Welcome to the

Section 1:
Piseco to West Canada Lakes

(16.4 miles)

The Wakely Damn Ultra course starts at the north west end of Piseco Lake at the end of Haskells Road near the Cold Stream bridge and follows the Northville Placid trail. This section passes through what is probably the wildest part of the Adirondacks. This is the most technical half of the course and even the strongest runners will find it difficult not to walk many stretches.  It is the West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area and contains over 160,000 acres of forest. The grades are gradual to moderately steep and are often long. The total elevation change from Piseco to the West Canada Lakes is an increase of about 680 ft., but the trail rises nearly 100 ft. above the lakes. The trail is well marked, but caution should be observed if the markers appear to be missing in places.

Distance Log
Piseco to West Canada Lakes (South to North)




Parking area at Cold Stream bridge. Piseco


Fall Stream


Lumber Camp side trip


Jessup River


First lean-to at Spruce Lake


Second lean-to at Spruce Lake


Third lean-to at Spruce Lake; Balsam Lake side trip


Sampson Bog outlet


Abandoned jct., Sampson Lake and Perkins Clearing Trail


junction, Sampson Lake and Perkins Clearing Trail


West Canada Creek (lean-to)


South Lake (lean-to)


West Lake (lean -to)


Former caretaker clearing, West Lake

Trail Guide

WARNING:  The following trail guide was adapted from the ADK NPT Guidebook and contains much more data than is actually needed to traverse the course.  And as the guide books warn, conditions of the trail change from season to season.  Some of those changes have been incorporated herein along with tips runners have submitted over the years.  If you're looking for the short story, just follow the blue markers.

From the parking area (0 mi.), follow the trail across the Cold Stream bridge and into woods on private land. The route continues with blue trail markers to a barrier gate at 0.1 mi., where a covered bulletin board and a trail register are found. State land begins here, and this is the official start of the run.

The first mile is almost flat except at a brook crossing at 0.9 mi. Heading N, the woods road trail then gradually rises before sharply pitching downward to another brook crossing at 2.6 mi. After gaining about 180 ft. in elevation from the brook, the trail levels off, swings W, crosses several brooks (often dry) and continues at about 2000 ft. elevation. It then descends slightly and heads NW. The Fall Stream crossing is at 4.4 mi.

After following the waterway upstream for 150 yds., the trail curves W from the stream and begins a steady but not difficult climb up a long grade. It levels off at about 5.5 mi. Now heading NW, it enters International Paper Co. land at 5.8 mi. The trail then descends an easy grade to a narrow clearing at 6.0 mi. After crossing a small brook, the route gradually climbs to the end of the clearing at 6.2 mi. Soon after, the trail drops fairly steeply downward and crosses the end of a vlei at 6.6 mi. From here the clearing of an old lumber camp may be seen on a low hillside at the opposite side of the vlei pond.

Continuing the steady descent, at 6.7 mi. the trail reaches a side woods road which cuts back sharply to the R and goes to the pond shore. From this jct. there is a moderately steep drop through a narrow defile to a small deep pool L and then a climb up a narrow incline. Soon, another descent begins.

At 6.8 mi., the wide but shallow Jessup River is crossed on stones. This can be a wet crossing in times of high water. Beyond the river, the trail passes through two clearings. The grade is gradual at first but soon becomes moderate. A jct. with a directional arrow sign is reached at 7.2 mi. (Avoid the R turn, which continues on International Paper Co. land.) The Northville Placid Trail swings sharply L and Is soon back into Forest Preserve land.

The route eventually levels and then again gradually climbs to a height of land at 7.5 mi. A slight descent occurs before another jct. with an arrow sign. An old logging road comes in at an acute angle from the L (This presents no problem for N-traveling runners).

The route is now nearly level, Considerable wooden walkway is found in the wet area as the trail passes in and out of several clearings. The trail leaves the woods road and drops down to the R just before crossing Bloodgood Brook at 8.0 mi. More wet ground is negotiated with more boardwalk.

Elevation is gained gradually before a brook is crossed at 8.35 mi. The way climbs a short steep grade, levels and then gradually descends. An arrow sign at 8.9 mi. indicates the trail veers sharply R. Wet ground and mud continue with boardwalk where needed, to yet another brook crossing at 9.1 mi. This is followed by an extensive log walkway. Another brook is crossed on a two-log bridge just before the side trail to Spruce Lake Lean-to #1 is reached at 9.5 mi.

The side trail forks L 100 ft. to the lean-to and then continues another 200 ft. to the shore of Spruce Lake (surface elevation 2378 ft.). There is a brook for water, 150 ft. to the front of the lean-to.

