Upper Works Overview:
Upper Works is on the "short list" of principal Adirondack trailheads that access the 46 High Peaks. Especially well suited for hikers to the central and western High Peaks regions, Upper Works refers to all three of the trailheads that are dispersed along Upper Works Road, a lonely secondary road that makes its way straight north deep into the west central High Peaks region. We distinguish between the three, below, reserving the name "Upper Works" only for the trailhead found at the point where Upper Works Road dead-ends in the small parking lot just yards a ghost town of abandoned and disintegrating houses.
Why Choose This Trailhead Instead of Heart Lake?
When most people think of hiking to Marcy, Marshall, Redfield, or Haystack they immediately think of Heart Lake as the appropriate trailhead, and it's a good one, certainly. Upper Works will get you to most or all of the peaks just mentioned with less of a climb, less overall distance to hike, and will accomplish it on better trail; i.e., a real trail and not the Van Hoevenberg "Expressway".
While you'll cover about the same distance you'll encounter very few and sometimes no hikers until you reach Lake Colden. If you've driven north to hike starting at Upper Works or the Elk Lake Trailhead will save you a lot of gasoline and time on the road to go to any of the peaks in the central High Peaks region.
But consider these, for instance:
Climbing Iroquois from the Iroquois Pass between Iroquois Peak and Mt. Marshall instead of from Heart Lake or Lake Colden?
Or Mt. Colden from Lake Colden?
Or the slide on Mt. Colden's southern flank?
" Upper Works" is a common term often used by hikers interchangeably for 3 completely different trailhead locations on one road, Upper Works Road. The destinations reached from each of these 3 trailheads are different: one leads North to Indian Pass, another goes East to Allen Mtn, and the third leads West to the Santanoni Range and beyond.
If you are going to rendezvous with friends at "Upper Works" be sure all members of your group know which trailhead you will be using.
Some Local History Worth Knowing About
Originally, "Upper Works" was the common name for the site of a strip mining operation run by the National Lead Company. Much less powerful, but more of a pioneer and of much more stature in Adirondack lore, the McIntyre Iron Company mined iron ore at this site along the Upper Hudson from the 1830's to the 1850's. The ancient stone blast furnace of the original McIntyre Iron Company still stands no more than 50 feet off Upper Works Rd, approximately
across the road from the trailhead to the Santanonis.
You can go to the Original Upper Works. It's not a trailhead, it's National Lead's Tahawus mining operations. These have been closed for many years, yet the buildings still stand, out of sight to hikers driving north on Lower Works Rd. and Upper Works Rd. When you get there, click on the links labeled "prototype" to see photos of the actual mining buildings. Then, click on links labeled "model view" to view models of the same buildings created by some guys at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, otherwise famous for their hockey team and top notch engineers.
Lower Works and Upper Works Roads:
Since no mining takes place here today, it is mostly hikers who value this place for the two paved roads that, due to that initial pioneering spirit of the McIntyre Iron Company, lead 10 miles straight North from Blue Ridge Rd. (NY Rt. 2) into the wilderness, penetrating deep into the High Peaks inner sanctum unlike any of the other trailheads that lie along the High Peaks' perimeter. The first of these roads to be encountered is Lower Works Rd. which leads directly to the National Lead Company's operations from Blue Ridge Rd. The second is Upper Works Rd. which starts where Lower Works Rd. leaves off (see second photo just below) and continues north to its dead-end at a point deep into the High Peaks.
Along Upper Works Rd. lie three important trailheads described on this page which lead to numerous lakes and peaks to the West, North, and East. Among these: the Santanoni Range, MacIntyre Range, Allen Mtn, Indian Pass, Duck Hole, Flowed Lands/Lake Colden area, and Mts Marshall, Cliff, Redfield, Skylight, and Marcy.
Access to the Three Upper Works Trailheads:
From the Northway, Interstate 87, exit at Exit 29 turning W onto Blue Ridge Road, Rte 2. Follow this route for 17.4 miles to an intersection marked by a number of signs, public and private, including one for National Lead, Inc. Turn right here. Zero your odometer. You're now at 0.0 miles for the list which follows.
0.0 mi., turn right off from Blue Ridge Road (Rt. 2).
0.4 mi. (photo #1, just below) pass the intersection for Tahawus Club and a common street sign for "Lower Works Rd.". (see photo #1, below)
0.6 mi., cross railroad tracks.
6.3 mi., turn left off Lower Works Rd. at fork marked with street sign "Upper Works Rd." (see Photo #2, just below). The right fork continues on a short distance to National Lead as signs in Photo 2 will indicate.
8.2 mi. pass a gravelly turn-off to your left that leads W to the Santanoni Range trailhead.
9.1 mi. on your right, very close to the highway, you will pass the ruins of the old McIntyre furnace.
9.3 mi. on the right is the trailhead for Mt. Adams, Allen Mt., and the trail to Flowed Lands via the Opalescent River.
9.9 mi. reach the Upper Works trailhead, the end of Upper Works Road, and a dead end. From this trailhead, access Flowed Land, Indian Pass, and Duck Hole.
Upper Works Rd. Trailheads Maps and Photos:
Highlighted in blue on the maps below is Upper Works Road (public highway, always open) running from NY Rt. 2 to the road's terminus at Henderson Lake. Note that Rt. 2 is off the bottom of the bottommost map of the three maps below. So as you drive north (or up this page if you want to look at it that way), you jump upward from map to map. The three trailheads are marked on the maps. Look real close.
Upper Works Trailhead: for Indian Pass and Lake Colden-Flowed Lands:
It appears on the map at top left at the terminus of Upper Works Road. Letters in red say "Upper Works". This point is 9.9 miles N from the start at Route 28. The photo shows the Upper Works Parking Area. There is plenty of parking. The RED Indian Pass Trail (ADK #125, McM #1), departs the parking area. Heading straight N, it crosses the Hudson River over a wooden bridge suitable for vehicles at 0.25 mi. (At this point, the Hudson has only flowed a mere 530 feet from its source, Lake Henderson, just to the W of the trail..) A bit further, at 0.35 mi., the RED Calamity Brook trail (ADK #121, McM #39) forks to the right. Calamity Brook Trail will take you to Flowed Land and the Marcy region.
East River Trailhead: for Mt Adams, Allen Mt, and Flowed Lands:
At 9.3 miles on your right driving N, not far past the old and disintegrating MacIntyre furnace, is the trailhead and parking for the Y Opalescent River Trail (ADK #123, McM #42) to Mt. Adams, Flowed Lands, and the start of the Allen Mt. herd path (McM #43). The parking area is very large and is clearly visible from the road. On the map at left, the trailhead is indicated by a blue dot off the right side of the road. Note that the white sign with red letters indicating that the trail is closed has been removed and the trail has been reopened.
Bradley Pond Trailhead: for the Santanoni Range and Duck Hole
At 8.3 miles on your left driving N, a gravel road leads off to the left, up a slight grade. The trailhead and parking for the Bradley Pond Trail BLUE (ADK #128, McM #4), the Santanoni Range, and Duck Hole are here, just out of sight from the paved road. Lots of parking. (Note that this trail is actually a gravel road for more than a mile from the trailhead.)