Wilcox Lake Wild Forest is located in the southeastern area of the Adirondack Park and is made up of approximately 125,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve lands in Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga and Warren counties.
The DEC managed Wild Forest unit offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking to the fire towers on Hadley Mountain and Spruce Mountain, camping on Wilcox Lake, and ice fishing on Garnet Lake. The area includes 92 miles of marked trails, four lean-tos, 63 primitive campsites, and multiple parking areas.
Hiking – The primary trail network creates large loops and connects nearby communities via trail and town road, while retaining a large forest interior (greater than 26,000 acres) that does not contain formal trails. There are 34 named trails on the property, the most popular of which are those leading to the fire tower on Hadley Mountain and to the summit of Crane Mountain.
Fire Towers – There are two fire towers located within the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: one on Hadley Mountain and one on Spruce Mountain.
The trail to the Hadley Mountain fire tower is 1.4 miles long. Hadley Mountain Trail is a very popular hiking trail to an open summit with spectacular views, an historic fire tower and a ranger cabin. It is a fairly steep climb in places but its short distance grants the hiker high reward for the effort, thus making it a family-friendly favorite. There is a washed out, steep section in the middle of the trail that follows the fall line. When wet or icy this section can be difficult to traverse, particularly on the descent.
The trail to the Spruce Mountain fire tower is 1.4 miles long, which includes 0.3 miles on the conservation easement corridor. The first 0.8 miles of trail is on Forest Preserve. The trail then crosses the lands of Saratoga P.L.A.N. and Lyme Timberlands via a cooperative agreement and then back to a small piece of Forest Preserve on which the fire tower sits. The public has access to the tower most of the year, excluding big game hunting season which opens around the third week in October and runs through December 3rd. The summit of Spruce Mountain is forested which requires a climb up the tower for a view.
Camping – Wilcox Lake Wild Forest currently has 63 primitive campsites and four lean-tos. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, or body of water. Respect other campers by keeping noise to a minimum and keeping your site clean. A camping permit is required for all persons camping at one location for more than three consecutive nights or for groups of 10 or more. These are issued by area forest rangers free of charge on a first-come first-served basis.
Snowmobiling – Wilcox Lake Wild Forest currently has approximately 52 miles of trails identified to be maintained as snowmobile trails. These trails are included in volunteer trail maintenance agreements with local snowmobile clubs.
Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing – Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on all hiking trails, however check the list of trails recommended for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to use.
Ice climbing – Crane Mountain and its neighbor Huckleberry Mountain are unique geologic features that stand out against the surrounding landscape. There are steep craggy rock faces that provide numerous climbing routes. Rock and ice climbing is a relatively recent use on these mountains and it is becoming more popular. While there are no formal trails to the cliffs, numerous popular climbing routes do exist and herd paths to them have become established.
For a map of Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, click here.
Featured Areas are recommended by DEC. Photo of Wilcox Lake Wild Forest courtesy DEC.