Blueberry Lean-to: Having started out on the Blueberry Foot Trail (BFT) from the trailhead at Corey's, you reach the first of these, the Blueberry lean-to, on the BFT, just a short walk before the junction of the BFT with the Ward Brook Truck Trail. Although no water is shown on the maps, there is water at this lean-to. This is by far the busiest lean-to; you can expect to find two or three tents pitched in the vicinity as well as a full lean-to. In the summer, if you plan to use this lean-to, bring a tent as well, just in case. If there are a dozen or more cars at the trailhead, you will need a tent for sure unless you plan to aim for the Camp Four Lean-tos (see further down).
Ward Brook Lean-to: The next lean-to will be the Ward Brook lean-to. To get there you pick up the Ward Brook Truck Trail (WBTT) at the end of the BFT. Shortly after, you cross Seward Brook on a nice wood bridge suitable for DEC vehicles, and at the far side, on your right, you'll see the small cairn marking the herd path to Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons Mtns. Continuing on the WBTT, you will soon cross Ouluska Brook which is not identified on maps, but which starts in Ouluska Pass between Seward and Seymour. The Ward Brook lean-to is on the brook at this intersection.
Camp Four Lean-to's: To get to the best of the lean-to's, the nicest sites, the least used, and the farthest from the trailhead (worth the walk), continue on the WBTT. Cross another truck bridge, this time over Seymour Brook, and immediately you'll see on your right the cairn and trail for Seymour Mtn. Continuing on the WBTT you will reach the 2 lean-to's at what is called Camp Four, a designation referring to its origin as a logging camp. You will find old logging equipment gathering rust in the immediate area.
All lean-to's are on dry, flat ground allowing the possibility for numerous tents. While we were there, there were 12 cars parked at the trailhead and we found Blueberry and Ward Brook lean-to's taken and all available tent space chock-a-block with tents. We decided to move on to Camp Four and found one lean-to free, the other taken, and 1 tent. Based on that data, if you want or need a lean-to, you should plan on a very early start from the trailhead to beat the later arrivals or choose a weekday for your trip. As a thumb rule, you should have a good shot at getting a lean-to at Camp Four if there are less than 10 cars at the trailhead. If there are more than 5 cars, and you want to use Blueberry or Ward Brook lean-to's, better bring a tent.
Finding the Lean-to's on the Maps: If you have the two-sided Barbara McMartin Tyvek™ map entitled "Eastern High Peaks" on its front and "Western High Peaks" on its rear the map shows all 4 lean-tos as black specks positioned in their correct location with respect to the trail and mountains. You have to look VERY closely, perhaps with a magnifying glass, to spot them! First, spot the tiny black dotted line (not McMartin's normal red, dotted trail line) that signifies the BFT and/or the solid black line that marks the WBTT, then look along them to find the VERY tiny rectangles that are the lean-to's. These are accurately placed.
The ADK map does not cover Corey's trailhead but does cover the Seward Range. The red lean-to symbols on this map are accurately placed.
0.0 miles, DEC parking at Corey's Trailhead
4.5 miles, Blueberry lean-to
4.6 miles, Ward Brook Truck Trail starts, Blueberry Foot Trail ends
4.9 miles, Seward Brook and cairn marking herd path to summit of Seward Mtn
5.4 mi., Ward Brook lean-to
5.8 mi., Seymour Brook and cairn marking herd path to summit of Seymour Mtn
6.3 mi., Camp Four lean-to's (worth the walk if you want quiet)
Those hiking Seward-Donaldson-Emmons from Blueberry Trail must make special provision for water. Last water is very likely going to be in the final ascent of Seward, where, bit by bit, the brook you follow runs out, yet you still have a considerable hike out to Emmons and back. Our solution was to carry hydration units in our Camelback and Platypus daypacks, but even these were insufficient... although we'd found them ample on every other hike for the past several years. We supplemented the hydration units with a Scoop-and-Fill bottle filter by Sweetwater. It turned out that we needed it! Be careful! If you run out of water, it would likely happen somewhere on the way back to Seward from Emmons. We found that on the return climb up Seward from Donaldson there was enough water dripping among the boulders that we could fill a quart bottle in 3 or 4 minutes.
When you arrive at what appears to be Donaldson's summit (nice flat expanse of rock, beautiful views...) you will notice there is no sign. Ergo, it is not the summit! Take some pictures, but keep going on the trail until you come to a large boulder on your left right up against the trail. Climb it. That is the summit.
A Special Note: The Calkins Brook Route to Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons from John, a contributor to Adirondack Journey
Aside from the route described on this page, there are other unmarked routes to the summits of the Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons ridge. One of these is an ascent of Emmons by the slide on its E face (which we do not cover, although the McMartin guidebook does), and the other is the Calkins Brook Trail, an approach up Seward's west slope.
To take the Calkins brook trail you head out from the trailhead parking area as per normal and watch for a road that crosses both the Blueberry Foot Trail and the horse trail. (It is shown on the ADK map as a road, but is not numbered. The McMartin guidebook and map assigns it #27.)
