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You have to walk to hike Cobble Hill

Land trust makes it official that there’s no trailhead parking, says Lake Placid is ‘base camp’

The view from Cobble Hill includes views of the High Peaks, Mirror Lake, the Olympic ski jumps and downtown Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

LAKE PLACID — For those looking to climb Cobble Hill, the trailhead may just be your front door.

In the past, hikers looking to climb Cobble Hill could park at a small trailhead parking lot provided by Northwood School. However, hikers can no longer access the private school’s campus by car for security reasons. Hikers are now being encouraged to start their climb up the hill from their home, their hotel, or from a parking spot in downtown Lake Placid.

Representatives of the Adirondack Land Trust, which cares for 79 acres of private land on and around Cobble Hill through conservation easements with two private landowners, said a committee is working on finding a location for a new Cobble Hill trailhead. This spring, the trust was awarded $38,850 from the North Elba Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund, or LEAF, to create this new trailhead and install new signage. LEAF is funded by occupancy tax revenue collected on all hotel, motel and vacation rental stays in Essex County.

It’s unlikely that the new trailhead will have parking. Walking to the trails from farther away may be a permanent thing unless a new parking area is found, according to Adirondack Land Trust Communications Manager Mary Thill.

“We anticipate that being a long-term message,” she said. “That’s a long-term challenge unless an area for parking is identified.”

As an ad hoc community group — including Northwood School — looks for a new place for a trailhead, anyone looking to access Cobble Hill trails will need to walk across private land. There are two places to do this: on Mount Whitney Road off of Mirror Lake Drive, or by walking on a sidewalk close to Northwood School’s Mirror Lake Drive gate, at the north end of the campus, where Northwood’s old trailhead parking area was, according to the Adirondack Land Trust.

New wayfinding signage is in the works, so for now, the trust has created a map to help with trip planning. The map is available at adirondacklandtrust.org/news.

As for where hikers should park, the answer is pretty much anywhere a spot can be found. The trust is recommending people prepare for at least an extra half-mile hike from their homes, hotels, from a parking space on Mirror Lake Drive or from one of the municipal parking lots on Main Street.

“Lake Placid is well situated to serve as base camp,” said Scott van Laer, who has been brought on as the project manager for Cobble Hill.

Van Laer, director of Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center and a former forest ranger with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, is coordinating the effort to improve the Cobble Hill trails.

“Hikers can stop at a local business for a snack or a drink on the walk to or from the trailhead and make it part of the experience,” he said. “Even at other Adirondack trailheads where parking spaces are provided, it is often difficult to get a spot. Cobble Hill offers a way to create a new, sustainable model that ties outdoor recreation directly to community benefit.”

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