Dozens of hiking trails are available both within St. Lawrence County and a short drive away. Here are many of them, provided by the Laurentian Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. The club's website can be viewed at AdkLaurentian.org. For more nearby hikes, see the "Northern Region" guidebook published by the Adirondack Mountain Club. Also recommended are "Views from on High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills," by John Freeman and "Kids on the Trail: Hiking with Children in the Adirondacks," by Potsdam residents David Trithart and Rose Rivezzi.
RED SANDSTONE TRAIL. History and scenery combine in this 3.5-mile trail along west bank of Raquette River between Hannawa Falls and Potsdam. Interpretive markers display a map. See where some of the famous "Potsdam Sandstone" came from. Park near the Hannawa Falls Fire Department on Mill St., just off State Hwy 56 in Hannawa Falls. Follow the blue diamond trail markers. Trail terminates at the northern tip of Sugar Island. Return to Mill St. or walk out the dirt roads to the Back Hannawa Road.
BROWNS BRIDGE-POSTWOOD PARK, Church Street, off Route 56, Hannawa Falls, easy 5.7 mile trail system, used for cross-country skiing, intersected by backroads, canoe access.
STONE VALLEY RECREATION AREA. Trail goes along both sides of the Raquette River from Colton north to the Brown’s Bridge road and back, making it possible to do a 7.5-mile loop if desired. Trailheads in Colton are on each side of the bridge over the river just above the Colton Dam and parking is available at both places. Dramatic views and overlooks of many waterfalls and rapids and some informational plaques.
HIGLEY FLOW STATE PARK TRAILS. A number of great trails are available at Higley Flow State Park. Take route 56 south to South Colton and turn right onto Cold Brook Road – watch for signs on the right. Small day use fee during summer months, but trails are open for skiing all winter at no charge. The Warm Brook Trail follows the Blue Trail Markers. It is 1.3 miles of rolling, hilly trail through the park's northern hardwood forests and pine plantations. A nice hiking and cross-country ski trail. The Beaver Pond Trail follows the Yellow Trail Markers and is .9 miles long. The interpretative trail goes through several different ecological habitats - pine plantations, wetlands, open meadow, and northern hardwoods, and winds around a beaver pond. There are seven interpretative signs alongside this trail. The Cedar Brook Trail follows the Red Trail Markers and is 3.8 miles long. The trail has several loops that go through pine plantations. It offers steep, hilly terrain, suitable for advanced cross-country skiers. For more trail information and trail maps, contact Higley Flow State Park at 262-2880.
SOUTHVILLE STATE FOREST – RIVER HILL TRAIL. Head out of Potsdam on Route 11B for about 5 miles, cross the west branch of the St. Regis River, and take the first left onto the Southville-West Stockholm Road. Continue about a mile or so and watch for signs on the left. This trail is also good for cross-country skiing. It’s about 2.3 miles total and can be done as a loop. Part of the trail drops down and follows alongside the river.
ROBERT MOSES STATE PARK NATURAL TRAILS, off Route 37, Massena; approx. 6 miles of trails lead to overlook the St. Lawrence River; picnic & collecting areas; free cross-country ski, snowshoe rentals for use on Nature Center trails; info: 705-5022 or www.massenanaturecenter.org
CLEAR POND, Parishville, 6.6 miles, from Clear Pond to Lilypad Pond, features extensive beech forest and glacial ponds.
INDIAN CREEK NATURE CENTER. Excellent bird watching site, with 4.5-mile network of trails, located in Upper and Lower Lakes State Wildlife Management Area between Canton and Ogdensburg. Trail system includes observation tower and bird-blind overlooking the refuge, boardwalk trail accessible to people with disabilities, picnic pavilion, learning center and restroom facilities. Drive northwest on Route 68 from Canton about 4.9 miles and turn left onto route 14 (there is a sign to Rennselaer Falls). Proceed about 3.9 miles to a parking area turn off on the left and watch for signs.
THE PINNACLE. Recently opened and marked half-mile hike up a small mountain just outside of Santa Clara perfect for beginning hikers and children. Open rocky cliff with views towards north and west. Take Route 11B east from Potsdam, turn south onto Route 458 in Nicholville. Continue past St. Regis Falls and about 1/4 mile after crossing bridge over St. Regis River in Santa Clara. Watch for a dirt road to the left with a large brown DEC sign. Turn left onto the road and follow signs for about two miles to parking area. Trailhead is directly across from the parking area. Due to regulations related to the Santa Clara Tract Easement, trail is closed to the public during big game season for deer.