The trail curves N from the lean-to jct., immediately passing a privy R. The next quarter mile has some rather steep ups and downs as the trail roughly parallels the distant shoreline of the lake.

The Northville Placid Trail reaches a second jct. at 10.3 mi. The trail L leads 0.05 mi. to Spruce Lake Lean-to #2. (Care must be taken as it is easy to miss this side trail.)

The Northville Placid Trail crosses the wide, rocky outlet of Balsam Lake. Thirty-five yds. beyond the Balsam Lake outlet, a third trail jct. and lean-to sign are reached. Leading to the L, a trail takes you to Spruce Lake Lean-to #3. A side trail leads from near the lean-to to the Balsam Lake outlet, where running water is available.

The Northville Placid Trail continues to parallel the shoreline, passing the N end of the lake at 10.8 mi. with minor changes in grade. There is a spring at R at 11.3 mi. but you'll have a hard time finding it. After a brook crossing at 11.6 mi., there is an approximate 100-ft. increase in elevation. A spring-fed brook is to the L at this point. The trail follows along this cold brook where several holes are located. Another small brook is crossed at 12.4 mi.

Finally, at 13.25 mi., the trail pitches down a steep grade and levels off just before reaching an arm of Sampson Bog. The outlet of this attractive body of water is reached at 13.5 mi. Just before reaching the bog outlet, avoid the unmarked trail that continues straight ahead, instead, take the R turn at the jct., which drops sharply downward, crossing the bog outlet on a bridge above a small but very nice cascading waterfall. The elevation of Sampson Bog is 2350 ft. This is a good spot to get water.  NOTE:  During the spring of 2006, this bridge was washed down stream. It is still possible to cross here by rock hopping but is tricky depending on water levels.  An easier route is just down stream where rocks are more plentiful. 

A few feet along the far side on the outlet the trail abruptly turns L and goes over a knoll. It then drops down along the bog outlet before finally climbing away from the water.  NOTE:  If you take the easier downstream crossing you should continue straight and bushwhack a short distance until you hit the trail which parallels the stream for a bit - then turn LEFT onto the trail.

A steep pitch is reached at 13.8 mi., shortly after a brook crossing. You reach the end of a vlei at 14.9 mi., and another steep pitch follows beyond it. Two more small outlets of vleis are crossed. The building of several log bridges and other remarkable trail work was done in this area by ADK trail crews in 1992. These greatly facilitate the passage of runners through this part of the trail.

At 14.9 mi., there may still be some trail jct. signs found for what used to be the jct. for a crossover route to the Perkins Clearing Trail. This shortcut is no longer maintained and is not useable, though the signs may still be in place (1992). Continuing on the Northville Placid Trail, the jct. with the Perkins Clearing Trail is reached at R at 15.2 mi. The Perkins Clearing trail has red trail markers.

The French Louie Trail coincides with the Northville Placid Trail from this jct. to West Lake. Continuing straight ahead, you cross West Canada Creek (outlet of Mud Lake) on a NEW BRIDGE. Climbing the steep bank on the far side of the bridge brings you to the West Canada Creek Lean-to at 15.25 mi. The nearly grown-in trail to the R of the lean-to follows West Canada Creek upstream to a tent site on Mud Lake, some 75 yds. away.

The Northville Placid Trail leads L past the lean-to down a small slope and then bears R, up a grade towards South Lake.

South Lake is reached at 15.0 mi. A side trail L at 15.7 mi. leads 0.1 mi., to the South Lake Lean-to. This very beautiful sheet of water has a surface elevation of 2345 ft. The lean-to, fronted by a magnificent crescent beach, makes a most inviting place to spend the night. The trail crosses an extensive bridge over the outlet of the lake at 15.8 mi.

You now climb over the divide between South Lake and West Lake. Bear L as you top the divide. It is just barely possible to identify the remnant of an old tote road that swung to the R at this point. As you descend the small divide, the trail soon levels off.

At 16.3 mi, a side trail is seen at the L of the trail. It leads some 40 yds. to the shore of West Lake, where West Lake Lean-to #1 is found.

The Northville Placid Trail continues straight ahead from the jct. to a grassy opening at 16.4 mi. of the former caretaker headquarters’ cabin. 

NAVIGATION WARNING:  At the grassy Caretakers Clearing at West Lake (16.4 mi.), you'll find a DEC Trail Register and a the DEC Sign post pictured above.  The trail turns sharply R here and heads E.  Do not go straight - that's the RED Trail heading west towards the 2nd  lean-to on West Lake.   The Northville Placid Trail turns sharply R and follows the Blue Markers towards Cedar Lakes and the Cedar River Headquarters (Wakely Dam).

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