Something new around every corner
The Split Rock Wild Forest is made up of 3,700 acres which lies on the Shores of Lake Champlain in the Eastern Foothills of the Adirondack Park. The wild forest is made up of nine different trails, all of which intersect at least one other, making for nearly countless loops and adventures at your fingertips. Want vistas, mountain views, wildlife, water access, wild flowers, birding, trail running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and family fun? Check out Split Rock for all that, and more.
How to get there
Follow Route 22 north out of Westport. Drive a short distance to Lake Shore Road on your right and follow it. Continue on Lake Shore Road for just under 5-miles to the trailhead on the right.
Lewis Clearing Bay and Snake Den Harbor Overlook
This trail is a destination in itself or can be combined with other shorter trails like Barn Rock Bay, below. From the trailhead you will hike up an old road and gain some elevation right away. Passing by Gary’s Elbow Trail on your right and the North Rim Trail to Split Rock Mountain on your left, you continue on a flat course. After about 0.5 miles the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail splits off to the left and drops a bit. The trail remains somewhat easy up to where the Snake Den Harbor Overlook Trail comes in on the right. Follow here to check out the overlook - trail is short but climbs a bit up to some fantastic views of Lake Champlain. Back at the intersection, head down to the bay - you will drop significantly for which you will have to reclimb. The rocky shore is an attractive destination with an outstanding vista out over the lake.
Barn Rock and Barn Rock Bay
To reach Barn Rock you will leave the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail from where it breaks off and head right along the Barn Rock Trail. The trail climbs a bit up over a shoulder before starting a long continuous descent along an old road. The Calamity Trail will come in on the right after about 1.1 miles. There is also a trail, not marked well, that comes in on the left. This trail/path leads over the rocky terrain and down to the top of Barn Rock; this is highly recommended to visit. To reach the bay itself and the waterfront you will need to stay on the main trail and descend a bit further.
Split Rock Mountain Loop
Made up by combining three trails (Lewis Clearing Bay, North Rim and Robin’s Run) you can access the high ridge of Split Rock Mountain and make an interesting loop out of this half day hike. Of course, you'll take in some fantastic views out over Lake Champlain while you’re at it. From the trailhead you will begin on the Lewis Clearing Bay Trail to the top of the first hill. From here the North Rim Trail will come in on your left. The trail starts climbing immediately and after a short distance comes to the Robin’s Run Trail on the left, which is the trail back. Heading right the trail again starts to climb and quickly reaches the ridge. Over undulating hills you pass along the ridge with a couple of small lookouts along the way. While the lookouts are small they are quite impressive. The trail does not approach the actual summit of Split Rock Mountain, but comes rather close. You will leave the ridge on the north side and begin a long descent. While wet in a few areas the trail is in good condition. Robin’s Run follows along the base of the mountain along an old woods road, through a gorgeous hardwood forest, but the trail does require you to climb back up to the intersection you passed earlier in the trip.
These are the main destinations within the wild forest but there are a few other trails that could be incorporated into your day to make for additional loops and scenery opportunities. Such as:
This leaves the Lewis Clearing Bay trail about a quarter mile in and climbs moderately over a bit of a slippery surface to connect with the Lewis Clearing Trail a bit further in. This is a nice addition to a loop with Barn Rock Bay.
This leaves Gary’s Elbow Trail and connects to the Calamity Trail. This trail has some great scenery with wetlands, tall trees, slender trails and a very interesting narrow draw with steep walls.
This trail connects a very obscure trailhead off Lake Shore Road (closer to Westport) and Barn Rock Bay. The Cross-over Trail also leaves from this trail and the combination of the two could make for a nice loop from either trailhead for Barn Rock Bay as the destination. From the Barn Rock Bay Trail, the Calamity Trail climbs fairly steeply to the top of a decent sized height-of-land. Along here the trail meanders in and out of some very wet but attractive areas.
So keep in mind the Split Rock Wild Forest next time you are in the Lake Champlain area and come back often, there is much to see and explore. The Lake Champlain Region is home to some fine back-country hiking, camping, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, why go anyplace else?
Interesting Side Note: The Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest is home to Timber Rattlesnakes a threatened wildlife species that is fully protected by New York. The timber rattlesnake is not an aggressive species and will try to get away when approached. Just watch your step and do not try to approach them, if they do get cornered they may strike. Please do not be alarmed or fear hiking in this region, they are seldom seen.
Guest Blogger: Spencer Morrissey
Spencer resides and works in the Adirondack Park. He is the owner and guide for Inca-Pah-Cho Wilderness Guides. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, a four-season 46er and a finisher of the Adirondack 100 Highest. In his spare time he has also authored three local guide books – The Other 54, Adirondack Trail Runner and Adirondack Skier. If you haven’t run into him on the trail or on the water, it’s only a matter of time. Spencer Morrissey is also a mountain guide for High Peaks Mountain Guides in Lake Placid and Rock and River Guides in Keene.