If you are looking for a short hike to a beautifulbackcountry lake with tons to do and great views, then Rock Pond is yourdestination. The hike is usually started from the Putnam Pond Campground dayuse area. Unfortunately from this trail head you need to pay the campgroundsday use fees to park there, which are six dollars a day. Other options arecoming from Crane pond parking area and from Pharaoh Lake, although these trailheads will add some miles to your hike.
Getting ThereFrom the south take I-87 to exit 28. Take a right off the exit and continue straight through the stop sign. Continue down the road for 12 mile untill you see the Putnam Pond sign on the right hand side of the road. Follow that road for approximatly 1 mile untill you reach the gate of Putnam Pond Campground. Take your first right after the gate, followed by your second left. Continue down this road untill you reach the day use area.
From the Putnam Pond day use area the trail starts on the right of the parking lot if you are facing the lake and is approximately 2 miles to the Pond. There is a trail sign there noting the mileage and direction to travel. Through the woods you will see two building used for public bathrooms and the start of a trail with yellow markers. You will follow this first section of trail for about three minutes before coming back to a road through the campground. If you follow the yellow markers down the road you will shortly end up walking back into the wood to be greeted by the trail register.
From here on out your hike will continue in the woods through backcountry Adirondacks. The trail starts off steady and a quarter mile in you hit a mileage sign right after two downed trees that ripped up a huge chunk of earth. From the sign the trail starts to get a little more hilly with some pointless up downs (PUD) and larger sized hills when approaching a pond.
On the way to Rock Pond you past a couple of other ponds with nice views, this provides a nice place for your group to take a break if needed. Around these ponds that you past, you will notice that the trail drops down into a gully and then elevates back up when leaving the pond area. This will happen a lot and is just something you have to get used to.
The trail continues rolling up and down hills for a little over a mile until you hit a sign where the trail splits. It points right for Rock Pond Lean-to and left for the little Rock Pond Lean-to. I always just go left no matter what lean-to I am going to for the good views and to see Little Rock Pond. From the sign it is approximately .3 miles to the first lean-to on Little Rock and another .3 from that lean-to to the next on Rock Pond.
If you are staying in a tent for the night I suggest you go right at the sign and follow the trail that goes around the pond. Hike for about a quarter mile and you will pass an old mine and quarry. Just a little past that there is a huge rock that gradually slants down into the Pond. This is a great campsite with a gorgeous fireplace and nice views of the whole lake, plus the best spot to go fishing and close to the mine.
Once you have camp set up then you might want to go check out someof the awesome history of the area and explore what Rock Pond has to offer. The trail around the pond is the first place I would start. It is approximately a two mile hike around the pond. On the way you pass many things to check out. From the lean-tos the first thing you are going to pass is a 6 foot tall by 15 foot long metal cylinder with holes throughout it. I believe it was used to do something with the iron excavated from the mine. I always try to figure out how they got this huge heavy piece of metal deep into the wood. The mine was established in 1901 so we know that it was not from a helicopter.
Past the metal cylinder you will find the mine and old rock structures where an old mining building once stood over 100 years ago. The mine is very cool to check out, it is very dark, cold, wet, and orange. Be aware the orange is rust from the iron core and will stain your clothes and boots if not careful. The mine goes back about 500 feet and the floor is about 3 inches of orange mud. There are some sticks to walk on but with everything wet and slippery and the darkness of the mine made it difficult to navigate. At the end of the mine there is a left turn the goes up hill gradually into a small room where it ends, nothing too exciting but defiantly worth checking out if you don’t mind getting a little orange.
Above the mine during the wet seasons you will see a nice waterfall flowing over it, which could get you alittle wet when going into the mine to explore. There also is a quarry behind the mine, there is no trail to get to it but it is pretty easy to find. I followed the old rock structures going up the hill and could see the quarry in the distance. There are not the best views of the quarry at first but if you had the time to explore then you could most likely find a spot for a great picture. The Quarry water was a really unique green and with the manmade walls surrounding the water made it a cool spot to relax. It looks like you could just off the quarry wall and the water would be deep enough to keep you from hitting bottom, but I don’t know what’s in that water so be aware.
When back on the trail if you continue around that lake you will hit the campsite I was talking about earlier. Here there are two nice rocks that gradually lead into the pond which is a nice spot to go out for a swim. Directly across from the rocks are little islands to swim out to. From the bigger island you can jump off a five foot high rock into the water which is always fun. I have not seen any leaches in this Pond like the other in the Adirondacks, but that does not mean that they are not there so be careful. I was actually walking through some shallow water on the Ponds edge and two bull head catfish came up to my feet and tried to nibble on my toes when I was not moving. I would imagine this is from people cleaning there dishes in the Pond, leaving little pieces of food for them to feed on. I read in the lean-to journal that someone was fishing here for brook trout and ended up catching a 20 incher. That is big for brook trout and probably means that this is a good spot to do some trout fishing. Other than that we saw frogs, salamanders, and cray fish in the Pond swimming around. I would say that would be great bait for fishing but seeing that no live bait is allowed, it’s probably not the best idea.
Farther along the trail around the pond you will start gaining elevation on large rocks that are surrounding the Pond. At some of these high points you get a good view of the Pond and mountains in the background. There are some cool boulders that would be good for climbing, but be aware of the steep hill preceding the rock face. You may not be far from help but it is better to be safe than sorry in the back country.
As you make your way back towards the lean-to you will come across a grass clearing right on the pond. There is another nice campsite at this clearing and also a nice stream that flows right alongside of the site, which could be some nice white noise for those of you that like sleeping with some noise in the background. When you cross the stream to continue on the trail you will come up on another sign saying that the Rock Pond Lean-to is 1 mile away. To me the hike seemed shorter than that, but we will go with what the sign says.
From the sign by the stream you will have about a five minute walk to the next sign where there is another trail that intersects with the trail around the pond. This trail breaks away from Rock Pond and starts heading towards Clear Pond and Treadway Mountain. I have never hiked Treadway but have heard many good things about it and would recommend doing it if you have the time. It is approximately 2.5 miles one way from the intersection.
If you decide to just go back to the lean-to and not hike Treadway Mountain then you will take a left at the trail split and keep following the Pond through more of a wetlands area now. The trail stays mostly dry until you come up on a bridge that cuts between Little Rock Pond and Rock Pond. This bridge is a gorgeous view point with water on both sides, but in seasons with heavy rain it is often partly under the water. I have never seen it unpassable, but you may want to be aware of it in the wet seasons.
There is a sign on the other side of the bridge that you might have passed already if you had taken the Little Rock Pond trail when you first arrived. At the sign you can go left to Rock Pond lean-to .3 miles away or right to Little Rock Pond lean-to .1 mile away right up the hill. When it comes to choosing a lean-to to stay at, my recommendation would be Rock Pond. I’ve stayed at both and Rock Pond Lean-to has a lot more to offer. The fire place is nice and big and there was plenty of wood to find up the hill next to the site. It also was closer to the Pond even though it was not facing it. But best of all there were raspberry bushes all around the lean-to and blueberry bushes on the trail leading back to the Little Rock lean-to, which make awesome snacks or a nice addition to your breakfast. One downfall of the Rock Pond lean-to was that there was a forest fire in the area a couple years back that took down a bunch of trees directly in front of the lean-to. Eventually this may turn into a nice grass area when all the down trees rot out and disappear.
Overall this is a great trail from any one from beginning backpackers to experienced backpackers just trying to explore a new area. The trail is generally flat with some hilly sections near the Ponds, well maintained with very minimal downed trees to climb over, tons of things to explore, and not too far from civilization if you decided backpacking is not you thing.