Leave No Trace on these 5 low elevation hikes
Spring is synonymous with sunshine, blooming flowers, and the urge to get out of the house and into nature. While it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy all things spring, responsibly recreating in the rainy months is something to take into consideration.
This time of year is known region-wide as “mud season” in the mountains, with snowmelt turning trails into muddy messes that quicken the erosion process brought about by our hiking boots. We love our trails in the Adirondacks, and there are a few things we can all do to Leave No Trace!
As a general rule of thumb, mud season months run from early April to the beginning of June, but can vary based on the weather and characteristics of each trail. During this time, the NYSDEC recommends that hikers try their best to stay below 3,000 feet in elevation and stick to the middle of the trail to avoid traveling in areas of fragile alpine vegetation. These little rare plants, and the trails leading to them, need all the help they can get, so here are some low elevation hikes to satisfy your urge for a wilderness experience this spring!
One of my first trail runs in the Adirondacks was Cobble Lookout. Its close proximity to the center of Wilmington made it easy to pick up a snack at Adirondacks Chocolates before I hit the short trail to an amazing viewpoint overlooking the forested slopes of Esther and Marble mountains. It’s a place I go back to time and time again. This 2.4 mile and 250 feet of elevation gain round-trip path gently climbs for the first half, then actually descends the rest of the way to the rocky balcony-like area at the end! Fair warning, this trail can get muddy during spring, and has some wooden bridging to protect the worst of it, but still be prepared to walk straight through the mud if it's present, and not around it!
Stag Brook Falls
Hidden within the slopes of Whiteface Mountain is a seemingly never-ending series of waterfalls that flow strongly in the spring. Stag Brook Falls itself is a short distance from the start of the trail, but continuing further you’ll find several more cascades adjacent to the trail, all of differing flow patterns and sizes. If you decide to do the entire trail (you won’t be disappointed!), it ends up being 1.3 miles and 500 feet of elevation gain round trip. A great family-friendly hike, you can dictate the distance walked along the trail, and there’s even a picnic table at the base of one of the falls to enjoy a snack and appreciate the roaring water! Note, when the mountain is open for skiing, hiking to the falls is off-limits.
Silver Lake Mountain
Keeping off of higher summits doesn’t mean you can’t still have a mountain experience with big views. Silver Lake Mountain simulates the experience of hiking a High Peak, but in a very short distance at a much lower elevation (the Adirondack Loj sits at around the same elevation as the top of this mountain!). You’ll end up hiking 2 miles, and ascending 940 feet round-trip on this trail. Beginning gently through the forest, then climbing steeply for a short distance on a rocky portion of trail, this hike may not take very long, but will surely get the heart pumping. The couple times I’ve done this trail, I’ve seen younger kids thoroughly enjoying themselves on the upper rocky portions of the trail. It's a doable and fun challenge that leads to a unique view of Whiteface’s northern aspect.
Silver Lake Bog
Sticking with the Silver Lake theme, this 2.2 mile hike with 300 feet of elevation gain to the Silver Lake Bog and Bluffs will get you closer to the lake than the aforementioned mountain. A beautifully built 0.5 mile long boardwalk takes you over boreal peatland habitat that’s perfect for bird watching. Look closely along the edges of the boardwalk and you could spot my favorite plant on the trail, pitcher plants! The boardwalk leads to the Bluffs Trail, and at the end is a stunning rocky vantage point hovering above Silver Lake. I’ve spent hours at this spot listening to birds, reading, and taking in the view! This is a must-visit trail for so many reasons, and one that I suggest doing more than once since you’ll be hard-pressed to spot all the flora and fauna in one trip.
Clintonville Pine Barrens
The Clintonville Pine Barrens, a few minutes east of Ausable Forks, is one of the rarest ecosystems in the Adirondack Park. The 1.25 mile trail loops across a sand delta that was deposited 12,000 years ago by glaciers. The naturally well-drained soil lends itself well to spring hiking, and although a quick hike, it passes through habitat you’ll rarely get to see on your typical day in the park. I recommend pairing this walk with any of the other adventures on this list! Ausable Forks is a quaint town, and has everything you need, from a deli to get a sandwich for your mid-hike lunch, to a post-hike watering hole at 20 Main where you could catch some live music.