Hike through a historic sugar bush to Low’s Ridge in the Adirondacks

In the late 1800s there was a major maple sugaring operation south of Tupper Lake. Abbot Augustus Low owned a sugarbush of 50,000 taps on tens of thousands of acres.

Much of his holding burned down in a massive fire in 1908, but some stone foundations still stand at the base of a ridge named after Low, which offers sweeping views of the central Adirondacks.

Emily RusselHike through a historic sugar bush to Low’s Ridge in the Adirondacks

I set out to hike Low’s Ridge on a recent fall day, the foliage creating a canopy of colors above the trail – deep reds, lime greens, yellows and burnt oranges.

The first few miles of the trail to Low's Ridge are on a truck trail and over an old rail line.  Photo: Emily Russell

The first few miles of the trail to Low’s Ridge are on a truck trail and over an old rail line. Photo: Emily Russell

The hike to the ridge starts out flat – it’s now a truck trail, but was originally built as a rail line for the Low sugar estate. The trail crosses a bog then the trees open up. There is a beaver pond here, it acts as a sort of mirror for the forest.

When the sun hits just to the right, it reflects the color of the trees onto the water, doubling the effect of the foliage.

I’m here on a weekend when the colors are at their peak. There are people walking their dogs, riding bikes and launching canoes in the Bog River.

Beavers have created ponds along the trail to Low's Ridge, mirroring the fall foliage of the Adirondacks.  Photo: Emily Russell

Beavers have created ponds along the trail to Low’s Ridge, mirroring the fall foliage of the Adirondacks. Photo: Emily Russell

A few miles into my hike, I meet Carl Boler, an assistant NYSDEC ranger patrolling the Horseshoe and Hitchens Pond area.

I tell Boler that I plan to hike up Low’s Ridge and he tells me that before I do that I have to visit the remnants of Low’s sugar estate.

NYSDEC Assistant Ranger Carl Boler patrols the Horseshoe and Hitchens Pond area.  Photo: Emily Russell

NYSDEC Assistant Ranger Carl Boler patrols the Horseshoe and Hitchens Pond area. Photo: Emily Russell

As we pass the stone foundations, Boler tells me more about Father August Low, born in Brooklyn in 1844.

Boler tells me that Low is responsible for much of the industrial development in this region. For his sugar operation, Low built a railway line, two dams to power his evaporators, and a large complex of stone buildings for his family and workers.

Father Augustus Low had several buildings and two dams constructed to support his maple syrup business in Horseshoe in the late 1800s. Photo: Emily Russel

Father Augustus Low had several buildings and two dams constructed to support his maple syrup business in Horseshoe in the late 1800s. Photo: Emily Russel

Boler leads me past what used to be the old dormitory, then points to a small corner to our right – part of a garden planted by Low’s wife.

“You have your daylilies and foxgloves there,” says Boler. “That’s what she planted over 125 years ago.”

There is also a huge hydrangea bush. There are enough remnants of the old maple syrup operation that you can almost imagine what it would have been like to live and work here, this place was something of an empire in the woods.

After his death, Low’s estate deeded tens of thousands of acres to New York State. I separate from Boler and I resume the track.

The trail leading to Low's Ridge in the Adirondacks.  Photo: Emily Russell

The trail leading to Low’s Ridge in the Adirondacks. Photo: Emily Russell

On the final climb to the ridge, the trail is covered in cherry red leaves strewn across angular slices of slate gray rock.

This rock guides me along the ridge. Then suddenly there is an opening in the trees and the trail comes out onto a long, continuous rocky plateau.

I soak in one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in the Adirondacks, the Bog River appearing like a deep blue ribbon framed by dark green spruce trees. Beyond the spruce is a sea of ​​color – beautiful deep reds, bright oranges and yellows.

The view of the desert is vast. Standing on that rocky ledge, it’s suddenly hard to imagine this place being anything other than a place to paddle, camp and hike, a place for someone like me who soaks up a spectacular fall day.