A hamlet on the shore of Cranberry Lake founded in 1902, tourists flock to Wankena in the summer but it offers great options year round.
How to Get There: Wanakena is located just off of State Highway 3.
From the West - Head on NY – 3E, turn right onto County Rd 61 for 0.9 miles, slight
right onto Main Street.
From East - Head on NY – 3W, turn left onto County Rd 61 for 0.9 miles, slight right
onto Main Street.
If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, the quiet Hamlet of Wanakena is your place. Wanakena, rich in history, is located at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains between Cranberry Lake and Star Lake about a mile off Route 3. Wanaka, as the welcome sign proudly displays is “The Gateway to the Wilderness” and is a great place to have an outdoor adventure.
For a nice easy day trip, Wanakena is home to one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the United States, the Wanakena Footbridge. The footbridge was originally built in 1902 and spans 171 feet across the Oswegatchie River. The best way to access the bridge is to stay right at the Welcome Sign, head down Main Street and you will find a parking area just past the playground.
Before crossing the bridge, stop at the kiosk, and read about the history and how the community came together to rebuild it after being destroyed by an ice jam in 2014. As you cross the bridge, take a few moments to look out over the Oswegatchie River. The view is breathtaking and you might catch a glimpse of some wildlife. As you exit the other side of the bridge, make sure to turn around and read the poem, “Our Wanakena Bridge”. You will also find a piece of cable from the original bridge to the left.
If you are looking for a more adventurous hike, you can find numerous hiking trails in the area. Down the road from the parking area, you will find the trailhead to a couple of longer hikes that are part of the Five Ponds Wilderness. High Falls is a 9.0-mile moderate loop hike that brings you to a 15-foot waterfall that forms on the Oswegatchie River. Sand Lake is a 14.9-mile hike that brings you to the shores of Sand Lake. Be prepared for flooding and mud since beaver flooding is very common at the beginning of this trail.
Food - Where to Eat in Wanakena
Black Water Café and Trading Post offer a café style menu of breakfast foods, burgers, mac and cheese, pulled pork, soups and so much more at very reasonable prices. They also have some grocery items and a gift store. The Café is down the road from the Ranger School at 68 Ranger School Road. They also have an option to order online for take-out but no phone orders are accepted. Visit the website here: wanakenapinecone.wordpress.com/
If you are looking for lighter snacks, or items to take on a picnic, Ottos Abode is found next door to the Post Office and across the street from the footbridge. Here you will find coffee, cold drinks, snacks, groceries, ice cream, gifts, and maps, and more. Or if you want a local’s advice on what to do, where to stay, or eat, they will be happy to answer your questions. Visit the website here: ottosabode.org/
Lodging - Where to Stay in Wanakena
Packbasket Adventures has two ways to stay. The lodge is a log cabin that consists of four bedrooms with private baths. If you prefer more privacy, they offer a private cabin. The cabin can sleep up to 4 people and includes a sink, mini-refrigerator, toaster, microwave, and coffee maker as well as dishes and silverware.
Cranberry Lake State Park Campground is one of the largest remote areas remaining in the state and offers approximately 91 tent only campsites. Here you can find hiking, swimming, camping, and picnicking.
Cool Stuff to Know:
- Across the street from the footbridge between River Street and Hamele Street, you will find a small park that offers free activities such as croquet.
- Just to the left of the parking area on Main Street, you will find the Labyrinth Walk. This is a circular walking path where you “hold” an intention while slowly and calmly walking. It can be used as a tool to let go of stress, worries, and concerns. “Once the intention is held on the walk it becomes an integral part of the walker. Enter and walk the labyrinth with intention and transformation begins to unfold.” (Hallie E. Sawyers LMT, APP, NCTMB – Outreach Vice President for The Labyrinth Society)
- Wanakena is home of the Ranger School. The Ranger School offers three areas of study: forest technology, land surveying technology, and environmental and natural resources conservation. At the time of writing - Due to COVID -19, the Ranger School, any trails, and the fire tower are closed to the public.
- Besides hiking, other outdoor activities available in the Wankena area include kayaking, canoeing, boating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, biking, and more.
Guest blogger Patti Hogel lives in Ogdensburg and is hiking all 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks.
About Our Day Trip Series
St. Lawrence County is geographically large, meaning lots of day trip possibilities. Our day trip series will focus on the cool destinations in our county that make an excellent day trip, whether you're a tourist, a life long resident, or somewhere in between.