Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Santanoni Range - 6/28/12

On Thursday, I used a vacation day to climb the Santanoni Range with my dog Rev.  These were three more ADK high peaks that I needed in my quest to become a 46er.  I choose Thursday due to the splendid weather forecast and my ability to take that day off.  The weather did not disappoint.

I did, however, need to be home by late afternoon so I got an early start.  I was on the trail at 5:20 AM.  I was the first one to sign the trail register that morning, although I noted that a group of three signed in on Wednesday headed for the Bradley Pond leanto.

My plan was to go in to Bradley Pond, take the Panther Brook herd path to Harold Square, to Panther Peak, to Couchsachraga Peak, to Santanoni Peak, down the Santanoni Express back to the Bradley Pond trail and out.  This gave me a counterclockwise loop plus the 3 down and back herd paths to the summits.

Panther Peak from Santanoni Peak

Below is my GPS track from the day.  The loop portion was done counterclockwise.

The GPS track of my Santanoni Range hike at EveryTrail

I was moving pretty fast and passed the cairn marking the bottom of the Santanoni Express herd path in about an hour.  This path has just been reopened within the last five years and it made my loop hike possible.  Shortly afterward I reached the mud and was in the mud most of the rest of the day.  There is a brand new trail re-route just before Bradley Pond (thanks crew! ... nice job).  They also placed a sign with a new connector to the Panther Brook herd path, since the re-route takes you past where the cairn was.

Rerouted portion  of the Bradley Pond trail indicating the start of the Panther Brook  Herd Path

I decided to continue on to take a peek at the Bradley Pond leanto before returning to the Panther Brook herd path.  I reached the leanto about 6:40 AM and the group was still sleeping there so I didn't disturb them.  I returned to the new connector and began the ascent to Harold Square and Times Square.     

Bradley Pond

After skirting around the north side of Bradley Pond, the herd path stays left of a cliff as it ascends.  Shortly after the cliff, the herd path passes an unofficial camping spot at about 3250'.  The path then bears left to reach Panther Brook and follow Panther Brook until it peters out at about 3900'.  

Cliffs NW of Bradley Pond

High on Panther Brook Herd Path and looking back

Panther Peak indicator at Harold Square 

Cairn to Times Square from Harold Square

The Seward Range from Panther Peak

I reached Harold Square at 8:30 AM and was on the summit of Panther Peak at 8:45 AM.  I had the summit to myself at expected.  I wasn't sure if I would see anyone the entire day.  As it turned out, I saw three people but that was it.  Panther Peak has the biggest summit opening of the group and I enjoyed a snack and the views.  Rev gobbled up a portion of the chicken and beef that I offered her.  I should really get a sign for her that says "Will Hike for Food!".

Panther Peak Summit Disc

Panther Peak Summit

Santanoni Peak from Panther Peak

Couchsachraga Peak from Panther Peak

I returned to to Harold Square, then followed the path past the cairn the few paces over to Times Square which is a second small clearing and is the start of the herd paths for Couchsachraga and Santanoni.  I turned right to do Couch first.  The herd path to Couch is a 1.5 mile down and back with quite a bit of descent.  There is also the famous mud wallow at the low point.  It did not disappoint.  I managed to stay dry from the ankles up, although I could have easily gone in up to my knees.  Rev managed to get quite muddy.

Times Square

The neat summit sign on Couch is no longer there; just a yellow disc.  I had reached Couch at 10:10 AM.  Couch offers limited views, and is not a favorite peak of many.  At least I had it on a nice day.

Summit of Couchsachraga Peak

The famous mud hole on the way to Couchsachraga

On my return to Times Square, I passed two guys from Cazenovia, NY on their way in to Couch.  They had signed in on the trail register after me.  I got back to Times Square and gave Rev more food.  Just as I was getting ready to leave Times Square, a young woman from Keene Valley, NY came in from the Santanoni herd path.  She was doing the route in the opposite direction from me. She had taken the Santanoni Express herd path up, not realizing that there was more than one herd path.  She continued past me to Couchsachraga and I headed for Santanoni.  It was 11:15 AM at that point.

Ridge to Couchsachraga Peak in the foreground; Seward Range in the background.

View to the NE from Santanoni Peak

I made my way over to the summit of Santanoni Peak at 12:05 PM.  Just before the summit, I saw a small clearing on the left and noted that the Santanoni Express herd path drops down from there. There is no cairn marking the spot.

Rev on the summit of Santanoni Peak

I gave Rev the last of her snacks and she posed for a picture at the summit.  Then we walked the short distance back to the top of the Santanoni Express herd path and began our descent.  This herd path is really steep at the top.  It's also full of mud, rocks and roots.  Perhaps a clockwise loop would have been better to ascend this section rather than descend.

At about 4000' on the descent, I came across a split in the herd path with a rock cairn on the right.  I was confused by this, but decided take the right, since the cairn was there; even though the left looked more heavily traveled.  

Cairn at split in Santanoni  Express Herd path on the way down at 4000'

Shortly after that, I came to the cliff that I had read about with the rope.  I couldn't see the rope from above and decided to go down the right side of the rock.  This proved tricky, so I went left instead. Once down below the rock, I saw the rope in the middle.  It looks like both branches of the herd path reunite below the cliff.

Rope at cliff just below 4000' on Santanoni Express herd path

I continued on until I reached a nice spot to refill my water.  This was somewhere around 3400'.