AZURE MOUNTAIN. The fire tower atop Azure Mountain has recently been restored by the Azure Mountain Friends, making this a popular two mile round trip hike. Elevation is only 2,518 feet, but this little mountain offers fantastic views of the High Peaks region to the south and east. A volunteer fire tower interpreter is often on duty on weekends to answer questions about the tower and can help identify distant mountains. Great hike for kids, but it is steep and caution should be used on the open cliffs on the summit. Take Route 11B east from Potsdam to Nicholville, then turn south onto Route 458. About four miles past St. Regis Falls, turn right onto Blue Mountain Road. Continue about 7 miles and watch for the small sign and trailhead parking area on the right.
THE 4-MILE ROAD LOOP TRAIL. Follow the directions to get to Azure Mountain, but only go about 4 miles in on the Blue Mountain Road. Watch for a yellow gated road to the left. You can park there and hike the old logging road, which will loop around and in about 3 miles come out to the Blue Mountain Road at another spot. Or, drive another mile to a large brown DEC sign marking access to the St. Regis River. Park in the lot provided and walk in on the old logging road. Bear to the left at the Y and it will loop around and come back out to the Blue Mountain Road at the above-mentioned yellow gate. Walk the road back to your vehicle. This is a nice road to ski and moose tracks were seen there last winter! (When skiing you want to start at the yellow gate.) Trail closed to public during big game season for deer.
EVERTON FALLS. Drive to St. Regis Falls on 11B east out of Potsdam, then right onto Route 458. Turn left at the flashing red light in St. Regis Falls, then right onto the road directly across from the old school onto Red Tavern or Duane Road. Travel seven miles and you will get glimpses of the east branch of the St. Regis River on the right (south) side. At the point where the river is very close to the road you will be able to look up stream and see waterfalls and a short distance farther, across from an old dirt road (the Everton Road) there is a short trail over to Everton Falls. Park in a lot built for paddlers, just a little bit past the Everton Road. There is a short Nature Conservancy hiking trail on the left side of the road, just beyond the parking area, but it may be difficult to find.
DEBAR MOUNTAIN. A 7.4-mile hike with a steep, rocky section at the end, but most of the trail is gentle inclines on old logging roads. Nice views from the 3,300 fot rocky summit that once had a fire tower. Trail is well marked and can be reached by going to the Meacham Lake State Campground on Route 30. When the campground is open there is a small day-use fee. The trailhead is near campsite 48 with parking available in an old gravel pit. Reach the campground by going to St. Regis Falls (Route 11B east to Route 458 south), then taking the Red Tavern Road east to Route 30, then turning right or south and watch for signs. Or take Route 458 south on through Santa Clara and then another 11 miles to the intersection with Route 30. Turn left, or north and watch for campground signs.
ADIRONDACK VISITORS INTERPRETIVE CENTER. An hour from Potsdam, the "VIC" in Paul Smith's offers over seven miles of easy hiking trails and wildlife observation areas, as well as informative displays and restrooms. Several trails are handicapped accessible and many are great for cross-country skiing in winter. There is a boardwalk trail through a bog and also an 8.2 mile round trip climb up Jenkins Mountain. Head out of Potsdam on Route 11B; turn south in Nicholville onto Route 458 and stay on it until it ends at Route 30. Turn right on Route 30 and continue south – watch for signs after passing Barnum Pond and just before you come to Paul Smith's College. For information: 518-327-3000.
LAMPSON FALLS. There is a short .8 mile round trip hike in to this tremendous waterfall on the Grasse River, with excellent viewing opportunities. Take County Route 27 south out of Canton, heading towards Degrasse. After crossing the Pierrepont-Russell Road, it is 5.8 miles more. Watch for a large brown DEC sign on the right (west side) for the Grasse River Wild Forest. Park on the roadside and walk down the gated road. About .3 miles in there will be a wide path to the left – this leads to the top of the falls. From there you can follow a trail that runs alongside the river down to the base of the falls, or return to where you turned off and continue on that trail, bearing to the left. When you reach the large pool at the base of the falls, you can find trails that continue left onto the rock ledges directly across from the falls, providing outstanding views. If you watch for trail markers, you can continue walking a bit further downstream along the river. There used to be a wooden bridge across the river and more trails, but the bridge was washed out a number of years ago. Once you reach the site of the old bridge, you can take an old logging road back to the where you parked your car.
