PHARAOH LAKE & MOUNTAIN hiking, camping, skiing, canoeing + review of the 6 lean-tos.
The area is fairly popular in summer, especially on weekends. Youth camps bring larger groups in at times - they are often noisy - late August into fall should be quieter.
Have skied into the lake several times - my 1st wilderness backcountry ski was to Pharaoh Lake - cotton corduroy pants, whiskey at lean-to #5, did not ski well on the way out!
The 1st time I climbed Pharaoh Mountain was when there was an observer in the fire tower - the fire tower was knocked down by vandals in 1992 so my my visit was before then - I must be getting old!
On the way in from Beaver Pond Rd:
Classic site, closest to the water. Great view up the lake to Treadway Mtn. Fairly shaded but gets some sun too. Thunderbox is uphill & not too close - had broken lid. Perhaps my favorite.
A double-wide up & away from the water. Limited view from lean-to but great view of Treadway & Pharaoh Mtns from the rocks at waterside. Thunderbox. Excellent swimming.
High up on ledge, View across the lake to Pharaoh Mtn, Wintergreen Point close by, blueberries in late July, early August. Best cliff diving. Unique site, remote, fairly new. Thunderbox close by. In red pines, lots of huckleberries. Lots of sun in the pm. One of my favorites.
Close to water. View of Pharaoh Mtn from nearby rocks. Remote/shaded. Next Split Rock Bay & interesting rocks. Outhouse.
Probably the most popular because it is next to rocky point with great view but only fair view from actual lean-to. Attracts the worst campers & trash. Sunniest & breeziest. Some of the area is roped off for rehab. Outhouse.
Lean-to #6: Nice area from rocks for swim. Outhouse. Newly rebuilt.
Oct. 19-21: PHARAOH LAKE & MOUNTAIN. When I was here this summer I thought it would be nice to visit in the fall - a bit late for peak fall colors tho. Already ~15 cars in the parking lot + 4 more by Mill Brook - most were day-hikers. The 1st mile was nasty (it had rained 3" a couple of days earlier) - big puddles & running water in the trail/4wdroad, a bit better from Mill Brook to the lake. Can-Uber left 3 canoes for me by the lake's outlet, I took out a brownish Coleman which leaked so I traded it for my usual reddish one. Lean-tos #1, 5 & 6 were occupied, I took double-wide #2. Frost forecasted but stayed above freezing. Day 2, paddled across the lake & picked up the trail up the mountain which soon started climbing steeply, leveled for a bit then climbed very steeply to the summit area. To get the most views you need to visit 4 or 5 different areas of open rock. Snow in the High Peaks, most noticeable on Mt Marcy; also good views to Lake Champlain & Green Mts. 3.5 miles hiking, gain of 1,410'. Day 3 - paddled around the lake & visited Lean-tos #3 & 4, the remotest + 5 (Watch Rock). Mergansers, pair of small ducks, grouse; no loons. Fairly quiet. Shores are like summer - green pines & hemlocks; some color in hardwoods (mostly yellow/gold/bronze beech) half up the mountains, spruce green up top.
Aug 13, 2019 - Camped at Pharaoh Lake Lean-to #4 (aka Pharo, Split Rock Bay lean-to). Figured I would bushwhack to the top of some low cliffs S of Treadway Mtn to get a view of Pharaoh Lake & Pharaoh Mtn &, if I did well, whack to Devils Washdish. Well, I arrived at some cliffs (~1,600' el) & tried to get around them to the top - the mosquitoes were attacking, the footing was not good, the sole of my boot was pealing off & I slipped down 10' - I could see the lake & mtn thru the trees but gave up. On the way back, after passing a small beaver pond, I discovered my GPS was missing - I went back to the pond but no further - there was no way I could walk the way I had come. Finished with compass only & came back out onto the blue trail just 100 yards from the lean-to! Not the best 3 hours I've ever spent - the rest of the trip was very nice & peaceful. Mosquitoes were not too bad the rest of the time. Met some folks on the trail who had just seen a bear.
July 15, 2019 - PHARAOH MOUNTAIN hike from Oxshoe Pond. Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. 1.5 hours for the 1,400'+ climb, easy at first but keeps getting steeper. Spent over 2 hours on top (nice breeze, no bugs) - there are 5 good lookouts in the summit (2,551') area and you can see in most directions (I could not see the Pharaoh Lake Brook valley). Hoffman Mtn, Marcy Dix Giant stood out in the High Peaks, a piece of Lake Champlain & VT; the only civilization that could be seen was the Schroon Lake area. Blueberries; grouse, 2 deer. 6.5 miles.
July 2, 2019 - PHARAOH LAKE backpacking & canoeing. Decades ago, I wheeled an OT Pack canoe from Mill Brook (knocked the muffler off my sedan driving in on Pharaoh Lake Rd) to the lake & camped - the canoe/wheels combo kept on tipping over on the trail. Many years ago, I carried a Bell Merlin II in from Mill Brook (the high clearance 2WD Ford Ranger did ok) on a day trip - paddled Pharaoh Brook from the bridge upstream thru the vly, carried a bit thru the woods, more flatwater, then carried the final part to the lake.
This time, backpacked Pharaoh Rd the 1.1 miles to Mill Brook then on to the lake, brought a paddle. Trail still wet & muddy in spots. Found 3 canoes not far from the outlet - the first, an aluminum, leaked about a quart a minute. Traded it for an OT Discovery 158 with underside damage to the outer layer of that 3-layer polyethylene - better but still leaked very slowly. Traded that in for a Coleman which did not leak - someone installed a 3rd seat which made soloing easier. Red & white pines along shores. Camped in lean-tos #1 (classic site close to the water in pines & hemlocks, great view to Treadway Mtn which rises 1,100' above the lake, some nice sunrises) & #3 (great view of Pharaoh Mtn which rises 1,400' above the lake, in red pines, sun sets over the mountain)(there are 6 lean-tos on PL, !,2, 5, & 6 are not too far apart; 3 & 4 are in the more remote E side). Lots of coves & other interesting stuff to explore, stopped to take a look at several campsites. Counted 10 canoes & 4 rowboats stashed somewhere around the lake - most probably leak (good idea to bring lots of duct tape if u want to paddle). Rocky shores, good swimming, excellent scenery. Ranger said all lean-tos & campsites were occupied on Sat night but very few folks in Mon-Wed. Lean-to #5, near Watch Rock's panoramic view, seems to attract many bad campers - it was the only lean-to with a fair amount of trash (3 full propane fuel canisters, empty liquor bottles, leftover food & the biggest paperback book I ever saw), unburnables in the fire-pit, etc. - on one night someone who camped there set off a few fireworks, otherwise the area was fairly quiet. Loons, mergansers w/tiny chicks (cute), deer, gb heron, immature eagle, robin, minks, lots of fish; heard thrushes & white-throated sparrows in the woods. Variable mosquito activity, sometimes quite annoying. 50 stable flies (aka "ankle-biters") in the canoe on an evening paddle. Flowering: sheep laurel, blue flag, bunchberry, rose pogonia, bullhead lily, fragrant white water lily. Did a short hike on path (marked with faded yellow paint blazes) from near #1 to Whortleberry Pond. Info: https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/107648.html
...in progress...more to come when I have time...