5 trails worth visiting during High Peak downtime
As you may or may not know, it is highly recommended and requested by the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) to limit the use of the trails in the High Peaks Region during the spring thaw. The High Peaks Trails become very muddy in the spring season and this is mainly due to the instability and excessive water on the trails, but it also comes with heavy use. Think of your feet like blender paddles stirring up mud and water, soon you have a cake batter on the trail that increases erosion and diminishes the quality of the trail. Then hikers tend to go around the mud and this starts in the trail widening which is just as bad over time. Hikes that are lower in elevation tend to dry out quicker, and trails that are less steep have reduced erosion issues from heavy runoff of snow melt. So, keep in mind these five destinations that, while lower in elevation, will give you superb payoffs and have you enjoying the great outdoors during mud season.
Copperas, Owen, and Winch Ponds
This outstanding loop will bring you over one of the only trails in the Sentinel Range Wilderness. This wilderness area is about as rugged as you will find in the park, and in the northeast for that matter, so enjoy. There are two distinct trail heads for these three ponds, both are located along Route 86 between Lake Placid and Wilmington, roughly 1-mile from one another. I prefer to start at the northern trailhead and check out Copperas first. This steeper approach will bring you over a rock-strewn trail to one of the loveliest ponds in the park. From there you make your way over easy to moderate trail back to Owen Pond and then back to Winch to complete a scenic lollipop loop.
Cobble Hill, the small mountain located right in the middle of the village of Lake Placid, will get you up high above Mirror Lake and overlooking the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Village. The trailhead is located of Mount Whitney Road on the east side of Mirror Lake. This slightly over 1-mile hike is fairly steep in areas but tends to dry out very fast allowing for hikers to enjoy a scenic mountain destination. Be sure to bring your camera, the views are stellar. There is a loop on this small mountain and the longer approach that feeds past Echo Lake tends to be very wet right in and through the summer. The shorter trail while steep is also the more scenic.
Lake Road to Beaver Meadow Falls and Rainbow Falls
The Lake Road through the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) might not be the most scenic of destination to hike along, but it does get you into the High Peaks Region quite quickly. The road is one of the main access points into the High Peaks and is used rather heavily. Roughly 2.5 miles up the lake road you will find a spur trail to Beaver Meadow Falls and at the end of the road you will come to the dam. Across the dam is a short spur trail back to Rainbow Falls. Both of these falls are an outstanding springtime destination.
Baxter Mountain from Route 9N
Located between Keene and Elizabethtown, Baxter Mountain is a smaller summit that will give you a killer bang for the buck. This trail is a short 1.1 miles from the trailhead and rerouted so steepness and erosion are limited. Start off easy and then work your way up the moderate trail to the final summit push. The final approach to the summit will lead you over open rock to several viewing platforms with a large range of mountain views.
The scenic low elevation peak of Mount Gilligan is located off Route 9, south of Elizabethtown. In my opinion it's a true beauty and lacks the attention it deserves. The trail is only a little over 1-mile but you will be welcomed into an attractive forest with a route that is laid out to be fun and scenic in the same bite. The two rock-platform viewing areas are a superb way to take in the scenery of the Giant Mountain Wilderness.
Interested in more of what the Lake Placid Region has to offer for mud season hiking? Well, just visit our recreational pages for many more options that will be just what you are looking for. Of course we would love it if you would stay with us for a while, our lodging is top notch.