Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).
Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives?
For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few:
Tongue Mountain is located on the west side of the lake north of Bolton Landing, this peninsula juts five miles into the blue waters and presents a number of hiking challenges. With two cars, you can park at separate trailheads and traverse much the range, which has multiple peaks and surprisingly rugged topography. Or for an extra challenge, follow the ridge all the way to Montcalm Point before returning along the waters-edge trail to the parking lot. Remember to watch for rattlesnakes (don’t worry — I’ve never seen one, though they’re said to be prevalent). Park at one of two lots on Route 9N.
Black Mountain is about halfway up the lake on the east side, north of Whitehall off Route 22. Much more remote than the overused Buck Mountain to the south, Black is about a two-mile hike from the parking lot on Pike Brook Road (that’s me near the summit in the photo above).
You can extend the trip by traveling down the other side to the various ponds in the Lake George Wild Forest. If you haven’t been a couch potato all winter, you might even consider hiking down to Black Mountain Point on Lake George (a descent of around 1,500 feet) and back up another trail. Take a hiking map of the Eastern Adirondacks, as the network of trails is confusing.
If you live south of the Adirondacks and are looking to get your legs back in shape, I’d suggest Hadley Mountain in Northern Saratoga County or Sleeping Beauty in the Shelving Rock area of Lake George. Both are fairly short hikes with amazing views on top.
And if you simply must hit the High Peaks, my favorite early-season hike is from the Ausable Club up to Lower Ausable Lake in Keene Valley. Once you’re past the gate, head to the west side of the Ausable River to see two of the park’s most scenic falls: Beaver Meadow and Rainbow. From there, it’s a short jaunt to the lake, but you can add some more scenery by braving the climb to Indian Head and Fish Hawk cliffs. From there, it’s an easy — and relatively mud-free — walk back along the dirt road to your car.