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Under the road and through the woods

July 12, 2019
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SCHROON LAKE - People who drive along Interstate 87 - the Northway - are treated to wonderful views of Schroon Lake, even as they zip past at 75 mph. But for those who would like to soak in the view for a little longer, Mount Severance offers a quick hike and a bird's-eye view.

The first thing hikers do from the parking area, off of state Route 9, is pass through a pair of narrow tunnels that take you under first the northbound and then the southbound lanes of I-87. Emerging from the blacktop-lined tunnels, the trail hangs a left and briefly follows the Northway. It's amazing to think how many people drive by here without ever knowing that hikers may be watching them from the woods.

The trail - marked with yellow state Department of Environmental Conservation discs - is easy to follow and well-built, maybe even exceedingly so. There are a number of short bridges and turnpikes that may be helpful in the spring when things are wet, but don't really need to be there during the dry summer months.

Article Photos

The trail to the top of Mount Severance in Schroon Lake takes hikers through a pair of tunnels under I-87.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

Rising less than 800 feet in elevation from the parking area, the trail up Mount Severance goes up gradually, never getting steep. But it also isn't flat once it turns away from the highway. At one point, there is a wood and stone staircase complete with a railing. Again, a nice feature to be sure, but probably overkill on a trail that's not all that strenuous.

According to the DEC - which manages the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area that Mount Severance is in - the origins of the mountain's name are unknown.

"Much of the derivation of the names of geographical features of the unit is unclear," the Hoffman Notch unit management plan says. "Many features are probably named after local individuals and families as hinted at through old census records and maps, but direct evidence is hard to come by. Examples of such features include Mt. Severance, Bailey Pond, Big Pond, Marion Pond and Durgin Brook.

Fact Box

Mount Severance


DISTANCE: 2.5 miles, round-trip


DIRECTIONS: From exit 28 on I-87, take state Route 9 south toward Schroon Lake for 0.6 miles. Turn right onto the small road leading to the parking area.

"Evidence of human settlement and occupation exists throughout the HNWA. Old farm clearings, stone and barbed-wire fences, foundations, softwood plantations, old hunting camps, and woods roads and trails exist in many places in the unit including sites along Hoffman Road, in the Mt. Severance area, the trail to Bailey Pond and countless other locations. Since almost all of the area was logged and/or settled, few locations within the unit are without evidence of human interference."

The UMP says that the mountain - which has one of just three trail registers in the HNWA - regularly draws more than 4,000 hikers per year going back to the 1990s.

"Some HNWA trails, such as the one leading to Bailey Pond and the extended unmarked path to Marion Pond, do not see much public use, because they do not offer compelling scenic destinations and require the user to return via the same route," the UMP says. "In comparison, the Mt. Severance trail is one of the best used trails in the unit, partly due to the fact that it is relatively short (1.2 miles) and leads to a scenic vista."

Hikers will reach the top of the hill shortly after the staircase, and although the summit is heavily wooded, there is enough bedrock exposed to offer views of Schroon Lake and Pharaoh Mountain. On a clear day, one could see for what feels like forever, but in the summer, a hazy mist may limit views to the boat traffic on the lake (of which there is plenty).

The top of the mountain has plenty of room to sit and eat or just take in the view, but the sounds of traffic from the Northway, while muffled, are still audible from the summit. Regardless of the minor annoyance of traffic noise, Mount Severance is an easy, family-friendly walk that takes hikers into one the Adirondacks' less accessible wilderness areas.



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