One of the most interesting and perhaps least known features of the Adirondack Mountains is the 135-mile continuous wilderness footpath, the trail from Northville to Lake Placid. It is not new, having been cut in 1922 by the Adirondack Mountain Club. Today, it is maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the NPT Chapter of ADK. ADK promotes use of this trail to help take foot traffic off the trails in the High Peaks to the north.
Since 1970, the Schenectady Chapter of ADK has offered an award patch to those who complete the entire Northville-Placid Trail, either as one end-to-end trip, or by section. The patch is offered to both ADK members and non-members alike. You may apply for the award patch by completing a “Record of Trip” (available as a PDF or a Word File. ) and mailing it with $5.00 to:
Schenectady Chapter Adirondack Mountain Club
Attn: NP Trail Chair
PO Box 733
Schenectady, NY 12301-0733
About the NPT
The Northville-Placid Trail is now 135 miles long. The trail begins at Waterfront Park in the village of Northville, continues 3.5 miles across the bridge to the west side of Sacandaga Reservoir, along Collins-Gifford Valley Road, and then 8.6 miles on a trail through the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest. After reaching Benson Road, the trail continues 7.3 miles through the Silver Lake Wilderness. Additionally, further north, there are 7.6 miles of trail through the Blue Ridge Wilderness. This new section of trail is included in the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographic Map. A new edition of the Northville-Placid Trail Guide Book was released in 2017.
While the trail begins and ends on pavement, all but a few miles are through one of the few great wilderness areas left in the eastern part of the U.S. The trail runs in a north-south direction, and the degree of ascent is never difficult for a hiker in moderately good condition. The path of the trail in relation to major cities and highways and other helpful tips are available on the website nptrail.org.
The Adirondack Forest Preserve was established originally for watershed preservation, and the area through which the trail passes is dotted with streams, lakes and ponds. Most of the land is forested, and recent studies have indicated that there may still be virgin timber stands in a number of places. Trees of considerable size reflect over a half-century of state ownership and conservation.
Stores to replenish supplies are available at various villages and resort communities along the way. Supplies can also be mailed ahead to any of several post offices (Piseco, Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake) for pickup when passing through. Temporary camping is permitted at undeveloped sites on state land. State-erected lean-tos or open camps located at reasonably short intervals are for hikers’ use and are a quintessential part of the Adirondack experience.
The trail was originally marked with a white diamond-shaped marker on which was printed in blue the letters “NPT,” as depicted in the graphic to the left. Today, however, standard blue DEC trail markers mark the trail for its entire length. Water is abundant along the trail and there is a wealth of natural campsites. During the summer tourist season, accommodations are available at road crossings, but reservations are suggested. It is advisable to carry a lightweight two-person tent in the summer, as any given lean-to may be filled to capacity, and rain may overtake the hiker at any time.
With several highway crossings, the trail lends itself well to sectional walking, so end-to-end walking in one trip is not required. The Adirondack Mountain Club revised and reprinted the Northville-Placid Trail Guide in 2017. This guide as well as an updated National Geographic Map of the region are available from ADK Headquarters as well as from major bookstores.
Among the highlights of the trip are a foot suspension bridge over the West Branch of the Sacandaga River at Whitehouse and Adirondack French Louie’s old fireplace in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness. Farther north on the trail is a pretty walk beside Long Lake, which leads to the wild Cold River area. Here the trail passes the site of former Adirondack hermit Noah John Rondeau’s old camp and “Town Hall.” Duck Hole and Wanika Falls are also sure to leave the hiker with lasting memories.
The end points of the NPT are the village of Northville (south), and Averyville Road in Lake Placid (north). This makes about 135 miles of actual walking. An average hiker should plan on 8-11 days on the trail. There is a road section through Piseco, which IS considered part of the present-day and traditional trail and MUST be walked to qualify for the patch.
The website nptrail.org provides information about planning a hike on the NPT, whether a through-hike, section-hike or weekend-hike. It also provides information on the latest trail conditions as reported by fellow hikers, NPT trail stewards, ADK trails staff and NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation personnel. The primary goal of the website is to provide a single source of timely, updated information about hiking conditions on the NPT.
Questions about the trail from Northville to Long Lake may be emailed to Forester Michael Mulligan at Michael.Mulligan@dec.ny.gov . For information about the trail from Long Lake to the northern terminus of the trail, please contact Forester Rob Daley at his email: Robert.Daley@dec.ny.gov.