It sure has been a poor start to the summer, weather wise, but to be frank, I’m kind of getting tired of talking about the weather so I thought I would talk a bit about some trails. While we all love the High Peaks, we need to show our love and not cause any unneeded erosion during these times of forecasted wet weather. I am sure many of you don’t mind getting wet and I am sure many of you have driven long distances to climb Marcy or some other tall piece of bedrock, but I assure you, these peaks are much better suited for nicer weather and with less cloud cover to not void a view. There are so many smaller mountains with wet nasty conditions to choose from, that don’t attract the heavy foot traffic, which so quickly can damage our forest. I ask you to please refrain from the High Peaks Region as much as possible and seek out a gem like Bears Den to visit during our time of the deluge.
Bears 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.
The one major hiccup about Bears Den Mountain is its trail and the difficult hiking conditions it offers, but the payoff is big! While it can be approached via the Flume, Mountain Bike Trails it is best approached from the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area parking. At the Bears Den Lot in the ski area the trail is located to the north side of the parking lot. This trail is also designated as a mountain biking trail so the possibilities are there. The trail flows along the hillside through a rough area that can be very wet during conditions like now, but what isn’t? As you move through the forest, the Bears Den Mountain Trail will be on your left, as the bike trails continue straight ahead. The Bears Den Mountain Trail from this point on is a foot trail.
The trail starts off fairly easy to follow over a very narrow course before it becomes a bit less discernible in spots. The key is to look ahead for the next blaze or marker to point you on your way. The trail while mild in grade slowly creeps up on a steeper ascent as it stays high above an inlet of the Ausable River. The trail will eventually come to a very old split that may or may not be noticed. It is becoming overgrown and from lack of use, Mother Nature is taking it back over. If you do notice a split, take a left and head uphill. The right fork will lead you downhill to the brook and up toward Flume Knob.
As you start to sweep west (L) you will start a much more aggressive climb that will bring 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.
Heading left you will remain in the trees a bit longer before breaking out onto an open rock ledge with amazing views.
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.
Both summits have outstanding views and again are more than what anyone can imagine as far as payoff is concerned. Then one of the nice advantages of a smaller peak is the chances it will be below the clouds, where views, even on a lousy day, can be afforded. Retrace your steps back to the Bears Den Lot and your car.
Interested in having guided trips up Bears Den and/or Flume Knob seek out a local guide service for details. Of course after a day’s hiking in the rain, who’s going to feel like cooking? Go out to dinner at one of Lake Placid’s many options for fantastic food and drink. Then again why drive home in the rain, when Lake Placid has so many soft places to rest your head?