The thirty-third peak in order of height in the Adirondacks, Donaldson is the middle peak in the Seward range and interesting in trailless peak circles since the only good heard path to it leads from the top of another trailless peak namely Seward.
It is this peak that best shows of the area's micro-climate as the route to it from Seward is very very dry and people hiking in the area should be aware of the fact that one has to bring one’s own water source to the peak.
Fortunately unlike most of the High Peaks the water here is fit to drink at least it was last time I was there in 1998. I would still use caution though, boil, filter or treat the water before drinking or bring you own.
I believe this is the next area that is to see trail work by the 46ers sometime in 2002 so if you are there this summer when they are you will be “guilted”, “Shanghaied” or otherwise “convinced” into volunteering to do some work or at least packing in some stuff. Anyway these are the reports that are coming back to me. Most likely you will be asked to stick to the tape trail that the weekend trail crews use to set the trail path.
Like the rest of the Seward mountain Donaldson is quite remote and its remoteness also means that the majority of the heard paths in the area are in good shape since they are well defined but see much less traffic than the maintained trails do.
The normal route to Donaldson follows the same approach to Seward and that is to approach from the W and hike into any one of the many camping or lean-tos sites that are found along the Ward Brook Truck Trail. One can also come from the SE from Duck Hole.
The unmarked trail to Seward Range begins about 0.2 of a mile SE of the spot where the trail for Coreys joins the fire truck trail. Just past the bridge there should be a cairn on the right hand side marking the start of the heard path.
The trail crisscrosses a brook a number of times avoiding sink and mud holes and the occasional blow down. Well after the brook runs out you should reach the summit wall of Seward. Simply follow it to the left until you can climb up and over it to the summit ridge. It is then about a 10-15 min walk up to the summit.
From the summit of Seward a well defined heardpath descends to the S flanks of the Western Seward ridge and then basically follows a compass line from both peaks across the ridge until the summit of Donaldson is reached.
There are the occasional good views from this trail back to Seward but one must watch out for the false summit of Donaldson. You will come to a nice open section good for photos and what you will think is the summit but the summit is actually a few meters from it. Keep an eye out for a hulking great bolder the summit sign is near this rock. The view from the top of the bolder is just a little better than from the nearby promontory.
The trail between the summits is actually one of the more challenging in the area as it is quite rocky and occasionally can be quite wet but it is mostly downhill.
As one is getting into quite remote wilderness one should come well prepared and have a good knowledge of backcountry map and compass navigation
Check out the entry for Santanoni for detiled directions to the trailheads for Duck Hole Trail or the Coreys/Ward Brook Truck Trail.
The frist part of both the Upper Works trail and the Duck Hole trail are on private land as well, the Ward Brook trail skirts along private land (you will see many many sings pointing this out) please observe these simple rules
1) No camping, fishing or hunting
2) No off-trail travel including rock climbing or bushwhacking, or use of non public trail
3) No boating or swimming, including portable boats brought by the public
4) NO DOGS or other pets are permitted unless on a leash
The Seward Range and all of the Adirondacks for that matter, has a big game hunting season that starts on the next to last Saturday in October and lasts until the first Sunday in December. Do have on bright coloured clothing and do not be alarmed is you hear shots, or men (99.999999% of the time it is a guy but I supose that there are some women hunters out there too) with guns.
When To Climb
Fall is the best time as the colours give some joy to ths hike.
Watch out for summer as there is little water in the area.
In winter it is a very good ski trip up from Duck Hole or along the Ward Brook Truck Trail. In winter Crampons may be needed to get up some of the steep parts of the trail.
Same as for all Adirondack mountians.
1) No Camping above 4,000 feet
2) No camping withing 150 feet of a stream or other water source except at a designated campsite.
3) No soap or washing withing 150 feet of water
4) Pack it in Pack it out is the rule for garbage
5) Only dead and down wood can be used for fires and set in a proper fire pit. ( local etiquette is to use a stove and not a fire)
some good links
Adirondack Hiking Portal
Whats in a Name
Donaldson holds the distinction of being the first peak in the Adirondacks to be named in the 20th century. It is named after the historian and author Alfred Lee Donaldson who wrote the first and most complete history of the Adirondacks.