Here is what John has to say about the Calkins Brook route. He has provided excellent detail. We have edited it slightly.
John's Report (dated 2004):
"My daughter and I just hiked this route to the Seward Range yesterday. There is now a cairn on your left at the intersection of the road and the herd path. [Edit: the herd path is, therefore, not beside the brook when the herd path intersects the road.]
"Shortly after the herd path comes to Calkins Brook for the first time, walkers need to cross the brook even though there is a discernible path that follows the brook without crossing it. There are cairns on both sides. You don't stay near the brook after the first 15 minutes on the trail. I couldn't even hear the brook after 20 minutes. The herd path goes much further south.
"Many small creeks cross the trail. No problem with water until you're almost at the ridge. The intersection with the Seward-Emmons herd path is flagged with pink ribbon. [Edit: True in 2004, but don't count on it as time goes by.]
"The trail itself is really nice! Most of it is walking on soft dirt, virtually no rocks, and not that much mud considering all the rain this summer. You walk through fragrant evergreens. As soon as you start back down again after the walking on the ridge herd path, you really appreciate its beauty. Probably it's such a nice trail because it's used so little."
"Even the walk on the road is nice - unlike the roads leading to Allen, this road is shaded and grassy. It was fast, too - It took us 3:15 to walk from the parking lot up to the herd path intersection [Edit: intersection of the Seward-Donaldson herd path with the Calkins Brk herd path], and 2:55 to walk from the herd path intersection to the parking lot.
"Hikers using this trail can easily do the Sewards (without Seymour) as a day-hike on a par with Allen or Redfield; and can also do just Donaldson and Emmons as a "not- difficult-at-all" day-hike.
Edit: Thanks, John, for telling us about another route to these peaks!
1: From Corey's Road Trailhead via Blueberry Foot Trail to Lean-tos
2: Climb Seward Mtn, Mt Donaldson, and Mt Emmons
3: Climb Seymour Mtn, return to Corey's
From a distance, the Seward Range has a pleasant, almost serene appearance. The Blueberry Foot Trail that takes you from the trailhead to the base of the range is a very easy and comfortable hike. But that's where the picnic ends. The Seward's comprise some of the most strenuous hiking in the Adirondack 46, particularly as you will probably want to climb all 4 in one trip. The Blueberry Foot Trail, which is the most common route to the base of the range, is an easy and picturesque hike of 4 to 5 miles, depending on which lean-to or camping site you choose. The ground is nearly flat at the base and the terrain is dry and solid.
But the mountains are a different thing. This should not be your first hike of the year after a winter of watching NFL football and drinking beer! Warm up somewhere else; save this one for later in the season when you're fit. Plan on one full day for Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons, another day for Seymour, and probably a day to get in and one to get out depending on driving distances, times of arrival/departure, etc. Since these 3 peaks are strung out on a ridge, you have to return over the same route you went out. That makes for a very strenuous day of about 10 to 12 hours R/T for most hikers from your lean-to or tent. You will want to start early, thus an attempt to hike in from Corey's and climb these three peaks in the same day is not a practical decision for most persons with the exception of those that use the Caulkin's Brook approach to Seward which has become an increasingly popular route since the time we hiked this range originally . (Note: Hiking by headlamp is inadvisable due to steep descents that dramatically minimize a headlamp's abilities.)
The Seward Range's peaks are among the "untrailed" peaks. In the language of the Adirondack 46, that is a substantial misnomer. The 46 are so well-traveled that that there are clear or very clear trails to every one. So, "untrailed" actually means "unmarked"; there are no disks or signs, but the trail is generally clear enough that a blind man can almost follow it. Nowadays, quite frankly, the reduced traffic that untrailed peaks tend to receive actually results in better trails on these summits than on some of those that are marked, DEC maintained, and, therefore, overused and abused. In the case of the Seward's, the herd trails are in good condition, are very well defined, but are often steep or very steep, particularly the stretch from Seward down to the saddle between it and Donaldson, and the upper third of the ascent of Seward. Handholds will be as vital as footholds. The pace will often be very slow and descents can sometimes be hazardous due to frequent tripping hazards, awkward handholds, or rubble. Yet, there are no dizzying descents and there are plenty of handholds even if you have to stop and think about a few of the thornier stretches and chutes.
As for Seymour, the majority of the ascent is very steep, but it is, nevertheless, not more than a 3 hour round trip from the base. You can easily combine it into a day including your return to the trailhead at Corey's.
Finding Lean-to's, Camping Sites, Cairns, and Trails:
We use the McMartin guidebook and both the McMartin and ADK maps. In the case of the Seward Range, these were somewhat confusing regarding information on lean-to's, and what is where, in general. But... we've now got it figured out!
First of all, there are 4 lean-to's that are very well positioned to serve the entire Seward Range. All of these are located on either the Blueberry Foot Trail (BFT) or the Ward Brook Truck Trail (WBTT):