Soggy spring hiking on Snow Mountain
KEENE VALLEY — There’s certainly no shortage of hiking opportunities in the Keene Valley area, but Snow Mountain via Deer Brook offers essentially two hikes: one easy, and one a little more moderate.
Starting out from the trailhead on state Route 73, the trail — marked with blue state Department of Environmental Conservation discs — starts on private land, following Deer Brook. At the 0.2-mile mark, the trail splits, with a High Water trail breaking off to the left while the regular hiking trail continues to follow the stream.
Although we’ve gotten more than enough rain this spring, I opted to follow the stream. There are four stream crossings in the beginning of the trail, and even with elevated water levels the stream didn’t seem to be overflowing its banks.
Another crossing occurs at the 0.3-mile mark, which brings hikers to the base of a rather large cliff. Having successfully negotiated a couple of crossings already, I let my guard down a bit as I skirted the edge of the stream along the base of the cliff.
Before I could consciously react, I found myself in the stream, with my left side soaked. There was some pain in my wrist, but luckily that went away within a few minutes. I assessed my situation and decided to carry on despite my soaked shirt, pants and boot.
Setting out again with a slight squish in my left boot, my clothes dried quickly (no cotton!) as I continued to follow the stream. The trail moved away from the stream a bit between the third and fourth crossings, and the final crossing was the easiest — or at least the shortest.
After the fourth crossing, the trail uses a switchback to go up a hill to the junction with the High Water trail. From that junction at the 0.75-mile mark, the trail follows yellow DEC markers.
Just shy of one mile in, the trail splits again with a short spur from a foot bridge to Deer Brook Falls, which the creators of the Adirondack Fifty Falls Challenge say is an 80-foot cascade. This is the option for the shorter of the two hikes. At just shy of a mile each way, the hike to Deer Brook Falls is exceedingly family-friendly, especially if the High Water trail is utilized.
After checking out the falls, I continued on over the bridge, where, after a single switchback, the trail then proceeds as a straightforward and steady, but moderate, climb for the next six-tenths of a mile or so.
At the 1.54-mile point, there is a trail split and the trail to Snow Mountain is back to being marked with blue DEC discs. At 1.72 miles, the trail splits again. This time, the trail to Snow Mountain continues straight, while the left trail leads to Rooster Comb Mountain. The Snow Mountain trail at this point is back to yellow markers for the rest of the way.
For a 10th-of-a mile, the trail continues its gradual climb before hitting a series of cliffs and small ledges, which needed a bit of care given the wet slipperiness of the rocks. But on a dry day most people would be able to navigate this stretch without issue.
The summit ridge of the mountain is soon gained, and the trail leads along the ridge to the southeast. There are a few views along the way, but the big payoff is at the 2-mile mark, where the St. Huberts valley stretches out in front of you.
The main building and much of the golf course of the AuSable Club can be clearly seen, as can Route 73 as it snakes its way between Giant and Noonmark mountains.
Although the clouds were below 4,000 feet, blocking any views of the mountains, it was fun to watch as the low-hanging clouds poured through the gap and slowly dispersed.
On the way down, I opted to take the High Water trail, mainly because I didn’t feel like swimming again. The High Water trail follows yellow discs along a private road and past several homes. It’s only through the grace of these homeowners that this trail exists at all, so if opting for the High Water trail, be sure to stick to the road, don’t litter and don’t trespass.
As I could hear and see traffic on Route 73, I met back up with the trail at the stream and made my way back to the car, my clothes dry and my boot less squishy.
Deer Brook Falls is a great family hike, and Snow Mountain is as well if older kids are in the mix. However, the DEC has also recently implemented parking bans along state Route 73 in the area where the Deer Brook trailhead is located, so be sure to follow signs and stay off the side of the road at the parking area.