TOOLEY POND ROAD – WATERFALLS & TOOLEY POND MOUNTAIN. Take County Route 27 south from Canton Village of DeGrasse and watch for a left (east) turn onto Tooley Pond Road. The road follows a 16-mile stretch of the Grass River and there are at least six waterfalls, some visible from the road, but the trails are unmarked. The following distances are approximate and are all from the Degrasse turn off: Basford Falls, 1.3 miles. This is a .6 mile round trip hike. Look on the right (south) side of the road for 2 steel posts with a large rock between them, marking an old woods road. Follow this old road to the falls. Sinclair Falls, 1.9 miles. A .2 mile round trip. Turn right onto Lake George Road and park on right just before a bridge over the river. The top of the falls are visible from the bridge and there are some paths that lead down to the river. Go back to the Tooley Pond Road to continue. Twin Falls, 2.8 miles. There is a dirt road on the right (south) side of the road. Turn in and park near the start. Walk a short distance down the road to view the falls – both sides of Twin Falls are visible. Bulkhead Falls, 3.3 miles. Watch for an old woods road marked with a "no motorized vehicles" sign, on the right (south) side of the road. It is blocked with 2 large rocks. Park and follow the old road .1 miles to the river to see this pretty flume that drops about 10 feet. Rainbow Falls, 5.9 miles. A small clearing with several large boulders blocking vehicle access on the right (south) side of the road is where the .6 mile round trip trail begins. Follow this well-worn trail across a footbridge over a small stream, and then a short distance farther to the river where several overlooks give you a good view of the spectacular 25 foot falls. Copper Rock Falls, 8.5 miles from County Route 27 – and .8 of a mile past the bridge where the Grasse River crosses over to the north side of the road. Watch for a large pine tree on the left (north) side of the road marked with a red/orange blaze. Park and walk in, watching for more blazes. This is a 1.4 mile round trip and very easy to follow, reaching the river in .15 miles. It runs along the river, heading upstream, past several rapids, ledges, and waterfalls over the smooth coppery colored bare rocks. The parking area and trail up Tooley Pond Mountain are about 10.2 miles in on the Tooley Pond Road. There are signs for both the parking lot and the trailhead. Tooley Pond Mountain is less than 2 miles, round trip, and an easy climb with limited views. It can be done as a loop.
MOUNT ARAB. A restored fire tower sits on the summit, a relatively easy two-mile round trip hike that. Limited views from the open cliffs, but a full 360-degree view from the cab of the tower. Take Route 56 south out of Potsdam until it meets Route 3 at Sevey’s Corners. Turn left (east) onto Route 3 and continue for 10.4 miles. Watch for a right hand turn towards Conifer. Follow the Conifer Road 1.8 miles south and take a left onto Eagle Crag Road. In .9 mile you will reach the trailhead (on left) and parking area (on right), just after crossing an old railroad bed.
GREENWOOD CREEK, Route 3, Harrisville, easy 1.8 mile loop, beautiful stream and cascades are located beside the picnic area where a short nature trail begins.
HARPERS FALLS, Russell, easy 2 miles round trip, through a forest of hemlocks, leads to a 60’ waterfall which drops in two narrow cascades.
BEAR MOUNTAIN. Take Route 56 south and then turn right (west) onto Route 3. This moderately steep 3.4-mile round trip trail climbs from the Cranberry Lake State Campground to the summit, which overlooks a broad vista of the lake and forests beyond. Access is from the campground (small day use fee), which is just east of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake. It can also be reached from the Burntbridge Pond trailhead which is a snowmobile/hiking trail on the south side of Route 3 approximately 2 miles east of Cranberry lake. It is a 9.6 mile round trip to the summit using this route.
CATHEDRAL ROCK. The Tooley Pond Mountain fire tower was dismantled and rebuilt on Cathedral Rock, on the grounds of the Ranger School at Wanakena. It is a 1.4-mile easy hike from Route 3. Drive south out of Potsdam on Route 56 to Sevey’s Corners. Turn right (west) on Route 3 and go through Cranberry Lake. Continue about 6 miles and watch for a road on the left (south) side of the highway with a yellow gate. If you get all the way to the turn off to Wanakena, you’ve gone to far. Go back .7 miles. The fire tower can actually be seen on the hill top from near the gate. Proceed through the gate. Bear left at the second junction. When you reach the top of the hill on that road (Cathedral Rock Road), take a left onto the Tower Road, which is the service road to the summit, or walk a little farther for a hiking trail to the top. You will pass a lean-to before reaching the fire tower. The road can be taken on the way down.
PEAVINE SWAMP TRAIL. Marked as cross-country ski trails, this area provides an interesting 8.5-mile walk through stands of old-growth timber, some with over 42-inch diameters, to a scenic, secluded lean-to on the shore of Cranberry Lake. A trailhead sign shows the network of trails which includes Balancing Rock, Christmas Tree Pond and Esker loops. The trailhead is approximately 1.2 miles past the bridge over the Oswegatchie River, west of Cranberry Lake. Just past a DOT parking area on the right (north side of the road) there will be a dirt road on the left which leads to the trailhead parking area.
STREETER LAKE, Star Lake, acces from Young’s Road off Route 3 or Coffin Road in Oswegatchie. Moderate 8 miles round trip, easy 1 mile round trip, two trailheads provide access to lean-to and lake.
WOLF LAKE, Talcotville, easy 5 mile loop, leads to a series of lakes.