Pharaoh Mountain is a central feature of the 46,283-acre Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness. Located in the southern Adirondacks, this summit offers several wide-open, incredible lookouts to peer across this beautiful landscape in all directions. A trek to the peak takes some time, effort, and a 2,000-foot elevation gain, but with the challenge comes a wonderful scenic reward. From the end of Crane Pond Road you will complete an approximately 10-mile round-trip route on a long dirt road, past a few ponds and marsh areas, and up a pine covered trail to the top of a rocky mountain with vast overlooks.
After turning off of Route 9, Crane Pond Road will transition from pavement into a graded dirt road. Navigate to the end where there is a parking area and a registration box. Here is where the trail begins on a wide and bumpy dirt path. High four-wheel drive vehicles can travel down this route, and you may have to step aside for some visitors driving by with their trucks and fishing gear.
This road continues for about a mile, accompanied by the sound of a fast flowing stream down a valley to your left. The first area you will come to will be an intersection with a trail to Goose Pond. A few vehicles may be parked here, but continue straight on the main road. Alder Pond will begin to glisten through the trees to your right. Unfortunately, this entire low-lying area around the ponds can be quite buggy. You will see some yellow trail markers that lead to your left into the woods, but for this hike, stay on the road, and do not follow them.
As the road turns toward the water, it will make a hard left, become a bit wet and muddy, and cross through some marshes en route to Crane Pond. Another blue-marker-blazed path will lead off to the left, but again, remain on the dirt road. A few openings in the trees will give you a splendid view over the wetlands and flooded beaver pond with Pharaoh Mountain rising in the background.
Eventually the dirt road will reach a large parking area and the starting point of several trails. A sign indicates that the route to the Pharoah Mountain summit leads off to the right onto a footpath with red markers. You will finally be away from any potential vehicle traffic as you cross a quaint wooden bridge over a stream that connects Alder and Crane Ponds. Up until this point there is minimal change in elevation. There is another registration box for Pharaoh Mountain, and the route continues onward and upward.
Much of the trail in this section is covered by a soft blanket of pine needles. You will approach another intersection at 0.7 miles up the trail. Continue to follow the red markers to the right as the sign indicates that the summit is another 2.3 miles away. This is where the climb really starts to begin. Continue up the meandering path in the southward direction through a forest of northern hardwoods and conifers. In some sections, the path is worn down to long flat slabs of bedrock.
Close to the top, there will be an opening in the trees that peers out to the northwest, just a small preview of the reward that lies just a little further ahead. As you approach the summit there will be worn trails that split into several directions. Choose one to follow; they all lead to various overlooks. The one to the south climbs a little higher to a rocky plateau with a view to the west overlooking Schroon Lake.
Return to the main trail and head to the north. There is another lookout point, but you can go even further to a designated camping area. Beyond that you can find an equally impressive vantage area that peers toward the High Peaks and north to the Dix Mountain Wilderness. While you can also find an area with semi-obstructed views to the east over Lake George and Lake Champlain, it is a bit harder to find a place to peer through the higher treetops. Overall, you will find plenty of space atop this summit for many people to enjoy. If you would like to extend your route, there is a very steep trail that proceeds with yellow markers down the southeastern side of the mountain to Pharaoh Lake. Otherwise, take in a final glimpse of the horizon and return down the way you came.