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Seward Range - Ward Brook Trail??

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  • Seward Range - Ward Brook Trail??

    Hello, We are planning on climbing the Seward Range this coming weekend from a base camp at Blueberry or Ward Brook lean to.

    I have climbed the Sewards once before from west up Calkins Brook, but not from the north up Ward Brook. From what I can find online, it appears that the Ward Brook route was once the "standard" approach, but that recent years have seen the Calkins Brook route become the norm.

    Does anyone have experience with the Ward Brook route in the winter, and any thoughts on tackling Seward from that side? I also see that it is possible to do a "clockwise loop" by going up Ward Brook and coming down Calkins Brook.

    Given the snow, I expect that there may be fresh powder to break either way. But we won't start up the mountain till Sunday (Saturday is the drive and the approach hike to the lean to), so it is possible that one route may be broken out by then. Should we succeed with DES on Sunday, Monday would be Seymour.

    Also, can someone please tell me where the "winter" parking is on Corey's Road. I'm not expecting to make it to the summer trailhead. Last time we tried that one of our party got well stuck, and we had to get a tow vehicle.

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer!


  • #2
    PS, I suppose I should specify that I mean Saturday 2/18/2017 - Monday 2/20/2017


    • #3
      Hi Michael,

      The winter trailhead is right beside the gate, almost immediately after you cross the bridge, and about 500 meters past the snowplow turn-around. I have been up both routes in winter on Seward. When I went up from the Ward brook side we never found the sign after wandering around on the summit for an hour. It may be buried under the snow now since it was about waist high last Saturday.

      You may be lucky and have the trail broken for you by Saturday. It did not appear that anyone had come up from that side last weekend (from my observataions on the summit at about 1pm).



      • #4
        The so-called "winter parking area" is the Raquette Falls trailhead.

        ​Operas.Badger.Super (switch to OpenStreetMap view).

        ​It's also the location of a road-gate. The gate is closed in spring to prevent vehicles from ruining the road surface during spring thaw. Sometimes it is closed sooner and so the Raquette Falls trailhead becomes the de facto "Seward winter trailhead".

        ​I've only descended Seward's north side in wintry conditions and it's not easy to follow ... especially if it's your first time. Besides being unmarked, it crosses a few minor streams at an oblique angle that, when heading uphill, may appear as "forks" and potentially cause some confusion.

        ​FWIW, you can create an accurate GPS-ready route by following these instructions:

        Good luck!

        ​EDIT: Whoops! ninja'd by mbowler!
        Looking for Views!


        • #5
          Thank you both!

          So it sounds like there's nothing particularly special to know about the Ward Brook route vs the Calkins Brook route. I suppose that I just wanted to be sure that no one was going to tell us "For heaven's sake, whatever you do, do *not* take Wards Brook." ;-)

          Thanks also for the GPS tips, but we are old-school and don't have one. Just map and compass. Though I did find this sketch:

          Obviously over-simplistic. Plus, I found another GPS track that shows the herd path on the *other* side of the brook:

          Thanks again. I appreciate all the tips.


          • #6
            The trail starts on the east side of the brook, crosses over to the west side near a waterfall, then re-crosses to the east side at around 3300'.

            ​If you're going to old school it then I recommend you print paper versions of this map:
            Looking for Views!


            • #7
              Thanks! That's a great map. I will print and bring it with us.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Michael View Post
                Very nice. I especially like the detour around the rockface near the top. If only... The cairn in the sketch will be buried but it's proximity to the bridge is correct. IIRC it is the second bridge west of the Ward Brook LT.


                • #9
                  HOL and MtnManJohn broke the north side of Seward last weekend. They said it was abysmal conditions, ice crust with snow and hard to gain footing at times. It is better, in general, to go down that way instead of up it. Expect at least a foot of new snow up there by the weekend. Good luck.
                  #8335W, Solo 46W
                  NE 111 113/115

                  One list may be done, but the journey is far from over...
                  Half Dome, 2009


                  • #10
                    Group of three of us are hoping to hike the range this weekend. Similar to you, we plan to drive in saturday/hike sunday, but we were thinking about tenting saturday night near the calkins herd path turn-off. I read somewhere that there is some flat land right after the brook crossing.

