|A short distance above the trailhead|
After a late start, Winter hit the Northeast hard and, once it arrived, it just didn't want to leave. I wanted to take a bare-boot hike on the first full weekend of April, but that almost didn't happen thanks to a storm earlier in the week. After seeing pictures online, I decided I'd take my chances on Spruce Mountain, a short distance north of Saratoga Springs and barely inside Adirondack Park. So close to the boundary, in fact, that trailhead parking is outside the park and you cross the Blue Line between the trailhead and the register. And given the views I had and relatively-good trail conditions, I was glad I went up to Corinth to hike this thing.
|The trailhead from road|
Spruce Mountain is one of the easiest of the 30 fire tower mountains that are part of the Adirondack/Catskill Fire Tower Challenge. I'd be willing to say it's one of the 5 easiest, given the relatively short and gradual hike, lack of steep/challenging sections, and proximity to civilization. The current trail up the mountain is very new, only opening in 2016. So new, in fact, that the Adirondack Mountain Club guide has the old Jeep road to the tower as the trail up the mountain and not the newly-constructed path. For that reason, I will try and spell out everything in great detail so this post can serve as a trail guide. The round-trip distance is approximately 3 miles per my GPS, with an ascent of slightly over 1,000 feet from trailhead to the summit (elevation 2,009 feet). Including the 20-30 minutes I spent on the summit, it took me roughly 2 hours for the round trip, and that was with going slower than normal over slick areas.
When I pulled up to the trailhead at 10 AM, I was the first car to arrive for the day. Parking is at an unpaved snowplow turnaround at the north end of Spruce Mountain Road, overflow parking is available alongside the road.
|Trailhead sign. Undershoots the distance by roughly 1/5 mile if my GPS is correct.|
|Notice attached to post|
|Looking back at parking from trail|
Taken when I returned to my car, hence the other cars in the lot
Hiking shoes went on, poles retrieved from the trunk, and off I went. We immediately cross a stream via a culvert. There's a small waterfall off to the left.
|Small waterfall just to the left of the trail|
The path here forks. The level path to the right is on private property and is marked as such. The well-marked Spruce Mountain Trail, blazed with blue markers, begins climbing.
|This tree marks the boundary of Adirondack Park|
|The bad path is even brushed off so you know not to take it|
The first 100 yards past the fork (if that) is the narrowest part of the trail.
|Narrow, single-file herd path|
Soon, the path widens and we reach the trail register, located on the right approximately 0.05 miles from the trailhead.
|The register. Please sign it, unlike most of the other parties on the mountain when I hiked it.|
|The climb soon resumes...|
It was generally a pretty steady climb. The first 0.1 mile or so after the register and a section from roughly 0.5-1.0 mile were the steepest sections, but "steep" is relative.
|Walking across a stream, there were some ice formations|
Much of the trail had less than 1 inch of snow and there were several places I was walking on dirt or frozen mud. At approximately 0.8 miles, a tree had fallen across the trail and there was a clearly evident path that bypassed the tree to the left.
Around 1,800 feet, the trail started to level off and the snow became noticeably deeper. The trail cuts across a small bit of private property. We reenter state land shortly below the fire tower.
|Entering private land|
|More level, but deeper snow up here|
|Back on state land. Fire tower is visible through the trees at center|
After 1.5 miles or so, we're at the summit.
|The fire tower and summit|
Spruce Mountain, elevation 2,009 feet, is the third-lowest fire tower on the challenge list and there isn't a view from the summit unless you climb the tower. I didn't find a benchmark, but given that there were 2 inches of snow on the summit, I was only able to check the bare rock immediately around the tower.
After a short break, I started climbing the 73-foot fire tower, hoping to get views from the steps.
|The steps. Those poles belong to another party.|
|Looking north, about halfway up the tower|
Much to my surprise, I pushed up on the cab's trapdoor and found the cab unlocked.
Looking north and east, there is a panoramic view of the upper Hudson River valley, while you could likely see the Catskills on a clear day if looking south (it was not clear when I was there).
|Long way down|
|Looking northeast toward Corinth and the Hudson River|
After a short time, I was ready to head down.
Going down was easy. I actually had to slow myself down to avoid slipping on the thin layer of snow covering much of the trail. The hour-long climb up the mountain turned into less than 40 minutes down.
|A short distance below the summit|
|An old stone wall winds across the lower half of the trail|
|The final bit before the trailhead|
Spruce Mountain was a good warm-up hike for the summer hiking season. Not particularly difficult, but enough of a challenge to get the blood flowing. The trail is closed during hunting season as a condition of the easement across private land, so no foliage here, but certainly a good hike for the spring or summer. Given how close it is to Albany and Saratoga, I'd suggest avoiding the mountain on summer weekends.
Spruce Mountain is located in the Town of Corinth, the trailhead being roughly 12 miles north of Saratoga Springs and 2 miles from NY Route 9N. Spruce could definitely be hiked in conjunction with Hadley Mountain, located 19 miles away via roads.
Southern Adirondacks Backcountry Information - Trail conditions for the Spruce Mountain area