Member Trip report

Cranberry Lake 50


Trip Report/Photos from wildcat

Featured Photo

With my Labor Day weekend plans busted and only a day to prepare I decided to backpack the Cranberry Lake 50 trail. The CL50 is a 50 mile loop around Cranberry Lake in the northwestern Adirondacks. As most people do, I parked in Wanakena and hiked the loop in the clockwise direction.


First the good stuff: the trail is quite easy. I stays at an elevation between 1500 and 1900 feet and often follows xc ski or snowmobile trails. Any climbs or descents are usually gradual. The trail is surprisingly well maintained and easy to follow with clear trail signs and blue round CL50 markers on trees every few hundred feet. Most people hike the loop in 3 days / 2 nights. I chose to break the trail into four 12-13 mile days, starting on Sun and finishing on Wed. This allowed for plenty of longer breaks for swimming, relaxing and nourishment. The waters were toasty warm, walk right in! The trail was never boring,  ever changing, sometimes going through the woods, at other times along Cranberry Lake or other remote ponds, sometimes it followed the banks of a marshy brook. There are plenty of beautiful campsites, some with picnic benches. I didn’t encounter many people, but looking at the campsites the trail must be more popular during the summer. Water is plentiful and I never carried more than a liter. There are general stores in both Wanakena and the town of Cranberry Lake with a food truck in CL next to the store on weekends. Good opportunities for a snack and reducing the amount of food you need to carry. On day 3, I ended the day hiking the 0.4 mile spur trail to High Falls, a thundering waterfall where I camped. Highly recommended.


Now the not so good stuff: At about mile 25 the trail loops around Olmstead pond where the trail was heavily damaged. Beavers had created a new dam and you had to wade through mud and water up to your waist. In other areas the beavers had taken down just about every tree and it was difficult to navigate and follow the trail. Olmstead pond has leeches and luckily the only place I encountered them. The Olmstead trail has a bypass and if I were to hike the trail again I would simply skip this section. The situation was somewhat easy to deal with because the weather was warm and sunny. There’s the pond itself to rinse off any mud and the clothes dried in no time on rocks the sun had heated up. Another section that was flooded was on the High Falls trail on the last day, just south of Wanakena. This is well known and mentioned in the trail description, so I was prepared. The trail traverses some beaver dams with water flowing over them. I decided to keep my hiking shoes on and walk right through the water which reached up to my ankles (a group of hikers coming the other direction did the same). It turned out it was (only) about a 1.5 mile section with the occasional beaver dam. In retrospect, I’d hike this section in my camp shoes (Crocs) and keep my regular hiking shoes dry. The High Falls trail can be avoided, bailing out about 4 miles before, taking a shortcut back to Wanakena. If you bypass Olmstead pond and take this shortcut it reduces the miles from 50 to about 40. These 40 miles are a true delight and the most beautiful hiking imaginable. If it is not raining, I recommend hiking the High Falls trail though, it’s simply part of this particular trail experience and the scenery is beautiful and unique. The bugs were another problem. Particularly in the afternoons, there were pockets where the mosquitoes were super aggressive. I carried a head net and plenty of bug spray and this wasn’t much of a concern. Fortunately, the bugs left you pretty much alone at the campsites close to the lakes.


If there is enough interest I may post the trip next year.

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Richardg Posted Sep 11, 2023 at 4:56 PM

Looks gorgeous. That’s a no for me regarding the leeches!

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