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Redfield and Cliff Trail Report

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  • Redfield and Cliff Trail Report

    High Peaks: Redfield and Cliff
    Date: 9/2/2017
    Time: 6:45am departure
    Trailhead: Upper Works

    I'm going to be right up front with everyone, this report is going to be an unabashed defense of Redfield and Cliff. For me, I rank this hike as among my top 5. From the reports and reactions I read before embarking, this is probably a minority opinion. Therefore, let's see if I can make some arguments and change some minds. If not, no love lost.

    To begin, I'm particular. I like to hike with my camera and, thus, choose days where I can get some clear shots, cool lighting, morning frost, you know...picture-y stuff. I'm not a great photographer. In fact, I think many of my pictures failed to translate just how beautiful certain scapes and scenes really were. The first 4.5 miles from Upper Works were not the most interesting for photos, but it was a nice walk - fairly level, mostly soft - and had the soundtrack of the nearby Calamity brook.

    Once you reach Flowed Lands, however, keep your camera out! As you hike around the Flowed Lands, over the Colden Lake dam, and onward to the Uphill Lean-To, you are graced with one great view after another. To me, this was one of the best low-land trails in the park. It takes a while to get there, but it's worth it. I mean, wow. There were 40 to 50 foot gorges in the Opalescent that were completely unexpected with rushing water and pools. Even the mosses begged to be admired. And somehow, my pictures failed to capture the moments.

    Turning Redfield and Cliff into a top 5 experience comes down to planning. To get the most out of these peaks and turn the challenges into opportunities, hike these trails when you know the weather is going to be right. Be deliberate. There hadn't been rain for at least a few days, so the path wasn't overwhelmingly wet. Also, the earlier you start your hike in the morning, the better light you'll get. At the Flowed Lands, you get the sunrise over Cliff's lower ridges with Colden in the distance. On the Opalescent, the light is behind the river, offering nice reflections and shadows. No joke, I was laying on the ground taking a picture of a moss covered log because I thought it was that worthy.

    On a more practical note, the hike is long. If you stretch the trail into a two-day adventure, that would give your joints some more recovery time and the opportunity to grab that morning light I just described. Being the late summer, the morning was chilly. My car said 33 degrees at the parking lot. It was brisk and there was frost on the ground, but the day warmed up to a perfectly comfortable temperature. The leaves were also starting to change colors. The full forest isn't changing, yet, but individual trees and branches are. I did manage a few nice pictures of this early foliage. But again, this was all deliberate. I waited for the right conditions until I hiked these mountains. Do the same, and you'll be rewarded with a more positive experience.

    Okay, so the mud pit that welcomes you to the Cliff trail is probably never going to go away, except in the winter when it's covered over. The slosh begins immediately after leaving the cairn. (Quick note, there are two cairns to look for: first, the one across from the Uphill Lean-To that breaks off the main trail; and four minutes later, the second, the one at the Redfield/Cliff trail split). I heard one guy in front of me shout to his friends ahead that he just lost his shoe. When I caught up and thanked him for the advanced warning, he said his friend lost his, too. In the immortal words of Buddy the Elf, "Ooh, sucky." Suggestion: re-tie your shoes at the trail split. You'll also want tight shoes for the rock climbs on Cliff. There are about 6 or 7 good scrambles up. They aren't nearly as difficult as the backside of Sawteeth, but they aren't a stroll through the park, either. I also didn't expect the false summit on Cliff. When you think you're there, you still have another brief down-and-up to conquer. The views on Cliff aren't from the summit, but there are some from the path on the way down.

    For all of Cliff's shortcomings, however, Redfield made up the difference. It's tough. The ascent is consistent and noticeable. You're hiking a lot of it in a stream bed. But, there were tons of baby-cairns leading the way. So, for an unmarked trail, this was straight-forward. As you go up the stream, look behind you every now and then because you get gorgeous views of Colden and the Macintyre Range. There are also many more views at the summit. Both of these summits feel very intimate and private, which I think is cool. It makes the summit feel more exclusive.

    In summary, don't hold off these hikes to the end just because you have been dreading them. Think purposefully about these hikes and what you want to get out of them. If it is just to check off the box, then I guess it doesn't matter too much. But if you want to find enjoyment, plan beforehand how you can maximize all the nuances these trails offer.

    New pictures posted of Redfield and Cliff hike:

  • #2
    How was the Calamity Brook crossing? I'm heading to Cliff and Redfield next week and had been planning to go in via the Loj to avoid, in part, the Calamity Brook bridge. I went that way early last winter and didn't find the bridge very appealing.

    Thanks for the trip report.
    46/46 11/46W


    • #3
      The bridge is a mess. Thankfully, you don't have to use it. The DEC has remarked a trail directly to the brook, which can be crossed on rocks. It was easy to navigate. You will have no problems.


      • NickWI
        NickWI commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks! I really appreciate it.

    • #4
      Excellent report! Cliff and Redfield are 2 of the remaining 5 peaks I have yet to hike of the 46, and I skipped the chance last year for the very reasons you mention - I want to enjoy them! (It was a wet, rainy morning on the last day of a 5-day vacation, so I just hiked out.) Hoping to get back there in the next few weeks.
      We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


      • #5
        I concur about Redfield. Nice climb. The highlight is the section in Uphill Brook starting from above the falls.
        Cliff is Cliff. Nice you got to go when it was less wet.



        • #6
          Indeed Redfield is a nice hike. It's getting to and from the base which can be pretty long and drawn out. One memorable trip was getting there via Marcy and heading home under a full moon across frozen lakes. I'll never forget that hike.
          Project-100: 100 peaks, one winter.


          • #7
            Another very cool TR. Sounds like an awesome hike. Thanks for sharing.


            • #8
              So excited to see this report as I am hoping to hike C/R from UW on the 9th.