Cooper Kiln adventure
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I’m always looking for new corners of the Adirondacks to explore — considering how many corners this place has, I expect to be busy for a very long time — so me and my wife, Anna, our dog, Belle, our friend Emilee and her dog, Roscoe, embarked on a hike to Cooper Kiln Pond, followed by a side trip to the beautiful and accessible Wilmington Slide.

This hike can be done as a point-to-point by parking a vehicle at each trailhead. We did an out-and-back, starting at the Bonnieview Road trailhead. It's a half mile longer to get to the pond via this trail, but the slide is on the way and we wanted to check that out. The small pull-off was empty, and it stayed that way — we didn’t see anyone else the entire day, a rare occurrence on a nice Saturday in August. 

A slow and steady climb

Although it’s 3.2 miles to Cooper Kiln Pond, there isn’t too much to say about the hike itself. The wide path begins on the level and soon starts going uphill. About halfway to the pond the trail makes a sharp, 90-degree bend to the left. The faint path leading to the slide continued straight at this elbow, with teases of the slide path appearing through the trees to the right.

We decided to go to the pond first, so we followed the marked path, which gradually became narrower and steeper as it crossed a couple of brooks before finally leveling off on the final approach to the pond. 

It wasn't long before the little waterbody opened before us. It was speckled in yellow pond lilies; their large, green leaves waving from the water’s surface when the wind blew. There was a lean-to near the shore, sparking talk of a future camping trip. 

We rock hopped across some of the boulders protruding from the pond and picked a large, somewhat flat one to have lunch on. A bluejay screeched, darted from the trees, then snapped back into the forest like a rubber band. The clouds overhead raced by, so close it seemed they were just out of reach. That, coupled with the long uphill climb, lent this place a real sense of elevation. 

On to the next adventure

We hung out at Cooper Kiln Pond for a while, just enjoying the scenery in silence, before the slide beckoned. Answering the call, we headed back down the trail, and before long we were at that distinct bend in the trail. The herd path is a sharp left on the downhill; it’s pretty much straight ahead when heading uphill. The unmarked path is easy to follow, and clearly parallels the bottom of the slide. 

I didn’t wait long before cutting through the woods to walk up the wide, rock-strewn course. This is a beautiful, rugged place to explore. We weaved through the boulder field, stopping to pick raspberries and enjoy the ever-expanding view behind us. After a couple of bends in the path, the bulk of the upper slide presented itself to us  — a near-vertical gash in the forest, like an enormous waterfall frozen in stone.

The climb up the slide was steep but otherwise easy. The left portion was rubbly, while the right side was mostly smooth stone. I zigzagged between the two, picking whichever route appeared less dangerous as I went. Anna, Belle, and I stopped just shy of the final, leftward bend in the slide. From there, it looked even steeper and dicier to the headwall at the top. There’s no shame in turning around on exposed terrain  — there are no bad views from such a vantage point, and safety should always be the priority. 

After the slide, the three of us headed back to the trailhead, all singing praises about the unique adventure we just had. We parted ways, vowing to return and spend more time in this amazing corner of the Adirondacks.

Get close to Cooper Kiln Pond

Trailhead: We hiked in from Bonnieview Road, the best of two starting points for this hike if you're looking to see the slide. To get there, take Route 86 from the entrance to Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and continue straight at the four-way intersection. The trailhead is about 4 miles up on the left, immediately after the righthand turn for John Bliss Road.

To get to the other trailhead, folllow the above directions and turn left at the four-way intersection, heading up toward the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway toll booth. Turn right onto Franklin Falls Road after about 3 miles, just before the booth. The trailhead is on the right in 0.7 mile.

Distance to Cooper Kiln Pond: 3.2 miles from Bonnieview Road; 2.7 miles from Franklin Falls Road.

 After a day hike, nothing beats dinner followed by some live music!

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Shaun Kittle

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