1st good water refill on the way down the Santanoni Express herd path

Near the bottom of the Santanoni Express herd path

As I reached the bottom of the herd path, the creek had some nice sand/gravel bars and I stopped to change my socks and cool my feet in the water.

Bradley Pond trail to the right; Santanoni Express herd path to the left

Once back on the Bradley Pond trail, it was less than an hour walk back to the car.  I reached the car at 3 PM.

Bridge over Santanoni Brook

It was a great day outdoors.  These peaks were #'s 38-40 for me on the high peaks list.  All I have left are the four in the Seward Range, plus Gray and Skylight.  Two more trips!

Hike Stats:

Hike Distance:  15.5 miles
Hike Time:  9 hours 40 minutes (including stops)
Total Vertical Gain:  4950'
Trailhead Elevation:  1883'
Panther Peak Summit Elevation (#18): 4442'
Couchsachraga Peak Summit Elevation (#46):  3820'
Santanoni Peak Summit Elevation (#14):  4607' 

My approximate route shown in blue.  Click picture to enlarge.


  1. Thanks so much for posting! This was the best, and most recent description of the route I could find. I printed it out, and took it with me! On a trailless set of peaks, it was great to have. Especially having estimated times for reference. Did them as #39-41, so we're pretty close! Thanks for sharing your (and Rev's) trip, and best of luck finishing up your peaks!

    1. Thanks. I actually just finished the 46 last Sunday (7/8/12). I'm glad you found the post helpful.

  2. Thanks for posting this, the descriptions and pics were very helpful. I just did this hike with my two sons in the same order and along the same paths yesterday. I've come to the conclusion that you are a bit of a fast hiker. (At least compared to me!) My GPS track also came out at around 16.4 miles and it took us 11 hours and 50 minutes. We got off of the trail just after 8PM, so I was a little concerned for light coming down Santanoni but everything worked out great. We also used the rope coming down! 22, 23 and 24 for me.

    1. I'm glad you found the TR to be helpful. I should put a disclaimer on the times, especially when I go by myself. I tend to hike fast when I'm on my own.

      I've noticed that some of my mileage totals seem to be less than expected. Perhaps I have to do some calibration.

  3. Thanks for the detailed and useful TR. I had been wondering about the exact route of the "Santa Express," and whether or not there was camping near its start.

    1. I'm told that the "camping" spot just after the start of the express herd path is not a legal camping spot. It's probably too close to the trailand too close to water. There are a few legal spots near the Bradley Pond lean-to. There is also one partway up the Panther Brook herd path.

  4. I used your marked up Nat. Geo. maps for my trip to the Santanonis and Allen this past weekend. They were a great help.

  5. I'll bet you had some muddy trails after all the rain we've had. Both those hikes are known to be wet in normal weather. Thanks for reading.

  6. Just did this trip and the camp site near the Santa Express has recently been marked "No Camping" by the DEC, large signs and no fire ring. There is also a lot of beaver activity near the base of the Santa Express, we spent some time looking for the campsite thinking it might have been moved due to the beaver dam flooding. Thanks for your great info.

    1. Thanks for reading. I don't believe that camping spot was ever legal. I'll edit the post so it doesn't give people the idea that it's OK to camp there.

  7. Thanks for awesome information. I am wondering if you can tell me about where on your map is the other camping area heading up Panther Brook. About how far is it from Bradly Pond lean-to?

    1. I believe that spot is less than 150' from the trail and there is no disc there so it would be an legal site.

  8. Hi, thanks for the great post. I'm planning to do this hike next week (as an overnight) with a couple of friends and my dog. Did you have long stretches without water sources? I'm trying to gauge how much water we'll need to carry on the three-summit loop, for us and for my dog! Thanks.

  9. There is some water partway up Panther Brook, and some water down low on the Express Trail, but there is no water up high. For myself and my dog I would carry at least 3 liters.

    Thanks for reading and good luck!

  10. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for an excellent report. Question: the Panther Brook trail that splits off the main (blue) trail, is it well indicated? In the 3rd photo, there's a sign that says ''trail'', and another says ''times square path unmaintained''. Which one do I follow?
    Thanks for the info.

    1. The "trail" is the marked trail that continues past the Santanonis. The herd path to Times Square is what you want to follow. It starts near Bradley Pond and should be easy to find.

  11. Great report..I'm hiking these on the weekend of July 10th, 2015. I will bring my 2-person Big Agnes tent with me in case the BP lean-to is occupied. Are there any decent tent sites that are not muddy near the lean-to?

  12. One more question...what is the difference (locations) of Times Square and Harold's Square?...thanks again, Reese.

  13. Harold square is the intersection of the Bradlley Pond herd path with the herd path to Panther.

    Times Square is the intersection with the herd path to Couchsachraga.

  14. Harold square is the intersection of the Bradlley Pond herd path with the herd path to Panther.

    Times Square is the intersection with the herd path to Couchsachraga.

  15. Hi Mike, which is easier - going up or down the Santanoni Express?...Thanks, Reese

    1. The Santanoni Express is steeper than the herd path from Bradley Pond to Harold Square, so it just depends on whether you prefer to go up or down the steepest trail.

    2. Going up, for sure. Thanks much!

  16. how far is harold square to times square

  17. Nice comments guys; I'm planning on hiking this route - maybe tomorrow. I have been to Panther and Santanoni, so my goal,and direct route, is to only "Cooch" - and back. Trying to figure out how much time to allow. My top limit is 12 hours at medium-pace, but that would be coming back in the dusk/dark for the last mile or two; would prefer to get back in light; and my projected starting time is 745AM;