New trail, same killer views

Above, Griffin Kelly, of Saranac Lake, takes in the view of the High Peaks from a rock outcrop near the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — Just when the leaves began to change this fall, the rain moved in. With almost no precipitation all summer, it seemed like a cruel joke to have fall foliage at its peak when most of the peaks themselves were covered by gray clouds.

So when the weather called for a break in the clouds on Friday, Oct. 5, I was thrilled that the change coincided the opening of a new hiking trail outside of Lake Placid.

The Mount Van Hoevenberg East Trail was slated to open with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m., but fellow reporter Griffin Kelly and I decided to get a jump on it and hike the trail before covering the opening.

We set out from the parking lot and had the honor of being the first to sign in to the trail register. Then we began walking and soon stepped over the finish ramp of the 1980 Olympic bobsled track and were officially on the trail.

We had been warned that people would still be working, putting the finishing touches on the trail, so it wasn’t much of a surprise a few minutes later when we came on a crew carrying buckets of gravel and spreading them around.

The new trail was designed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but built by the Adirondack Mountain Club’s professional trail crew. Due to the opening ceremony, DEC crews, the Student Conservation Association and inmates from the state Department of Corrections were also brought in to help with the construction.

The new trail is the definition of a family-friendly hike. It’s moderate and short, and the crews built in a lot of features that make the trail not only easy to walk on but should help keep erosion to a minimum.

Griffin and I made our way past the gravel carriers and kept moving on. As we made our way over the easy grade, I kept expecting to reach the classic Adirondack “steep section” near the end. After about a mile and a half, we met up with an old trail that came in from the right. The old trail starts near the top of the bobsled run and offers a really short hike to the top of Van Ho.

Before we knew it, there was a short little trail to a rock outcrop on the side of the mountain. Griffin and I stepped out and were greeted by sweeping views of the High Peaks covered in glowing foliage. The vista stretched out and I picked out the profile of Big Slide Mountain to one side and the slides of Gothics to the other.

After a minute, we stepped back into the woods and continued on another couple hundred yards to the main lookout. From there, the view was just as glorious, even if it was a little more expansive. The colors were perfect as the sun began to shine and the morning fog burned off.

We hung out at the lookout (it’s not actually the summit) for about 20 minutes, but being in the shade left us a little chilled. Griffin and I began walking back down the trail and arrived at the trailhead with time to spare before the ribbon cutting.

Once all the local dignitaries had gathered, DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann gave a quick talk about how this particular trail was a glimpse at the future of Adirondack trails.

“This is the most sustainable trail in the High Peaks region,” Stegemann said. “This is going to be the new standard.”