Bear Den Mountain is one of those hidden peaks that gets very little attention, but should be high on everyone’s list to check out. It’s located above the Ausable River and is essentially part of the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area. While no ski trails actually traverse the peak or really even mark its face, it still lies above the valley within the boundaries.
From the intersection of Route 73 and Route 86 in Lake Placid, follow Route 86 toward Wilmington. Continue for 9.2 miles to the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center. Turn into the center and follow the road around to the right and to the Bear Den Lot.
This is a 2.25 mile hike, one way, over mixed terrain. At the Bears Den Lot in the ski area the trail is located to the north side of the parking lot. The trail flows along the hillside through a rough area that can be very wet. After 0.5 miles, the Bear Den Mountain Trail goes left, as the bike trails continue straight ahead. The Bear Den Mountain Trail from this point on is a foot trail that is generally plain, but does require some care to follow.
The trail starts off fairly easy but soon steepens and remains so to a saddle at the crest of the ridge at 1.6 miles.
Heading left you will remain in the trees a bit longer before breaking out onto an open rock ledge with amazing views with more views on a second summit. Heading right from the col you will again remain in the trees and start a climb that is much steeper with rocky outcropping and eventually a rock scramble near the summit. This summit is actually taller than the one marked as the true.
Distance Round Trip
Find out more
See our blog post about hiking Bear Den Mountain.
The trail starts off and stays high above an inlet of the Ausable River before it starts to climb steadily and at times quite steep. The trail swings up to a top off along a narrow ridge line as you start to sweep west (L). Then you will start a much more aggressive climb, with a few switchbacks breaking up the steep slopes. This will bring you to a col between the two summits of Bears Den Mountain. A sign in the col point left to Bears Den Summit, a path leads in both directions. The path to the right is seldom used and may be all faint in winter. The slopes along the right trail are very steep with exposure.
Heading left you will remain in the trees for a very short amount of time before breaking out onto an open rock ledge with amazing views. In the winter the summit top will be replaced with wind swept snow. The trail stops at a large cairn on this rocky area. An old path continues back into the trees and brings you to the true summit of Bear Den atop another outstanding rocky location.
Approximate Time Round Trip
Families with Kids: 4 to 4.5 hours
Experienced Snowshoers: 3 to 3.5 hours
Out of Shape Snowshoers: 3.5 to 4 hours
Difficulty: 1=easiest, 5=hardest
Two-Three; due to steepness of terrain and limited use in winter
The twin summits are open ledges with steep drop-offs, please be very careful and keep an eye on young children.