For Memorial Day weekend, 2016 I set out to hike the Cranberry Lake 50 with my two labs, Parker and Nelly. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the entire hike due to some equipment problems, but we did knock out almost half of it. Last Summer I hiked the western third of the trail. So that leaves me with just about 15 miles left to complete.
Here’s a quick video of some of the sights on the trail.
Cranberry Lake 50 Overview
For those of you interested in hiking in the Adirondacks, I highly recommend the Cranberry Lake 50. It’s a fairly easy hike with a lot of varied terrain. You’ll hike through old and new growth forests, beaver bogs, swamp bottoms and along side plenty of water. Sunrises and sunsets are stunning from the myriad of lakeside camping spots. No doubt you’ll also encounter plenty of wildlife since much of the trail cuts through protected areas.
I recommend starting the hike in Wanakena, NY. Head NE from the trailhead and knock out all the road miles on your first day. In the first 10ish miles you’ll go through the village of Wanakena (approximately 2 road miles), the Peavine Swamp area (It’s not all that swampy) and the village of Cranberry Lake (another couple road miles). After you pass through Cranberry Lake and get off route 3, you’ll be on the trail for the rest of the trip. It’s better to knock out the dull road miles at the beginning of the trip rather than trudging through them after you’re already tired. I created a rough outline of the trail based on the most current maps I could find. I use the National Geographic All Trails app on my phone (use it offline to save battery) and found it to be incredibly accurate. There is a link to my map at the bottom of the page where you can plan your route and even download a GPS file.
Try to plan time in your hike to check out the many side trails you’ll encounter around the lake. I recommend Bear Mountain, Cat Mountain, and High Falls for sure. You can complete the hike relatively quickly since it’s not a very difficult section of trail. The record is 12 hours. For those of us that aren’t ultra-runners, plan on 3 days minimum to see everything and not wear yourself out.
Items to bring
Bring along a compass/gps and your map just to be safe, but the trail is very well marked with blue “CL 50” markers. There were a couple sections where I wasn’t totally sure if I was on the right path, but 95% of the time, there’s only one trail to follow.
DO NOT FORGET your bug spray and head net. When I hiked the trail in late July, the pesky black flies and deer flies weren’t a problem. However during late May and June they are a force to be reckoned with. During the buggy times I would not hike the trail without long sleeves, long pants, a full head net, and LOTS of bug repellent. Trust me on this.
Water is plentiful along the trail, but do not forget your filter. This item (my dogs knocked it into the lake on day 2) caused me to cut my hike short. No hike is worth getting Beaver Fever.
There are plenty of places to hang your hammock throughout the entire trail. Adirondack lean-tos are also prevalent. One of the best things about this loop is the ability to camp on the water every single night. You can relax in your hammock at one of the many water access spots. I recommend High Falls, Olmstead Pond, Janacks landing, and anywhere the trail leads you past Cranberry Lake.
Overall this is a great trail for hammockers. I bumped into some other hangers on my way out. The three Texans had been driving around the country hiking and hammocking for three weeks! What a life!