The Blue Mountain Wild Forest covers an area over 300 square miles and is home to many mountains that overlook spectacular Blue Mountain Lake. Castle Rock stands 2,435 feet high along the northern edge of the water and offers a lovely vantage point across the lake and beyond to more of the Adirondack Mountains spanning the horizon. A 4-mile loop leads up to the summit and circles around the mountain’s northern side. The winter season brings many snowshoers to this region to look down at the frozen water and across these snow-covered mountains.
From Route 28N, turn west onto Maple Lodge Road, where there is a sign for Castle Rock. (This intersection is south of the Blue Mountain parking area.) Travel down the gravel road for about a mile to a parking area, which is within sight of the Syracuse University Minnowbrook Conference Center. Across from the center, there is a trail map and registration box. Continue up the gravel vehicle road for about a quarter mile to a trail sign for Castle Rock high up on a tree on the right side. (This is right before a sign that says "III Oaks Private.") Follow the markers into the woods.
After another quarter mile, there is a wooden bridge and several signs at a trail junction. Continue following the yellow blazes to the left and across the bridge. Emerge on a wide path, which was once a road. A sign directs snowshoers toward the yellow blazes up a narrow path off of the old road. Soon after, Chubb Pond can be seen on the right, and there are blue blazes that mark a 0.3-mile trail to Blue Mountain Lake. Remain on the path with the yellow blazes and continue on bumpy terrain that goes up and down hills, over large rocks, and across minor streams. This part of the trail has a relatively gentle slope that slowly climbs the mountain. As the trail gains elevation, the route turns from the eastward direction to the west. Then, after a short distance, it turns back toward the east along the mountain's southern rock face.
A sign defines the junction point with the trail to the peak. Turn right and continue up this steep and rocky path to the summit. There are some high steps to take as well as a rock pass to squeeze through, but upon reaching the top, the path emerges on an exposed rock ledge with a wonderful open vista. Blue Mountain Lake is about 700 feet below; look closely to see cross-country skiers making their way across the snow-covered frozen water. The 37,800-acre Blue Mountain Wild Forest is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and it is comprised of five separate tracts of land between the communities of Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake, and Newcomb. Blue Mountain stands high to the east, and a fire tower may be faintly visible through the barren trees.
Retrace the trail back to the junction just before the summit. Return along the original path or continue on the trail loop with blazes that continue to lead to the west. This wraps around the western slope of Castle Rock and eventually intersects a trail with red blazes. While turning left (west) leads to Helms Pond, turning right (east) completes the initial trail loop. This part of the trail follows a stream bed. Several platforms may be difficult to traverse with snowshoes. Nonetheless, there is easy terrain to walk around these obstacles. One final mile returns to the trail loop intersection with the wooden bridge. Take the trail to the left of the bridge to the return to the main road.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.