Cold River/Seward Range Loop - Into the heart of the ADKs

Posted by jm on

This weekend my friend Wes, his wonderful dog Sky, and I hiked the Cold River/Seward Range Loop in the western High Peaks of the Adirondacks. This loop is about 30 miles and is fairly easy. While it doesn't climb any peaks, it does explore some of the most isolated places in the Adirondacks, the beautiful Cold River, gorgeous Latham Pond, and diverse forests of hardwoods, fire, spruce, pine, and cedar. This loop encircles the Seward Range.

We got a late start, hitting the trail around 3:30 pm. While the foliage is past peak, the understory still had lots of color with yellow, orange, gold, and lime green. The trail was easy and rolling as we passed dayhikers coming down from climbing the peaks in the Sewards. We soon passed a couple shelters, filled with people basecamping for their hike up to the Sewards, which have four of the High Peaks. We hiked by the last shelter and would not see anyone else until we ran into some packrafters the following day. The trail climbed steadily in a thick tunnel of fir and spruce. We descended to a meadow and climbed again. Soon we were at the Northville Placid Trail (NPT). It was dark and we would hike about 6 miles with our headlamps through the night.

I had thru-hiked the NPT in August and it was odd to be on it again. The terrain was hilly as we crossed many streams and the Rondeau Hermitage, where a hermit had lived along the Cold River. We stayed at the Ouluska lean-to. While it is a little more run down than Cold River's famously gorgeous lean-to locations, it suited us fine. I enjoyed reading decades' worth of journal entries, transcribed into type written pages. What a labor of love.

The next morning the river was shrouded in mist. The Cold River is incredibly beautiful with rapids, waterslides, pools, and boulders. It was great to be back. We stopped briefly at the sublime Seward lean-to as the sun broke through the mist, revealing an immaculate blue sky. Even the blowdowns that followed, which frustrated me on my NPT thru-hike, seemed much easier. The Seward Lean-tos Nos. 3 and 4 soon appeared. They are in stunning locations along this river with rapids and pools. The No. 3 lean-to is particularly gorgeous. We followed an unofficial trail, or so it seemed, along the river. It was brushy, but soon entered a white pine forest. Here we turned right onto the Calkins Brook Trail, a wider trail that follows an old grade. The trail was hilly, but the pine forest was beautiful. We passed two people with packs, on their way to packraft down the Cold and Raquette Rivers.

Do not miss the short side trail down to Latham Pond, what a beautiful spot with great views of the Sewards. This is probably one of the few trail accessible, uncrowded, backcountry ponds with views of the high peaks. Calkins Brook Trail was hilly with some longer, gradual climbs. It passed some nice lean-tos, and offered views of scenic Calkins Brook. We descended and completed the loop.

This is a superb backpacking loop that I highly recommend. It has fine scenery, isolation, and amazing camping. The forgiving terrain allows you to bang out miles, or just have a relaxing time.

Michael Martin posted on


It is remarkable that we were out there at precisely the same time, as I climbed the Sewards last weekend!

See my trip report.

In some ways, I can't wait to get my 46 so I can start exploring the area more fully!