Cranberry Lake 50 (yes, again)

Cranberry Lake 50: Janacks Landing Campsite #37

In September 2022 – less than 1.5 years later and after two knee surgeries – I was ready to visit the beautiful Five Ponds Wilderness region in the Adirondacks and hike the Cranberry Lake 50 for a second time.

I first hiked the Cranberry Lake 50 as my first solo thru-hike in May of 2021. You can read about the highlights of my trip, detailed information about my route and campsites, as well as find links to resources here

My Route on the Cranberry Lake 50 (different than the first)

Given a 6+ hour drive on my start and end days, my knee surgeries, and my learnings from my first hike of the Cranberry Lake 50, I once again allocated 5 days/4 nights for the trip.

I intended to follow the exact route I took before but with shorter days and hence different campsites. 

SPOILER ALERT: I once again finished in 4 days/3 nights however I did NOT complete the full loop this time. I’m ok with that. My shortened route (see below) cut out the wettest area and I also hiked different trails than before.

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Check out my first post for lots more detail on the CL50. A synopsis of my route this second time is as follows:

Day 1

Day 1 Hike: ~8 mi  // Clifton Community Center → East Inlet Campsite 13

I drove 6+ hours from New Jersey to Cranberry Lake and parked at Clifton Community Center. Started at about 2:45pm. A brief road walk later and I entered the trail at the Gilbert Tract Trailhead at 3:00pm. There is now a porta-potty at the trailhead. Yay! Weather was a balmy 69 degrees with light drizzle and overall it was easy walking. Concluded the day around 6pm at East Inlet Campsite 13. This exactly mirrored my first hike of the Cranberry Lake 50.

Day 1 Campsite: East Inlet Campsite 13

I once again had East Inlet Campsite 13 to myself. The campsite has a privy, picnic table, and fire ring. It’s located in an open clearing directly on the water where swimming would be possible. Great views and location.

Day 2

Day 2 Hike: ~12 mi // East Inlet Campsite 13 → Chair Rock Flow Campsite

Woke around 6:45am, took my time enjoying the fog over the lake and the sounds of the birds chirping, and finally departed around 9:15am.

On my way out of the campsite spur, I encountered another hiker and his dog who had spent the night at campsite #6 (just a little bit prior to East Inlet Campsite 13). I spotted their tent yesterday but didn’t see anyone. He was planning on hiking the same route.

The onward hike was uneventful although I did encounter a few people hiking the other direction. I arrived at Chair Rock Flow Campsite around 2:00pm. I had considered staying here on my first Cranberry Lake 50 hike but had arrived even earlier (1pm) and had continued on past Olmstead Pond to Cowhorn Pond Campsite. With my slower pace this year, and my promise to take it easy, I decided to enjoy a long lunch and stay the night at Chair Rock Flow Campsite instead of continuing onward. 

A short while later the gentleman I encountered leaving my campsite in the morning showed up with his dog. They too spent the night after checking out the distance to the next campsite. We enjoyed some conversation, relaxed, ate dinner, and retreated to our tents for an early bedtime.

Day 2 Campsite: Chair Rock Flow Campsite

Chair Rock Flow campsite is a tree-lined clearing situated just down the path from the water source. It has a privy and picnic table. I don’t recall a fire ring. This was my first new campsite of the trip and it was great but did not have the stunning views of the prior night at East Inlet Campsite 13 (or others on the loop).

Day 3

Day 3 Hike: ~12 mi // Chair Rock Flow Campsite → Janacks Landing Campsite 37

Departed camp at 9:00am with the intention of bypassing the Olmstead Pond portion of the CL50. Although this would mean an incomplete Cranberry Lake 50 this year, I reminded myself that skipping the super wet area wasn’t a failure and enjoying the trail at a slower pace was my promise to myself.

Around 10:15am I reached the junction toward Sliding Rock Falls to bypass Olmstead Pond, taking about 2-3 miles off the total loop. This proved to be a pleasant detour on dry ground – I passed Sliding Rock Falls and an interesting large rock topped with ferns – before reaching the end of the detour at 11:00am.

At this point it was another 2.8 miles to Cowhorn Pond (where I spent my 2nd night the first time I hiked the CL50 … wow). I reached the junction for the Cowhorn Pond lean-to at noon and stopped for half an hour to have lunch before carrying on towards Cat Mountain (which I climbed as a 1.4 mile return side trip on my first CL50).

A short while later I took yet another and much larger bypass. Just after Glasby Pond I turned towards Janacks Landing and cut out the entire High Falls (another side trip from my first CL50)  and the High Falls Rock section of the trail leading into Wanakena. This section would inevitably be wet and I was having good luck enjoying the scenery on the detours. Not to mention that I was clearly not as fit as I had been on my first CL50. As a sidebar, this is a great aspect of the Cranberry Lake 50 trail – there are a number of ways to alter the route and decrease the total distance. This bypass removed approximately another 7 miles from the total CL50 loop. In total, I removed ~10 miles from the total CL50 route during the day.

Around 2:30pm I arrived at the turn-off for the Janacks Landing lean-to. From there it is another 2.8 miles to Wanakena. I decided to continue on past Wanakena to Peavine Swamp Loop 3 Campsite. I had stayed there on my first CL50 and really liked the location and campsite. 

However, at 3:00pm I was passing the Janacks Landing Campsite 37 and stepped down to take a look. It was really a stunning setting – a huge area with plenty of waterfront. I was sold. I abandoned the plan to carry on to Peavine Swamp Loop 3 Campsite and set-up camp. 

Day 3 Campsite: Janacks Landing 37 Campsite

As mentioned above, Janacks Landing Campsite 37 Campsite was a spectacular campsite location. There is no picnic table but there’s a fire pit, plenty of space, and plenty of water views. 

I can not believe I was the only camper on a beautiful Friday night in September!

Day 4

Day 4 Hike: ~13.25 mi // Janacks Landing 37 Campsite → Clifton Community Center 

I slept wonderfully and departed camp around 8:30am heading towards Wanakena. By 9:30am I arrived in Wanakena and stopped for some fresh water and to use the nice town center restroom. 

I carried on until 1:30pm when I stopped for 15 minutes to enjoy a snack and some final minutes of silence on the Lost Pond Nature Trail just before the boat ramp parking lot. From there it was only another 1.3 miles and I arrived back at my car in the Clifton Community Center at 2:10pm.

Sadly, time for the 6+ hour drive to New Jersey.

Final Cranberry Lake 50 Thoughts

I enjoyed my second solo hike in the Five Ponds Wilderness area just as much as the first despite not completing the full Cranberry Lake 50 loop as intended. 

I am thankful for the alternate routes and bypasses available and the amazing campsite locations. I am indebted to the folks that maintain these areas for our enjoyment.

I have a feeling I’ll be back again in the future. 

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Cranberry Lake 50 Hike: September 7 – 10, 2022

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