Wakely Mountain is an enjoyable day hike in one of the more remote sections of the central Adirondack Mountains. The three-mile hike to the summit consists of two sections: 1) Two miles of old road trace, relatively flat, that can be mountain-biked or XC skied, and 2) a relatively steep one-mile climb to the summit. The total elevation change is 1650 feet. The summit is wooded, however, there is a observation tower with unobstructed 360-degree views. The 82-foot tower is one of the highest in New York State. This gives a unique perspective of the West Canada Lakes wilderness area to the south, and great views of the high peaks to the north on clear days. You will not find crowds on this mountain! It's a great place for peace and solitude.
For those interested in lists: Wakely ranks #67 in elevation on the ADK Mountain Club's list of 100 highest peaks.
May, 2008 update: There is "enhanced" beaver activity just past the start of the trail. Photo attached. Luckily the trail is on the right side of the dam and is still easily passable.
July, 2011 update: Observer cabin is being renovated and is currently locked. You still could camp on the porch. A few steps up on the tower are starting to get punky. Hopefully these will be replaced in addition to the cabin repairs. In the meantime, be VERY careful climbing the tower!
May, 2013 update: Trail and tower are in great shape. New log bridges over two small creeks. The wooden steps on the tower have been replaced. Eight to ten inches of fresh snow on top for Memorial Day!
Starting at the village of Indian Lake, proceed two miles west on Rt. 28. Turn left on the Cedar River Road. Proceed another twelve miles. The road will change from paved to dirt after eight miles. About 1/4-mile before the end of the pavement there is an excellent spring with high quality water flowing out of a black plastic pipe. This is on the right side of the road as you drive in. Look for the impressive cliffs on Sugarloaf Mountain to your right after about ten miles. This is arguably the largest cliff face in the Adirondacks south of the high peaks. Just 0.3 miles before the Cedar River Flow, you will see a trail sign. Turn right into the parking area for the trailhead.
The road is only plowed to the end of the pavement in the winter. The last four miles serve as a snowmobile trail, but are quite skiiable.
None. Please sign the register at the trailhead.
Excellent, free camping is available on a first come, first serve basis at Wakely Dam on the Cedar River Flow. This is just 0.3 miles beyond the trailhead on the Cedar River Road. Camping spots fill quickly on nice summer weekends. The camping is primitive. Outhouses are available, but there is no potable water source nearby. Bring your own water or purification equipment. The flow is quite popular for fishing and canoeing.
A trip report to Wakely Mountain with additional photos may be found here.
Some details on the summit fire tower and observer's cabin can be found here.
The Northville - Lake Placid trail is a 132-mile path through the heart of the Adirondack Park. The trail currently follows the upper portion of the Cedar River Road. In 2009 there was a major relocation of the trail through the Cedar River Valley. It now turns off the road roughly a mile "north" of the Wakely trailhead, at Wakely Pond, and proceeds through some delightful and remote second-growth forest to Stephens Pond. A further relocation is envisioned, which may use the lower portion of the Wakely Mountain Trail. More information on the NP Trail can be found here.
Quite the wild and fun trail run occurs each July on the NP Trail. The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra consists of a 32.6-mile trek starting at Piseco Lake, and ending just shy of the start of the Wakely Mountain trail at the dam and campground mentioned above. If you are a trail runner and love the Adirondacks, this is the event for you! More information on the DWDU can be found here.
A wide variety of hikes in the central Adirondacks are cataloged on the Hamilton County, New York website. I'm surprised they don't list Wakely Mountain as an option.
Each June, a 40-mile mountain bike race traverses the Cedar River Road and the Moose River Plains. The route passes the Wakely Mountain trailhead. You can learn about the Black Fly Challenge here.
A Little History
William D. Wakeley has a mountain, a pond, a dam, and a lodge named for him. Who was this individual? Wakeley, note the difference in spelling, emigrated with his family from the British Isles to North Creek, New York in the 1830s. In 1875, he cut the last six miles of road up the Cedar River to Cedar River Falls. He erected a dam, a sawmill, and the Cedar Falls Hotel at the site of the present Wakely Dam. The area became known as Headquarters. “The upper valley of the Cedar River was a lonely place when Wakeley first made his way there.” “Every night during his first season he built a bonfire and tethered his oxen around it to keep the wolves away from them.”
Source: “An Adirondack Resort in the 19th Century”, by Harold K. Hochschild, 1962, Adirondack Museum.
My personal history with Wakely Mountain started with frequent summer hikes up as a boy in the 1970s. At that time, the tower and several others in the Adirondacks were manned by fire observers. The Wakely Mountain observer was Willard Weldon. Note the interesting coincidence in initials to William Wakeley. Willard had a tough post, since there was no spring on the summit of the mountain. All drinking water had to be carried up from the base or collected from rain. He was locally famous for leaving a collection of gallon jugs at the spring at the base, along with a sign requesting hikers to haul up a gallon. In return, he’d gladly share a cup of tea or soup with his visitors once they reached the summit. I enjoyed many a hot drink with Mr. Weldon in those days. Willard resided in the Cedar River Valley and worked part-time for the DEC until his death at age 82 in July, 2010.