Lake George

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pillsbury Mountain - West Canada Lake Wilderness - 5/18/14

We happened to have a near perfect day today to climb Pillsbury Mountain in the West Canada Lake Wilderness.  It was 50 degrees at the start and 55 at the finish.  We were accompanied by blue skies and nice breezes and no bugs.  This was much better than yesterday, when we were attacked by black flies most of the day.
Pillsbury rises to a height of 3579' and is on the list of the hundred highest mountains (#82) in New York.  There is a trail to the top and a fire tower that that still exists.  You cannot go into the cab at the top (it is locked), but you can climb to the top flight of stairs.
Parking is accessed by a seasonal gravel road which is typically open from early May until early December.  You can park at a clearing called Sled Harbor (which we did), or you can do what everybody else did and drive the remaining 1.1 miles to the trailhead parking area indicated on the map.  The last section of road is fairly rough, but there were 2 wheel drive cars with average clearance parked at the trailhead.
We took 20 minutes to walk the last section of road before beginning the foot trail to the summit.  It was a nice walk. 

The final stretch of road leading to the trailhead 
At the trailhead are actually 2 trails:  one leading to Pillsbury Mountain, and one leading toward Pillsbury and/or Cedar Lakes.  We signed in for Pillsbury.  There were 5 cars at the trailhead, but no-one else was headed to Pillsbury.  I was surprised.  We didn't see anyone on the trail all day. 

Trailhead register
Our destination
The trail immediately goes downhill for .1 miles, then crosses the Miami River before the uphill climb begins.  The trail is marked by red foot trail discs.

Foot bridge over the Miami River

The Miami River

White Trillium
I should know this flower name, but I don't
Once across the Miami River the trail climbs approximately 1300' in 1.6 miles.  There was some water on the trail in spots, but nothing too bad.  We made good progress and we found ourselves on the summit 1.5 hours from the time we left the car.
I climbed the tower first while Leesa stayed below with out dog Rev.  Rev had started to climb the stairs with me, but we turned her around.  It wouldn't be safe for her.  There are no views from the summit of the mountain itself, but once you are a couple flights up on the firetower, views open up to the east.  As you get near the top, views open up in all directions.  I especially liked the view to the North of Snowy Mountain and Lewey and Indian Lake.

Looking North from the firetower

A zoom look and Snowy Mountain from Pillsbury firetower


Pillsbury firetower
After I came down, Leesa ventured halfway up the tower before she had enough.  She's not to keen on heights, and the missing chicken wire that safeguards the steps sealed her decision to limit her views to those from the mid-point. 

Leesa enjoying the sun at the base of the firetower
We stayed on the summit for 30 minutes and had a snack and gave Rev some water.  The observers cabin still remains on the summit, but it is all boarded up.  

 I found to of the 3 geodetic survey markers, but the third and been removed by someone.

A survey marker originally near the observers cabin had been removed by someone

Our route down was a quick return via the same route.  This would be a nice trip to take kids on.  The trail is not excessively steep.  From the trailhead,  it is only 3.2 miles roundtrip.  We enjoyed it.  It was a new peak for us, and another firetower which we had not been.  We thought about continuing our hike by heading towards Pillsbury Lake, but decided to head home and caught up on a couple things before starting the work week.
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  3.2 miles roundtrip (or 5.0 from Sled Harbor)
Hike Time:  2 hours, or 2 hours, 40 minutes from Sled Harbor)
Total Vertical Gain:   1300' (or 1700' from Sled Harbor)    
The route (click image to enlarge)
The National Geographic map


  1. Hey Mike, the flower is called a Trout Lily. Its bloom marks the begining of trout fishing season!

  2. Thinking on taking my kids (7 and 9) up this trail this weekend. How bad are the black flies? Not sure we'll camp overnight if the bugs are out in force. Thanks for the nice post.

    1. It totally depends on the weather. The black flies were bad on Saturday, but not a factor on Sunday.