I walk these trails frequently and lately even more since we have welcomed Bear, the yellow Lab, into our family. It's one of the best places to walk your dog since a summer swim for both of you is a great bonus in the middle of your walk, and the other skiers and snowshoers in the winter usually have their dogs in tow also, so you won't find those XC ski purists hollering at you for mucking up the track with pad prints for heaven's sake!
If you've never been to the Peninsula Nature Trails, make a point of it soon. It's easy to find - just take Peninsula Way, between Comfort Inn and Ho Jo's on route 86 in Lake Placid. Drive approximately four tenths of a mile from the highway and you will come to a small parking area with a gate and sign for the trail system. Make sure to register so that NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation gets an accurate count of people using the trails. The trail user numbers are important for assisting in allocation of funding for our State trail systems. Make sure you also pick up the brochure and take a look at the map. Heading out on the trail you will shortly arrive at a 4-way trail intersection. Take any turn you want to - you won't get lost. The beauty of the Peninsula is that the trails all form loops, and basically all loop back to the main trail you start on, which runs through the middle of the trail system.
I find the most pleasant walk during the summer is to stay on the main trail, which is an old truck road that is mostly closed to motorized traffic (more on this later). Walk to the end of this trail/road and take the left hand loop, the Lakeshore Trail, which as its name implies (surprise, surprise), winds nearly a half mile along the shore of Lake Placid and ends up at the Outlet Brook dam. There is a short leg about three quarters of the way along the trail, which goes back to the main trail if you want to cut it short, but you'd be missing the best part of the trail. This is the spot where launching a kayak or canoe is made much easier in early summer (more on this later).
Winding pleasantly along fairly level terrain, with views of the Lake Placid Lodge and Whiteface Resort to the West, the Lakeshore Trail consists of mainly cedar trees along the rocky shoreline. There are a few strategically placed rustic log benches for quiet meditation amid the tranquil setting of the lakeshore flora and fauna. If you are still, you are likely to see lots of birds and red squirrels scurrying around and possibly, if you are lucky, an American Mink or two. Yes, we do have mink on our lake. In the weasel family, the mink is a sleek little mammal no more than about 24 inches long (including its tail) with a rich, glossy dark brown coat. It is most likely to be seen slinking along the rocky shore searching for small crustaceans, mice and other small rodents, but will also kill and eat rabbits and small water fowl. They are very shy and will certainly find a hiding spot very quickly if they see you, so if you do see a mink you're very lucky indeed. It's also possible you may see River Otter. We have several otter families living on Lake Placid. Otter are dark brown and larger than mink and you will usually see them out in the water and not on the shore if they sense your presence. Otter eat mostly crustaceans, fish and other aquatic life, and often are seen playfully rolling and frolicking together out in the water. Be patient and quiet for the best chance of seeing these most entertaining of shoreline residents. This past summer, there was a family of otters spotted frequently in Sunset Strait and the outlet bay area near the trails.
Upon reaching the Outlet Brook dam you have two options. You can cross the dam and follow the Jackrabbit XC ski trail in summer or winter, winding through the Whiteface Resort golf course and on into the MacKenzie Mountain Wild Forest, continuing on to Saranac Lake. Alternatively, you can continue along the trail which will eventually takeyou right back to the 4 corners where you'll turn right to go back to your car, or straight to walk or ski the Ridge Trail loop. The Ridge Trail is equally as pretty as the shore trail, however you'll find many more hardwood trees, predominantly beech, in this part of the forest.
It is not widely known, but the small piece of property surrounding the dam is not public, but privately owned by the Lake Placid Shore Owners Association, which, for more than a century, has shouldered the responsibility of maintaining the dam and lake level. Due to liability issues, the SOA posts a no swimming sign, which is mostly ignored, especially by the canines. Please be respectful that you are on private property in the general area of the dam and dock next to it. Swimming here (at your own risk of course) is most enjoyable due to the sandy bottom in the lake.
During the months of June and July The Dept. of Environmental Conservation opens the main gate to vehicular traffic so that cars can transport car-top boats to the picnic area for easier launching into Lake Placid. The only time during these two months the gate is closed is during high school graduation weekend. The picnic area is a notorious party spot and they try to make it more difficult for access during that weekend.
The groups responsible for the trail system, the Lake Placid Garden Club, DEC and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, have done a marvelous job with interpretive signage and information pamphlets. There are wonderful signs denoting the different species of trees on the trails, as well as a leaflet listing trees, plants and shrubs. It is a very enjoyable and easy walk around the peninsula, no matter which trail you decide to take. Do make a point of visiting.
- Make sure you take a swim at this most beautiful spot - our skin test says it's the clearest water in the state!