiking and hunting. It is called Talon Gear. It is an online store that offers a wide range of products for night vision, thermal scopes, pursuit gear, and more. You will find some great products and information there.

    Thank you for sharing your blog. I hope you have more amazing adventures in the future. 😊