Lower Wolf Jaw (4,175 feet) and Upper Wolf Jaw (4,185 feet) mountains are the easternmost 46ers of the Great Range, a beautiful range that includes gems such as Gothics, Haystack and Marcy. The Wolf Jaws are mostly wooded, and they offer fewer views than their neighbors to the west, but they make for a very enjoyable forest snowshoe outing to two 4,000 footers.
From the parking area at the Ausable Club, make your way to the Lake Road by following the golf course until you reach the large wooden AMR gate. At this point there are three options to make the ascent. The river trail follows the brook and the Lake Road until the start of the Wedge Brook Trail. Following the Lake Road is also possible; about 1 mile after the AMR gate, a wooden bridge leads to the other side of the brook and directly to the Wedge Brook Trail. The third option – not covered in this report – is to take the White Trail from the caretaker’s cabin immediately before the wooden gate.
The Wedge Brook Trail follows the namesake brook in an open forest. It eventually becomes quite steep after the first mile. The col between the Wolf Jaws is reached soon after, and this is the Range Trail that spans the entire Great Range. Lower Wolf Jaw is a half mile to the east, while Upper Wolf Jaw is 0.9 miles to the west. They can be summitted in any order.
Lower Wolf Jaw is a straight 600-foot ascent and offers half-views from its densely wooded summit. Upper Wolf Jaw has roughly the same vertical gain, but it is much more gradual. It does have a few spots that become icy quickly in the cold season and remain that way until mid-spring. The summit is 20 yards of the Range Trail, and a sign indicates the intersection. It offers a nice view of the Colvin Range. To get an even nicer view, follow the Range Trail west for a few hundred yards until you reach a small ledge. Armstrong Mountain, the Gothics, and part of the western Great Range are directly in front. This detour only adds a few dozen feet of vertical ascent.
The return trip is via the same trails. Armstrong Mountain is 1 mile from Upper Wolf Jaw and could be added to this outing with a descent via the Beaver Meadow Falls Trail 0.4 miles west of the summit. However, this route involves hiking up several icy cliffs. Ladders help hikers in the warmer months, but after the first snowfall and freezing temperatures, the ladders quickly become covered by a thick sheet of ice, rendering them useless. If you will be continuing to Armstrong, use caution in those sections.
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.