North Fork Boquet River Loop
Imagine crisp mountain air filling your lungs as you walk along pristine mountain waters shed from the northern flank of Dix Mountain. Gentle currents gurgle over water-smoothed rocks in the flats. Cascades and whitewater excite the senses while trekking through the more rugged areas. Deep pools host brook trout throughout and the crux of the river, a canyon with 100 foot high walls, is a sight to behold. Welcome to the North Fork Boquet River.
A full description of this beautiful river is beyond the scope of this article, but we’ll explore it from the stone bridge on Route 73 to the Round Pond to Dix Trail. From there we’ll follow the trail back to Route 73 to form a loop. It is a moderate hike over roughly 6.5 miles with about 1,800 feet of elevation gain. It entails bushwhacking so map and compass skills are a must. Fishing, swimming, climbing and scenic vistas for photography can all be found within a few miles of the highway.
Park at the pull-off near the stone bridge over the North Fork Boquet 2.5 miles south of the Chapel Pond parking lot. The overall mileage of the trek can be cut down to about 5 miles by leaving an additional car at the Round Pond Trailhead 1.1 miles south of the parking area at Chapel Pond.
To begin the loop, locate the herdpath along the south side of the river and walk about one third of a mile upstream. Cross when the path meets river. This may be impossible during periods of high water such as spring melt or after heavy rains. In that case, the herdpath continues past the crossing so if you’re a fisherman you may want to simply work upstream along the various flumes and pools to a lazy area of the river. Brook trout can be found in almost every hole.
Once on the other side, follow the herdpath up the bank and through the forest. It crosses an outlet stream from Twin Pond (a small pond south of Round Pond) and returns to the North Fork Boquet high above an area of cascades and flumes. This is Boxcar Swimming Hole—a deep cleft in the river bottom at the base of a picturesque waterfall. It is one of many such areas.
The path reaches an intersection after about a mile. Left leads to the South Fork Boquet River and the Great slide on Grace Peak while following right leads along the North Fork of the river. The path is obvious until you reach a campground on a knoll a bit farther upstream. A picturesque waterfall is situated downslope from the campground.
Thereafter, the herdpath becomes more obscure before disappearing completely so use the river as a handrail. Views of Dix Mountain’s eastern slope and Beckhorn slide accompany the trek as the river gently flows around various bends. The trip soon becomes a true bushwhack and flatlands give way to steeper, more rugged terrain while ascending roughly 450 feet of elevation gain toward the canyon. It may be useful to note that you’ll be following a heading of about 325 degrees true north on approach to and after the canyon area.
One can rock hop in the river, trek along its banks or veer into the woods on the right (northeast) side. There are several ledges and small cliffs on approach to Boquet Canyon. One such area is home to ice climbing routes that are documented in Blue Lines, an ice climbing guidebook by Don Mellor.
Farther along, the river takes a slight jog northeastward before entering the canyon proper and switching back to 325 degrees true north. Sweeping views up the river valley can be found from an overlook before the gorge as well as from the top of the canyon. The chasm is a chokepoint in the river. Rock hopping is out of the question so the safest route is to go on the right-hand side. Be prepared to encounter rough terrain and small ledges.
Backcountry rock climbers may be interested in two routes: Turbulescence and Welcome to the Jungle. They lie on the northeast side of the canyon and are documented in Jim Lawyer’s and Jeremy Haas’ rock climbing guidebook, Adirondack Rock.
About 10 minutes north of the canyon is another cliff. The southern edge is mostly low-angle slab. At the left-hand corner, walk through a crevasse in the cliff to the talus (broken rock) at the base of a vertical wall that is home to a large roof of anorthosite rock—welcome to Shark Fin Cliff. Stand below and look up to see how the cliff derived its name—the roof resembles the dorsal fin of a shark.
Talus About the Crack, another rock climbing route, follows the obvious gully to its left. Given the available real estate on the wall, there is potential for more routes.
Visit the river downslope to see another of the many rugged areas of the North Fork. The water cascades through large pieces of talus. Continue by walking upstream along the path of least resistance between the river and cliff. The cliff gets smaller and passes another established rock climbing route, Mama’s Boquet. You may need to do a bit of scrambling to get around the north end of the ledges where you’ll once again find yourself walking on more level terrain. Thereafter, stay close to the river for the easiest route-finding.
The path of the North Fork Boquet eventually turns west on its route to the Finger slides on Dix Mountain (at an elevation of roughly 2,275 feet). It’s time to leave the river and strike a heading of true north. It’s a mere 20 minute bushwhack through moderately loose forest to the Round Pond to Dix Trail (marked with blue disks). Follow the trail to the right (east) where it crosses a small log bridge before descending toward Round Pond. At this point you’re less than 2 miles from the Round Pond Trailhead.
The trail leads around the northern edge of the tranquil 23 acre pond. You’ll pass a campground at its northeastern side and climb to the height of land after the trail intersection. Descend toward the trailhead, now about a half mile downhill. A newly formed beaver pond blocks the path, but it is easy to bypass.
If you’ve left a car at the Round Pond Trailhead then your journey is complete. Otherwise complete the loop by walking right (south) for 1.4 miles along Route 73 and back to the pull-off at the stone bridge. The Adirondack Mountains are filled with hidden jewels. One only needs a willingness to explore in order to find them. In terms of diversity of terrain and overall beauty, it’s hard to beat the North Fork Boquet River loop.
Kevin B. MacKenzie is associate registrar at St. Lawrence University as well as an Adirondack writer and photographer. He is an avid outdoorsman, member of ‘Climbing for Christ’ and winter forty-sixer whose passion is bushwhacking in the Adirondack backcountry with a focus on summer and winter slide climbing. Kevin maintains a website dedicated to his explorations at www.mackenziefamily.com/46/46r.html and is active on several online hiking forums including ADKHighPeaks.com, ViewsFromtheTop.com and Summitpost.org where he is known by the sobriquet “MudRat”. He lives in the Lake Placid area with his wife, Deb, who is also a freelance photographer.
Join Our Mailing List
Get exclusive ADK stories sent right to your inbox!