Pharaoh Lake lean-to photograph by Carl Heilman II
Trombley’s lean-to on the Raquette River. It’s right down the road and the river from the house where I grew up, so for picnics or swims or walks with the dogs, we could hike in from where Routes 3 and 30 split, or paddle from the Crusher without much worry or work. It’s familiar, peaceful, and a little off the beaten path.
Tupper Lake, NY
I like the lean-tos on Seventh Lake. They have beautiful lake views and a great hiking and biking trail network connecting Inlet and Raquette Lake.
My all-time favorite lean-tos from the past were Lake Tear and Indian Falls, but those are long-gone and for good reason. Today Beaver Point on Lake Colden lean-to is my favorite because of its view of the lake, Algonquin Peak, Avalanche Pass and Mount Colden.
We love the Cage Lake lean-to in the Five Ponds Wilderness. You get a true sense of being in the wild there. It’s a place where we feel far from the rest of the world. There’s a brook that feeds Cage Lake right in front of the lean-to—perfect for morning coffee reflections.
Meredith & Greg Sherman
It was the Stony Ponds lean-to, but I hear it has been moved. The love part came from a solo hike to the pond on a blissful sunny and wind-splashed day. Exactly what I needed at the time. Could not have felt more alive.
Working for a summer camp during college, I led 12-year-old boys on backpacking trips in the High Peaks. One trip was nonstop rain, seven straight days of mud and sweat and waterfall skies. With mutiny imminent, we came upon a lean-to near Mount Marcy, thanks be to God. Under that sweet, sweet roof, I cooked all the Spam in our larder and managed to stave off disaster.
Blueberry, in the Seward Range, is my favorite lean-to. It sees a ton of use and a ton of passersby. It’s remote, but so many people can tell you that it’s a welcome relief after attempting or completing the Sewards. On my last trip into the Seward Range it was an early-summer, cold and dreary day. My friend hung back at the lean-to, and the rest of us set out for the trio, a gruel-ing hike with knee-deep mud; the gaiters were ineffective and just for show at that point. The return trip included a wardrobe malfunction with my shorts, and luckily there was no one behind me to see the tear. Came off the mountain and back to Blueberry in darkness, guided by head lamp. Soon enough we saw a warm glow of a small campfire and the smell of food. We were home with a three-course Mexican dinner complete with Nalgene margarita for the win.
Saranac Lake, NY
While I have many wonderful cozy memories of overnight lean-to stays, as well as damp, wet and downright frigid ones, my favorite lean-to is one I never had a chance to stay in. The Plateau lean-to, perched near timberline on the shoulder of Mount Marcy, was a classic lean-to with a spectacular view of Marcy and the peaks to the west. I walked past it several times before it was removed in the late 1970s, but never did stay in it, or take a photo, since I wanted my photographs at the time to be “pure” wilderness. That is a decision I have regretted many times, but the image of that lean-to with the summit of Marcy behind it is the first to come to mind when I think of favorite Adirondack lean-tos.
Carl Heilman II
Brant Lake, NY
South Lake lean-to, along the Northville-Placid Trail. It’s the definition of remote, just doesn’t get the traffic that the High Peaks or other areas do. Like the West Canada Lake Wilderness that it’s in, the lean-to has an almost primeval feeling to it. The lean-to itself isn’t the best structurally—it actually had a tree fall on part of it and has a low-hanging ceiling—but it has character. It sits about 10 feet from the bank of South Lake, which is the most beautiful little lake and, when we were there in late September, was eerily calm and quiet.
Ethan Bonner & Emily Evatt
BEST LEAN-TOS FOR SOLITUDE
Grass Pond lean-to
Debar Mountain Wild Forest
Accessed from the Hays Brook trailhead, along Mountain Pond Road off Route 30 in the town of Brighton. A 1.4-mile hike on the Grass Pond trail leads to this lean-to, which overlooks Grass Pond. Moose have occasionally been sighted in and around the pond.
Chase Lake lean-to
Shaker Mountain Wild Forest
Accessed from the Chase Lake trailhead at the end of Pinnacle Road in the town of Bleecker. A moderate 2.5-mile hike on the Chase Lake trail leads to the northern shore of Chase Lake and the lean-to. Fishing the lake for its pickerel, perch, sunfish and bullhead is a bonus.
Taylor Pond lean-tos
Taylor Pond Wild Forest
Accessed from DEC’s Taylor Pond campground off the Silver Lake Road in the town of Black Brook. A trio of lean-tos rings the pond, two of which sit on the shore, the other set back, on the hillside. Lean-to #3 can be reached via a 2.4-mile hike along the Taylor Pond Loop trail. Continue another 2.5 miles to reach Lean-to #1 at the western end of the pond. These lean-tos can also be accessed by boat. Lean-to #2 is reached via a 3.5-mile hike on the northern portion of the Taylor Pond Loop trail. (These lean-tos can be reserved between late May and Labor Day weekend through the DEC’s online campground reservation system, www.dec.ny.gov.)
Cooper Kiln Pond lean-to
Wilmington Wild Forest
Accessed from trailheads on Gillespie Road or Bonnieview Road in Wilmington. This lean-to sits within spruce-fir forest on the shore of the pond, with views of the surrounding mountains. Cooper Kiln Pond trail (west) ascends 2.7 miles and 910 feet from the Gillespie Drive trailhead; Cooper Kiln Pond trail (east) ascends 3.2 miles and 1,670 feet from the Bonnieview Road trailhead.
Queer Lake lean-to
Pigeon Lake Wilderness
Accessed from the Windfall Pond trailhead on the Big Moose Road in the town of Webb. The lake and the lean-to are located in Inlet. From the trailhead it’s a 3.4-mile hike to the lean-to on the north shore of Queer Lake, named for its unusual shape. Nearby the lean-to, hikers can find the remains of a stone oven that was once popular with hunting and fishing guides.
Middle Settlement Lake lean-to
Accessed from the Okara Lakes parking area along Route 28 in the town of Webb. After an easy 3.5-hike from the Browns Tract trailhead, turn right (north) onto the Middle Settlement Lake access trail, which intersects with the Middle Settlement Lake trail in 1.2 miles. Turn left (west) and hike another 0.5 to reach the lean-to.
Bear Lake lean-to
Black River Wild Forest
Accessed from the Bear Lake trailhead on seasonal road McKeever Drive in the town of Webb. The Bear Lake trail traverses 1.8 miles from the trailhead before reaching the lean-to on the eastern shore of Bear Lake.
Pine Lake lean-to
Independence River Wild Forest
Accessed from the Pine Lake trailhead at the end of Partridgeville Road in the town of Greig. The lean-to can be reached after a 2.5-mile hike to the north shore of Pine Lake.
Northern lean-tos #1 & #2
High Peaks Wilderness
Located along the Cold River horse trail on the southern bank of the Cold River in the town of Newcomb. These are some of the most remote lean-tos in the Adirondacks that are not along the Northville-Placid Trail. The easiest access is an 8.4-mile hike from the Upper Works trailhead via 1.5 miles along the Upper Works–Indian Pass trail; then left onto the Duck Hole by Henderson Lake trail for 3.4 miles; another left onto the Northville-Placid Trail for 1.5 miles; and left, again, for 2 miles along the Cold River horse trail to the lean-tos.