Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lake George’s Best-Kept Hiking Secret is Out

Cat and Thomas mountains have only been open to hiking for the past seven years, but word is getting out.

On the Adirondacks’ most famous and perhaps most scenic lake, hikes abound. Visitors can choose from challenges, like Black or Tongue Mountain, or easy afternoon climbs, such as Sleeping Beauty or Pilot’s Knob.

Still, among those treasures, Cat and Thomas stand out for their ease of access, stellar views and, well, relative solitude. Located near Bolton Landing on the lake’s west side, the hikes just aren’t as well-known as the usual suspects. But that, of course, is changing.

The mountains, formerly private, were purchased by the Lake George Land Conservancy in 2003 for $1 million. Visitors can hike one or both mountains, or — my favorite — connect them both via a 6.5 mile loop. The mountains are reached via former logging roads that don’t ascend more than 750 feet. However, the connecting loop includes a difficult trail that requires scrambling up and down some considerably steep sections.

Thomas is the lesser of the two peaks, at least in terms of views — it faces west, so you can’t see the lake. There is, however, a neat cabin at the top (or at least there was the last time I visited — the property owners have been planning to remove it at some point).

Cat offers a stellar view of Lake George from its bare, rocky summit. Spread out before you is Bolton Landing, Tongue Mountain, and in the distance, the range of peaks stretching up the lake’s east side.

To reach the preserve, take Northway Exit 24 and head east. After two miles, make a right on Valley Woods Road. The main parking lot is on the right shortly after the turn. There’s also a separate parking lot further down for those who just want to climb Cat Mountain. The trails are well-marked and easy to follow.

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Alan Wechsler writes about outdoor recreation and is a regular contributor to Adirondack Explorer.

Alan has been coming to the Adirondacks since his uncle took him on his first backpacking trip—with wet snow, followed by temperatures down to zero degrees—at age 15. He says he still hasn’t learned his lesson.

Today, his frequent adventures into the park include mountain-biking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and climbing (both rock and ice). A long-time newspaper reporter and avid outdoor photographer, he also writes for a number of regional and national magazines about the outdoors and other issues. Alan’s piece for Adirondack Life, Ski to Die, is an International Regional Magazine Association first-place feature-writing winner.





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