The Seward Range is one of the most remote in the Adirondack High Peaks and it consists of Seward, Donaldson, Emmons, and Seymour mountains. Seymour is separated from the other three by Ouluska Pass. This hike describes climbing Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons. Seymour is described as a separate hike. There is no official trail to the summits of each of these mountains; hikers should be prepared for a long day on herd paths and be comfortable navigating with map & compass.
How to get there
In Saranac Lake, turn left onto Route 3 and stay on this route toward Tupper Lake. Stay on Route 3 for 12.5 miles. Then, turn left onto Corey's Road. Follow Corey's Road for 2.5 miles, until it turns into Ampersand Road. Stay the course and continue along the gravel road for another 3.0 miles. A parking lot is on the right.
Be advised, in winter, this road either A) may not be maintained or B) closed due to logging. Please check with local guides or outfitters to see if Corey's Road is open.
By the numbers
- Elevation: Seward has an elevation of 4,361 feet, Donaldson has an elevation of 4,140 feet, and Emmons has an elevation of 4,040 feet
- Elevation gain: Over 3,000 feet
- Distance: 17+ miles
- Seward is High Peak #24, Donaldson is High Peak #33, and Emmons is High Peak #40
- Follow Leave No Trace principles
There are two herd paths leading the summits of these mountains. A loop hike will be described here, ascending the more rugged path up Seward and descending the more gentle Calkins Brook herd path.
From the parking area, you'll be on a marked trail for almost 5.0 miles. A hiking trail and horse trail leave the parking lot; the two parallel each other, but the horse trail is considerably wetter and it is preferred route to use the hiking trail. Follow the red DEC trail markers. At 1.2 miles, a trail will come in on your right; this trail leads to Shattuck Clearing and the Calkins Brook herd path you will descend. Stay straight for now. The trail crosses several brooks along the way, with one large one at 3.5 miles from the parking area. At 4.5 miles, the Blueberry Lean-to comes into view. Just beyond the lean-to, the trail joins the Ward Brook Truck Trail, which comes from private property. Turn right. The horse trail intersects your path at 4.7 miles. The next brook you come to marks the start of the herd path up Seward Mountain. There may be a cairn signaling the start of the path. There's a bridge here as well.
Hikers please be advised this is now a herd path and there will be no more trail markers until you descend off the Calkins Brook herd path. Within the first 0.5 miles of the herd path, there are traces of an old tote road; take care to stay on your course. After 0.5 miles the steep climbing begins. The route is rugged, challenging, and eroded. You climb up to a cliff on the side of Seward, which can be bypassed on the left. Follow the ridge to the southwest to the summit. Now you're on the summit of Seward, having climbed the wet, rugged, and difficult herd path. Two more mountains to go.
A herd path descends to the south off Seward toward Donaldson. The route to Donaldson and then to Emmons follows the ridge, only occasionally detouring to avoid blowdown. From Donaldson, there is a 210-foot descent into a col and then a 150-foot climb to the summit of Emmons. The reverse will need to be done to return. Be advised, it can be very muddy along this ridge.
To return, head back to Donaldson from Emmons. Approximately 0.2 miles from the summit of Donaldson (back toward Seward) the Calkins Brook herd path hangs a left and descends. From here, it's 3.0 miles on the unmarked path. It is not as steep as the path up Seward, but does indeed have some steep sections and stream crossings. One off the herd path, turn right and follow the marked trail 3.7 miles back to the original trail you started your day on. Turn left and it's 1.5 miles back to the parking area.
A winter outing in the Seward Range can be incredibly challenging. In winters when logging is active, the road closes to to vehicle traffic. You now must park at Raquette Falls, adding an additional 8.6 miles round-trip to your snowshoe or cross-country ski. The marked trails may be suitable for cross-country skiing, but the herd paths are too steep.
At time ice buildup can happen on the steeper slabs of the trail where traction is tough; be sure to have traction devices and snowshoes when required.