As the southern access point into the High Peaks Wilderness, Upper Works offers a unique option for hikers and visitors looking for an alternative to traditional northern or eastern trailheads. In addition to hosting plenty of fantastic hikes, this trailhead is steeped in history. It is the location of the former town of Adirondac, now abandoned in residence, but alive with interpretation. Open Space Institute has created an interpretive trail that examines many of the old buildings, landscapes, and structures that put this mining hub on the map. You will drive by an old blast furnace on the way to the parking lot, signaling the area's rich mining history. It was also near this location where Teddy Roosevelt was informed of President McKinley's imminent death from a gunshot wound. The MacNaughton Cottage stands within view of the parking lot; this is where Teddy Roosevelt began his midnight ride. Human history is not the only element to this story; the forests and waters all tell a story as well. The mighty Hudson River, on route to New York City, begins not too far from Upper Works and can be seen from many places along the road.
From exit 29 off I-87, turn west onto Blue Ridge Road (CR 84) toward Newcomb. Follow this route for 17.4 miles to an intersection with Tahawus Road (CR 25). Turn right on Tahawus Road and stay on it for 6.3 miles then turn left at a sign for High Peaks trails. Pass by the old blast furnace at 2.8 miles up this road. From the blast furnace, it is less than one mile to your destination. The road dead ends at the trailhead. Please park in the new 60-car capacity lot adjacent to the MacNaughton Cottage. The old parking lot (terminus of Upper Works Road) is closed. Unauthorized vehicles in the old parking area after June 18, 2021 will be towed away at vehicle owners expense.
From the new parking lot, an interpretive trail leads to the official trailhead. It's so much more than a place to park your car now! In addition to an interpretive trail, a scenic and historic trail along the Hudson was built and the ruins of a massive iron furnace and the MacNaughton Cottage, which once served as a base camp for the explorations of Teddy Roosevelt, were stabilized. This is truly a place to walk through history!
From the Upper Works trailhead, hikers have access to miles and miles of trails leading into the High Peaks Wilderness. The Calamity Brook trail is the shortest approach to Mt. Marcy from the south (10.3-miles, one-way with 3,800 feet of elevation gain) but is an attractive route that passes by popular camping destinations at Flowed Lands and Lake Colden. This route also allows access to other High Peaks, such as Mount Colden, the MacIntyre Range, Mount Skylight, and numerous others via herd paths. The Calamity Brook trail follows the historic Calamity Brook, where you will find a memorial for David Henderson, who tragically shot him accidentally while on a hike. David Henderson was an early manager for the early mine located nearby. If you're looking for something that isn't a mountain, hiking to Hanging Spear Falls is a good day-trip (6 or 7 miles, one-way). Bearing right at an intersection near Flowed Lands, you'll be on the Hanging Spear Falls trail, where viewpoints allow you to see the magnificent 75-foot tall cascade. Traversing down to the base of the falls is dangerous, but there are lookouts along the marked trail.
Another major trail out of Upper Works is the Indian Pass trail. This trail leads 4.4- miles one-way (with 870 feet of elevation gain) to Summit Rock, where the trail connects with another that starts at Heart Lake on the Adirondack Loj property. This is not a High Peak hike, but the views are impressive, especially those of Wallface's enormous cliff. Of course, these two trails are not the only destinations one can hike to from Upper Works. We recommend buying a map and guide book (and consulting a local guide) before trekking miles into the wilderness. For a less strenuous option, Open Space Institute's short interpretive trail meanders around the area, guiding visitors from the parking area through the former village of Adirondac to the blast furnace (built in 1856).
As with many trails in the Adirondacks, all hiking trails can be used by snowshoers in snowier months. In the High Peaks, snowshoes (or skis) are required when there 12+ inches of snow. Please make sure to plan ahead. At this mountain trailhead, there is likely to be more snow than in town.
When the snow cover is right, skiing is great here. The most popular option is to ski out and back to Flowed Lands or Lake Colden. For this, you ski on an incline for roughly 4.5 miles to Flowed Lands, so your return trip will be mostly downhill, sometimes steeply.
Even though this is primarily a hiking trailhead, Upper Works also serves as an access point for Henderson Lake. It is about a 0.3- mile carry from the parking lot to the put in and while it is a bit of an uphill walk, it is not strenuous. Plus, the views that await you on the water are absolutely breathtaking, and are not too often seen, as this paddle is still flying under the radar.
The trails that lead from Upper Works can take you to many different campsites. There are primitive backcountry tent sites as well as lean-tos, all available on a first come, first serve basis.
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