Monday, June 21, 2021

The Crows, Hurricane, and Nun-da-ga-o Ridge

A few months have passed since my last new blog post. A minor crosscountry skiing mishap in early March led to a slight injury to my ankle. With only minor discomfort, I continued to run daily and hike. This led to an overuse injury in the ankle tendons. With increased swelling and discomfort, I took a break from most activity. I managed to roll the weakened ankle several times during my recovery further antagonizing the original injury. Eventually the injury required a trip to the doctor and physical therapy with nearly two full months of limited activity. Finally by early June, my ankle has recovered enough to take on light runs and hikes.

I tested my ankle on a couple of easier hikes with good results before trying a more ambitious outing. I was looking for a moderate hike with good distance that didn't put me too far into the backcountry in case I aggravated my ankle. A couple of hikes that have been on my radar for a while and could be combined into a one longer hike fit the bill. 

Big Crow and Hurricane Mountains rise to the east of Keene, NY. Both peaks are on the Lake Placid 9 hiking list; with Hurricane also having a firetower, adding to its appeal. Both mountains are known for  good scenery. The peaks also share a common trailhead. A lesser visited loop called the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge also starts at the same trailhead. Linking the three destinations allows for a 11 mile route with decent elevation changes and great scenery.

With perfect late spring weather forecasted, I headed to the Crow Clearing trailhead in Keene on Wednesday, June 16th. My dog and frequent hiking partner, Choya, happily came along for the trip. I began hiking about 720AM. My first destination for the day was Big Crow Mountain. Both Big Crow and the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge share a common trail for a half-mile before splitting. Big Crow lies just .2 miles from the split. After a quick .7 miles and nearly 600 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead, I reached the summit of Big Crow. Despite its modest elevation of only 2,815', the open summit provides excellent views. Fog in the valley enhanced the view. The view takes in a good chunk of the High Peaks. 
Trailhead sign

Lingering morning fog

Hurricane Mountain

Big Crow view

I decided to head over to Little Crow Mountain, another half-mile or so beyond Big Crow. I went to the summit, which had only partial views. From what I read, there may be better views on Little Crow from ledges below the summit. After stopping at the high point, I returned back over Big Crow to the start of the Nun-d-ga-o Ridge.

Saddle between Big and Little Crow

The Nun-da-ga-o Ridge first caught my eye on a map.  Its description promises little traffic with plentiful views over numerous open ledges. Although the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge Trail appears on maps and guide books, the trail no longer sees maintenance. Many people report difficulty following the unmarked trail, especially where it crosses bare ledges. If you are wondering about its unusual name, trail builders wanted it to sound like a native name, so they made up a name that sounded native that has no meaning. Some maps so the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge as the Soda Range. 

Start of the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge

First view along the ridge

Traversing a rock slab

Hiking the ridge clockwise, the trail soon reaches its first viewpoint on an open rocky area. Frequent ledges soon followed, each offering a look at the High Peaks across the valley. Occasionally the trail required some easy scrambling as the trail made its way around sections of small cliffs and ledges. The trail never traverses too close to any steep drops. Plenty of roots or rocks to grab kept the scrambling relatively safe. Choya never had any issues negotiating the terrain. 

Ledge along the ridge

A scrambly section

Crossing a large rocky clearing

Choya on a rooty climb

A particularly nice vantage point along the ridge 


Looking over Big Crow

Choya with Lost Pond in background

The Nun-da-ga-o Ridge travels about three miles from the split near Big Crow to Weston Mountain. Heading clockwise, the trail encounters more frequent open sections of bare rock and more views the further you travel. This last mile of the ridge offers plenty of views. The ridge ends at 3,182' Weston Mountain.  Weston offers a particularly nice vista as it looks over Lost Pond. 

Working my way across ledges

Lost Pond

View from Weston

Dix, Nippletop, and Colvin I believe

Although the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge is unmaintained and not marked, most people shouldn't have too much trouble following the trail. A lot of online trip reports mention difficulty following the route where it crosses open rock. I found the route to be pretty straightforward. The dense forest limits wandering off route and the path usually followed the obvious direction. At times the vegetation encroaches the trail, but the tread remains obvious. After heavy rains the day before, the wet vegetation left my clothing a quite wet where I brushed against encroaching branches.

After Weston, the trail drops steeply toward Lost Pond. Along the way it passes a lean-to. Once past the lean-to, a few herd paths lead a short distance to the pond. Hurricane Mountain dominates the view over the south end of the pond.  

Hurricane over Lost Pond

After passing the outlet of the pond, the trail gradually drops a mile and passes another lean-to, before reaching the trail for Hurricane Mountain. If you are not interested in visiting Hurricane Mountain after the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge, continue downhill another mile back to the trailhead. To reach Hurricane, follow the marked trail to reach the summit in two miles.

Despite gaining 1,400 vertical feet, the North Trail to Hurricane climbed gradually most of its route. Only in the last half-mile did it seem to have rough sections. I didn't keep track of time, but I seemed to reach the summit pretty quickly. Near the top, the trail hits some rocky stretches before exiting the forest to the open summit. The firetower comes into view shortly after leaving the trees.

Fire tower coming into view

At just under 3,700', Hurricane Mountain stands as the high point in its namesake Wilderness Area. The summit provides nearly 360-degree views from its bare peak. To capture even better views, climb the fire tower to take in a true 360-degrees with no obstruction. Many of the High Peaks can bee seen from Whiteface to the north, Giant to the south, and the Great Range to the west. Other High Peaks such as Marcy and Algonquin rise in the background. Majority of Lake Champlain comes into view to the east with the spine of the Green Mountains in Vermont stretching as far as the eye can see.

Choya on Hurricane


Great Range,Colvin, and Nippletop

Looking over Champlain

Champlain and Green Mountains

By itself, Hurricane is a relatively short hike compared to most High Peaks, that can be reached from three different trailheads. It's also featured on multiple hiking lists and was even named best hike in New York by Outside Magazine. Expect to have company on Hurricane. Even on a Wednesday morning, I encountered at least a dozen groups. 

Looking north over Nun-da-ga-o

Looking down the west ridge of Hurricane

After a break to enjoy the views and a quick snack for Choya and me, we descended back down the North Trail. We were back at the junction relatively quickly, passing several groups along the way. From the junction, we traveled the last mile back to the trailhead.

Back at the junction below Hurricane

We reached the trailhead about 1245PM. The 11 mile hike took us just under 5 1/2 hours. My last hike anywhere near this difficulty was on March 17th, nearly three months earlier. It was great to get back on the trail for a more challenging hike. Best of all, my ankle was in good shape after the hike, even with nearly 4,000 feet of elevation change of the course of 11 miles.

Dix, Nippletop, Colvin, and Great Range

Although I hiked this as a single trip; the Crows, Nun-da-ga-o Ridge, and Hurricane Mountain can all be hiked by themselves. Any of these trip make a worthwhile destination on their own. Hurricane offers some of the best summit views in the Adirondacks and has a fire tower.  The Crows offer a great bang for your buck. Big Crow can be reached in less than a mile with worthwhile scenery. The Nun-da-ga-o Ridge offers the chance to get away from the crowds on a less-often hiked trail that gives you view after view. 

Closeup of Dix, Nippletop, Colvin,  and Sawteeth

Lost Pond

No shortage of big mountain views

Choya on Hurricane

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