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Short mud season hikes

April 26, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

With mud season firmly ensconced in the Adirondacks, getting outside can be a bit of a challenge: You should stay out of the High Peaks, the water is dangerously cold for paddling, the roads are covered in sand making biking hazardous, and the fishing (at least based on my experience) isn't that good yet. It's kind of a no-man's land for outdoors enthusiasts.

But with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures, it's hard to be cooped up in the house or content doing yard work. With an eye on limiting damage to trails, there are still some nice hikes around that can get you outside but still keep your boots from getting muddy or ripping up fragile vegetation.


Article Photos

Audrey Levine takes in the views from Owls Head Mountain in Keene in early April.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

Owls Head Mountain

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.06 miles round trip

Directions: From Lake Placid, take state Route 73 east toward Keene. From the entrance to Mount Van Hoevenberg, continue 4.6 miles to Owl's Head Lane on the right. The parking area is 0.2 miles up the dirt road on the left.

As far as Adirondack hikes go, Owls Head Mountain provides one of the biggest bangs for your buck in the entire park.

The hike is easy at just over a half-mile one-way, and maintains a slightly more than gentle grade most of the way. While you will be going uphill the whole time, it's such a short trail that the slope never really gets to you.

Even with several stops to take photos, the climb up Owls Head took us just over 20 minutes. The trail is a good one for mud season, since it is rocky for most of the way. Even in early April, there was only one short stretch of wet trail, which was easily navigated by stepping on rocks.

The trail starts out on private land, and is not marked, aside from a sign at the parking area. However, it is a popular hike and the trail is easy to follow. Just be sure to stick to the trail and don't litter, since the trail exists only because of the landowner's generosity.

As you make your way up the trail, there will be glimpses of Pitchoff Mountain and Route 73 behind you. Nearing the top, keep an eye on young kids as there are cliffs that can pose a serious hazard.

The trail skirts to the left of the cliffs and loops around to the mostly open summit. From there, you will have unobstructed views of Pitchoff, Cascade and Porter mountains, the High Peaks and, on a clear day, one can see the fire tower atop Hurricane Mountain off to the east. The views earned from this short hike are some of the best in the Adirondacks.

Since the hike is so short, this is a good one for kids to come along. The cliffs, while dangerous, also offer the type of natural playground that is irresistible. With proper supervision, the cliffs and boulders can be explored, and plenty of fun can be had for just a little bit of effort on the hike up.


Silver Lake Mountain

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Distance: 2 miles round trip

Directions: From Lake Placid and Saranac Lake: Take state Route 86 east toward Wilmington. At the four corners in Wilmington, go straight onto Bonnieview Road. Take that all the way to the end, and turn left on Silver Lake Road. From there, go 5.6 miles to the trailhead on the right.

From Plattsburgh, take state Route 3 west toward Saranac Lake. In Clayburg, turn left onto Silver Lake Road. From there, go 5.8 miles to a stop sign. Continue left on the Silver Lake Road and go 1 mile to the trailhead on the left.

Silver Lake Mountain is a hike that people tend to do year after year since it's such a pleasant walk. Starting out from the trailhead, you walk through a stand of open hardwoods that is an enjoyable piece of woods, to say the least. The trail starts out relatively flat, but quickly starts to go up at a gentle grade.

The trail is marked with old metal markers, which are sort of a maroon color and can be difficult to see. But the trail is easy to follow anyway. One cool note is that what is now the Department of Environmental Conservation used to have new trail markers made each year so that trails showed what year they were built. So see if you can figure out which year the Silver Lake Mountain trail was first in use.

At about one-third of a mile, you will come to the first of several nice views. Stepping off the trail just a few feet to a rock outcrop, you can start to see the woods surrounding nearby Taylor Pond and you can catch a glimpse of the small but pretty Mud Pond, which sits at the base of the mountain.

Continuously moving upward, the trail follows a rocky spine that escorts you from the hardwood forest into a canopy of short evergreens. This can be an especially nice change in the summer, when the temperature in the evergreen woods is considerably lower than out on the rocks.

At about seven-tenths of a mile, the trail bears right and starts going up a rocky pitch. While this is far from rock climbing, this portion of the trail may necessitate a bit of hands and feet scrambling. Kids should have no problem, but adults may be wary. It's not bad, but looks intimidating from below.

You will get your first good look at Silver Lake at the 0.8-mile mark, and another stunning treat just a tenth of a mile past that.

This view at 0.9 miles is the best on the mountain. From here, you can sit on the rocks and look west and south at the Adirondacks stretching out before you. Catamount Mountain is in the foreground to the south, while Whiteface Mountain is visible in the distance and Taylor Pond stretches out before you. Silver Lake and Union Falls Pond are also visible from here.

If you want, continue another few hundred feet to a cliff top that will give you better views to the south. You will also see that Silver Lake Mountain stretches out to the east, and large cliffs give the impression that you've just climbed a much more serious mountain.

Silver Lake Mountain is an easy climb with a few moderately difficult spots, but nothing that should keep you from the top. It took us just over 30 minutes to reach the top, where we enjoyed the views while basking in the warm sunshine. Although we had started hiking with temperatures in the 30s, sitting on the rocks at the top made it feel like 70 degrees out.



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