                    Our plans are in the air right now - but hopefully we can get out there and maybe share some of the trail breaking


                    • Michael
                      Michael commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Great! Nice to hear that we will have some help breaking the trail. The last time I did DES, there was over a foot of new snow and it was quite a slog. I was beginning to question whether my wife and I wanted to do it alone.

                      We have been thinking of camping at the site mentioned by Trail Boss as an alternative to the leanto, but I'm not sure where we will end up. It will probably be a game-day decision tomorrow evening.

                      See you there!

                    • adogmadeofcheese
                      adogmadeofcheese commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Looks like I have to reschedule my trip, both my guys had to drop out today. Enjoy the trails!

                  • #11
                    May I suggest you consider camping just south of the junction of the Calkins Truck Trail and the Blueberry Horse Trail. There is/was a designated campsite there.


                    This spares you the added effort of hauling your camping gear another 3 km/1.9 miles to the Calkins Brook Trail and about 400 feet of ascent (200 feet each way). In addition, the spot where many people camp along Calkins Brook is illegal because it is within 150 feet of the brook and trail.

                    Looking for Views!


                    • adogmadeofcheese
                      adogmadeofcheese commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks for the suggestion!

                      Out of curiosity, is there enough flat space near the herd path turn off to make a legal camp? While planning the hike, I found some old threads that discussed this, and it seemed like there might be enough flat area to get away from the trail and brook (legally, even! maybe?) - but the threads were more philosophical than descriptive. While I'm a long proponent of concentrated impact backpacking and prefer designated sites, I figured that with all the snow, we wouldn't be leaving much of an impact wherever we camped (aside from some disturbed snow!)

                    • Trail Boss
                      Trail Boss commented
                      Editing a comment
                      There's fairly flat land near the junction (note the widely spaced contour lines).

                      You should have no problem finding a suitable spot 50+ yards away from the brook and trails. My suggestion was more about saving yourself some elevation gain (and distance) while carrying your overnight gear.

                    • adogmadeofcheese
                      adogmadeofcheese commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Cool, thanks! It is nice knowing all the options, and I am sure the closer site will be heavily discussed as we start slogging our gear in

                  • #12
                    I was on the Seward summit last sat (2/11). I climbed from Calkins along with about 30 other people. While on the summit, a couple guys came up from the Ward Brook trail. Broke the whole thing. Of course, lots of new snow on Sunday/Monday, but the base/ice was broken on Sat.


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by moosebeware View Post
                      HOL and MtnManJohn broke the north side of Seward last weekend. They said it was abysmal conditions, ice crust with snow and hard to gain footing at times. It is better, in general, to go down that way instead of up it. Expect at least a foot of new snow up there by the weekend. Good luck.
                      Pretty sure they broke it from the Calkins side, first hikers of the day on Saturday.
                      Think box required !


                      • #14
                        Yes conditions have changed....but it was broke out last weekend. (Both sides) Sorry for my earlier deletion.
                        Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up. ~Jesse Jackson


                        • #15
                          Can't tell from the little picture in your profile but is this the Michael (with a friend Elizabeth) that my friend Colin and I met just below Donaldson?

                          If it is I'm glad we could help get you two over to Emmons - not sure what happened to you guys though on the way back. We heard you around the Calkins Brook cut off and know that two guys from PA were going that way but weren't sure if you guys did too. We spoke to the two at the lan to and let them know that we had seen you.

                          Reaching the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory. (Ed Viesturs)

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                          • Michael
                            Michael commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Hey Michael - yes, that was me and my wife. Thanks for the help over to Emmons! Elizabeth really wanted to go, but I was having second thoughts about doing it with just the two of us at that time of the day. I didn't have a GPS and the last time I was there was six years ago.

                            Glad you made it over Seward and out. I suppose we should have followed you back over Seward and retraced our steps to camp, but we had our own adventure on the Calkin's herd path and Thomas's detour (I've done a post on that as you will see that we didn't make it back to the leanto till after 1:00 am).

                            I see that you made it to Santinoni and met up with the boys from Philly again. Congratulations! You are getting close. And say hi to Travis and Brian if you see them on the trail again.

                          • akafuzzjones
                            akafuzzjones commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Glad to have been able to help you and your wife out.

                            That would have been a big day to go back up and over Seward. Especially considering your snowshoe malfunction. Getting up the steep section could have been difficult unless you had other traction.

                            We will likely see Brian and Travis again since their itinerary is pretty much the same as ours - told them they need to break the trail the next time!