HIKING & PADDLING
Satisfying that Outdoor Itch at Bug Lake
By Bill Ingersoll
Bug Lake sits just a short distance west of the Eighth Lake Campground in the northern reaches of the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. It is hardly a remote wilderness destination, because from any point on its shore you can easily hear the highway traffic on NY Route 28, or the motorboat and floatplane traffic on the nearby Fulton Chain Lakes. But if you are looking for a quick getaway into the woods – a place that is within easy reach, with good campsites and nearby attractions to visit – then Bug Lake is an excellent option.
There are two good approaches to this 60-acre trout pond. The shortest – and most popular – route begins within the Eighth Lake Campground, but another good route approaches from the northwest. Both routes follow a section of the old Uncas Road, built in 1896 by William West Durant to connect his Great Camps to the south with Eagle Bay, in the days long before Route 28 existed. It is a wide trail, easy to follow, and in excellent condition.
From the Eighth Lake Campground
The Eighth Lake Campground is located on Route 28 between the Hamilton County hamlets of Inlet and Raquette Lake. Inquire at the entrance station about parking fees if you are coming just to hike, not to patronize the campground. To find the trailhead, drive straight through the campground for 0.4-mile to a four-way intersection; the trail is the continuing roadway to the west.
Setting off on foot, follow the continuing roadway for 0.2-mile to the bridge over the inlet of Seventh Lake, where you will find the trailhead register. Technically, this stream might be considered a portion of the Middle Branch Moose River. Beyond the bridge, the old Uncas Road continues southwest, leading on a gentle uphill grade into the hardwood forest. At 0.8-mile (just 20 minutes from the campground), you reach a marked intersection, where a short side trail leads to Eagles Nest Lake as described below.
The snowmobile trail crosses a bridge over the outlet stream and climbs a bit more sharply as it approaches Bug Lake. Just before the lake comes into view, look for a narrow herd path to the right; this leads to some of the best camping options in the area. If you don’t see that herd path, no matter; the main trail soon brings you to the shore of the lake at 1.3 miles, roughly 35 minutes from the campground. There are two good places to stop: first a tiny cove, and then an opening right beside the old road with the best trailside views. The latter option comes with a fallen tree to the left that would make a perfect picnic bench.
From Uncas Road
This requires a little bit of explanation. While the original road to Mohegan Lake was called the Uncas Road, this moniker was later applied to the town road running between the hamlets of Eagle Bay and Raquette Lake, paralleling the former route of the Raquette Lake Railroad. To find this approach to Bug Lake, you will need to turn off Route 28 in Eagle Bay onto modern Uncas Road, and follow it about 2.9 miles to the trailhead on the right. You’ll recognize the trail as a gated old road with signs stating NO WHEELED VEHICLES.
The old Uncas Road leads southeast past a stream, through stands of spruce, and past a small wetland. At 0.8-mile there is an intersection with a trail to Black Bear Mountain – a worthy side trip that is only 1.2 miles away. The snowmobile trail makes a horseshoe bend down to No Luck Creek, which you cross on a wide bridge, and then hooks east to a second junction at 1.4 miles. Here a lesser snowmobile trail turns left, northeast, toward Eighth Lake. Keep right for Bug Lake.
Within ten minutes you should start to see Bug Lake through the trees to your left. If you are sharp-eyed, you may find a faint herd path to the left leading to a campsite on the pond’s northwestern peninsula, where you will find the best of all views of Bug Lake. Otherwise, the main trail continues south, beside the pond to the best trailside view near the southwestern corner, 2.3 miles from the Uncas Road trailhead. The trail is so easy to walk that you should be able to cover this distance in less than an hour.
Eagles Nest Lake
The side trail to Eagles Nest Lake is only 0.1-mile long. This small pond is distinguished by the ledges that rim its northwestern corner, which are partly obscured by the trees that grow on them. Tall white pines crown the top of the ridge. Eagles Nest is small but surprisingly deep, with the bottom dropping off precipitously into the murky depths not far from shore. A herd path leads across the marshy outlet where cattails grow, and up the steep hillside to a large campsite near the outlet of Bug Lake. If you follow the sound of cascading water you’ll find an attractive ten-foot waterfall.
Camping on Bug Lake
There are four excellent backcountry campsites, each of them worthy of recommendation. They are all located off the main trail and require a little bit of exploration to find. Since it is easy to carry a canoe up from Eighth Lake, you may have better luck finding these sites from the water.
The largest campsite is found beside the outlet on the southeast corner of the pond, underneath a stand of tall white pines. It features great water access and room for several tents.
Solo campers may find the twin sites on the T-shaped eastern peninsula attractive. The southern site (with its sloped ground) features a view of the pine grove towering over the outlet, and the northern site sits atop its own little point.
Perhaps the most scenic site sits at the tip of the northwestern peninsula, with an open view southward over the pond to a distant Seventh Lake Mountain. There is ample room for two or three tents.
The swimming potential at all four sites is quite good, with two provisos: the attractive shallow areas close to shore tend to drop off sharply, and leeches seem to never be far away.
Bill Ingersoll of Barneveld is publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebook series (hiketheadirondacks.com). For more on this region, consult Discover the Central Adirondacks.