“Wilderness” might not be the first word you think of when you think of the Lake Champlain Region. While most famously known for sweeping lake views and pastoral farmland, this magnificent area is full of pleasant surprises, and we’re not just talking about Champ sightings. If you point your binoculars away from the open water and toward the interior of the Adirondacks, you’ll certainly notice vast tracts of forested lands. Here, animals tinker and toil to their heart's delight, hikers find new adventures, and breathtaking panoramic vistas awe visitors and locals alike. 

A blue sky with a few clouds over an undeveloped pond surrounded by evergreen trees.
Clear Pond at Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve.

Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve

One location where nature reigns supreme is Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in Chesterfield. This Preserve is owned and managed by Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT), a regional land trust whose mission is to conserve wild landscapes forever. Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve boasts an incredible variety of habitats and features. There are undeveloped ponds, eight peaks over 1,000 feet in elevation, brooks, extensive wetlands, and northern hardwood and conifer forests. Moose, beavers, Peregrine Falcons, and bobcats are among the animals who call this place home. The Preserve is always open to the public for respectful, human-powered visitation (including hunting by permission, hiking, and nature observation), at this preserve people are visitors and there are limited signs of human presence. It’s a place to experience raw nature.

A woman reads a kiosk with interpretive panels at the start of a woods trail.

Natural processes unfold freely on these wild lands. Many of NEWT’s properties are trailless with no amenities, creating a truly unique place where nature calls the shots. However, to inspire a connection to - and compassion for - these wild places, NEWT established several Ambassador Preserves across the Northeast, including Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve, which features a small parking area, interpretive kiosk, and low-impact footpaths.

Benny’s Trail

A trail at Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve allows visitors to hike deep into the wild land with the relative ease of a footpath. Benny’s Trail was established in memory of Army and Navy veteran Benny Ostermiller (1920-1995), the father of a generous supporter who made the preservation of the preserve possible. The trail winds just over 4.5 miles as a lollipop loop, past towering pines, around an idyllic pond, and through a forest that will grow old under wilderness protection. Champlain Area Trails (CATS) maintains Benny’s Trail with the top priority of preserving the land’s wild character.

A man with a red and black wool coat and sunglasses holds a cell phone up to a stand to take a photo

Half a mile from the parking area a large beaver wetland is reached. Here, NEWT installed a Chronolog Photo Point, where visitors can use a stationary stand to snap cell phone photos of the wetland. Photos are then uploaded to a website where the “time-lapse” can be viewed and inquisitive minds can see changes throughout the seasons from anywhere in the world!

A beaver lodge made of branches, sticks, and logs in a small pond

For the most part, Benny’s Trail follows an old logging road over rolling hills. The only major obstacle is that periodically the trail floods due to beaver activity and high water at the half-mile point, where the Photo Point is located. In past summers, the water has ranged from 1-3 feet deep in places, so it is advisable to bring water shoes and plan to get your feet wet. To the left and right of the trail is a series of other beaver ponds and wetlands, so going around is not an option. In the winter, once the trail freezes, it’s an excellent place to cross-country ski or snowshoe. This spot is also a great place to look for animal prints! 

Given the ebb and flow of beaver activity, NEWT and CATS carefully monitor the trail and will be able to answer any questions about its condition.

Small waterfalls on a small brook with spring green trees in the background.
Doyle Brook runs alongside parts of the trail.

After passing through this wetland, the trail climbs (sometimes moderately) to a junction with the loop around Clear Pond. Follow the CATS trail markers. Clear Pond is peaceful and serene, and a great spot to take a break on the shore. The hum of traffic is a distant memory here. You'll most likely be serenaded by songbirds, the leaves softly blowing in the breeze, and nearby waterfalls. There are two places where the many dips and waterfalls of Doyle Brook can be seen from the trail. A bridge over the brook offers a wonderful birds-eye view of the flowing water!

How to get there

Less than 15 miles from downtown Keeseville, Eagle Mountain is an accessible destination for visitors. Take Route 9 south for 10 miles, then turn right onto Trout Pond Road. In just over 3 miles, a parking area with the kiosk will be on your left. Benny’s Trail begins here.

As always, remember that it’s important to be prepared for any adventure outdoors, no matter how big or small. Being prepared means gathering information ahead of time and making sure you have everything you need for whatever activity you are doing. In turn, preparedness is a key element in Leave No Trace. By practicing Leave No Trace ethics, you are helping to ensure that the unique ecosystems and communities of the Lake Champlain Region, and the Adirondacks as a whole, remain beautiful and authentic for generations to come. 

Someone with blue pants and hiking boots standing on a log, only the lower parts of their legs showing, next to a pond.

So, grab your hiking boots, and let’s go take a walk on the wild side at the Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve.


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