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his can’t be right. From my peak-top vantage in the eastern Adirondacks, there’s enough crimson and gold wrapped around a half-dozen cloistered lakes to stress my DSLR’s color settings. Yet I have this sun-drenched Saturday scene entirely to myself. A few quacks of migrating geese break the silence, then it’s still again. I’m 9 miles into a two-day adventure south of the High Peaks, and this is the way leaf-peeping should be done—solitude on a crisp Saturday morning, relishing a cool breeze that carries the scent of damp pine so distinct I know I’m not dreaming.
From Crane Pond:
- Follow the Crane Pond Trail south .6 mile to the start of the loop.
- Veer left to hike the route clockwise, so you summit Pharaoh Mountain in the morning on the next day. Reach 440-acre Pharaoh Lake’s north shore at mile 3.2.
- Merge onto the Long Swing Trail and continue 1.4 miles east and south to Lean-to #3 .
- Follow the shoreline 1.7 miles to a fork at the lake’s southern tip.
- Turn east onto West Shore Trail and hike 1.3 miles to the Pharaoh Mountain Trail.
- Ascend 1,300 switchbackless feet to the summit of 2,556-foot Pharaoh Mountain (mile 8.9). Continue 2.5 miles north to the trailhead.
Lean-to #3 (4.6 miles)
This shelter opens to Pharaoh Mountain’s buffalo-back profile, which looms over one of the eastern Adirondack’s biggest undeveloped lakes. Cook dinner around a fire pit as the sun’s last rays disappear behind the peak and stars begin to pop like kernels in the dark sky. If the lean-to is occupied (first-come, first-serve; sleeps four), continue .4 mile south on the main path to a large clearing with lake access.
This broccoli-patch canopy of maples and birches erupts into a fiery palette of yellows, oranges, and reds the fourth week of September through the second week of October (typically). Savor the half-mile corridor of golden, three-story-tall maples at mile 1.5. Don’t miss the sunrise view from camp: The first rays will hit Pharaoh’s forested east face, often setting low-lying fog below bright orange.
Coyotes around here don’t howl—they bark. Some scientists think these canines, also 10 pounds heavier than average, could be hybrids blending western coyotes and eastern wolves. Listen for them year-round after dusk.
Trailhead 43.851276, -73.662535; 65 miles north of Saratoga Springs off Crane Pond Rd. Gear up Adirondack Mountain Club in Lake George; adk.orgSeason Late May through mid-October; the later in the season, the less buggy Permits None Custom-centered mapbit.ly/BPmapPharaoh ($15) Contact(518) 668-4447; adk.orgTrip datawww.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/2676169