Black Mountain Loop highlights the best of Lake George
The Lake George Wild Forest is 71,133 acres in size and is full of excellent opportunities for hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, biking, horseback riding and plenty more. Black Mountain is the highest point in the Lake George Wild Forest and shadows over the eastern shore at 2,646 feet with its historic firetower resting on a bald dome.
The Black Mountain Loop places the outdoor enthusiast into a classic backcountry setting, with outstanding views, wildlife, wildflowers and a deafeningly quiet atmosphere, and eventually seats them on the summit of Black Mountain.
This traverse also makes for a longer and somewhat epic daytrip. It can also be experienced from the opposite direction if one were so inclined.
As a backpacker, you have a couple of options for camping in the area. Lean-tos have been erected in the perfect locations at Lapland Pond and Black Pond.
Just a couple simple reminders. Even though lean-tos exist, and are meant to be available to all until capacity is met, they can be filled during busy weekends. Bringing a tent along is just good practice.
Bears exist in the backcountry as well. I don’t tell you this to frighten you, only to remind you to take all necessary precautions not to attract them. Cook and store your food at least 150 to 200 feet away from camp. Remember bears can climb trees, so if you are using a bear bag use proper technique in hanging your food.
If using a bear canister, don’t hang it, place it in a divot in the ground behind a tree, away from water and your camp. For more information on leave no trace ethics and practices, check out www.lnt.org.
From the trailhead off Pike Brook Road, begin your hike along an old woods road and follow along a course through the welcoming forest to a farmhouse and barn.
At this point, you have been hiking for about 0.75 miles, and the route enters the woods and moves away from the old farm. After 1.0 miles, you come to a major intersection. Right leads to the summit of Black Mountain, and will be your descent route on this loop. Left is the Lapland Pond Trail, which you should follow. In due course this trail will lead to Hogtown, more than 8 miles away, but you won’t be traveling quite that far.
Now you will work your way through an ever approaching boreal forest, where pileated woodpeckers can often be heard but rarely seen. Soon, a small beaver pond comes in on the right, where often fresh beaver activity can be appreciated. This area has a tendency to be a bit wet in places, but mostly during the spring.
As you move through “Beaverville,” you start to descend a bit and come to a second intersection. Lapland Pond lean-to is to the left, on the north Shore of Lapland Pond. The hike over is very short and worth every step. Even if you don’t plan to stay at this lean-to, you should check it out. The lean-to sits high above the pond, giving amazing vistas out over the water.
Back at the intersection, continue to head south for another 0.2-mile. At this point, you come to a third intersection. Straight leads to Millman Pond, 1.0 miles away.
Right is what you need for the traverse and leads to Black Mountain Ponds. This trail is simply a connector trail between the Black Mountain Trail and the Lapland Pond Trail.
This section of trail has huge wildlife potential which includes great blue heron, bald eagles, red wing blackbirds, beaver, whitetail deer and maybe an occasional moose (or so I’ve been told).
The trail slowly climbs through a striking forest and passes Round Pond to your left. Much beaver activity is obvious here.
Most of Round Pond is tough to see due to reed grass growing densely along shore. However, if you are 10 feet tall, you will have no issues.
As you pass by, you will start to climb up a bit higher where Round Pond can be seen through the trees. A short decline brings you to the shore of Black Mountain Pond. The trail then goes along the edge of the pond where the glistening beauty is hard to overlook.
Soon you will come to a bald rock peninsula with the lean-to high above overlooking the pond, as if guarding it. This is an excellent camping spot, which I highly recommend.
From the lean-to continue west for 0.2 miles to an intersection. Straight leads to Black Mountain Point on Lake George. Do not go this way, or you will find yourself bewildered as you look out over the lake.
Right leads up Black Mountain. Go this way.
Now you will start to climb immediately. The first overlook is only 0.25 miles away. Many more views keep popping up as you climb.
Eventually, you will be looking down on Black Mountain Pond, Round Pond and Lapland Pond lined up in perfect order below you. Then as you ascend farther over “Switchback Park,” you will begin to see Lake George to the west.
As the trail finishes off, it heads over open rock and comes to the gated firetower on the summit of Black Mountain. The firetower to date still resides there but its function has changed from a fire observer’s station to a radio communications tower.
The open rock near the fire tower offers outstanding views, even without climbing the tower itself.
The trail continues over the summit to the parking lot off Pike Brook Road, where you started. The trail passes by a couple sheds and the ranger cabin before you re-enter the forest on a very steep descent course with wet footing.
Especially with heavy full packs, it is very important to take your time and make smart footing choices. The trail, now rutted and heavily eroded in places, offers up loose rocks that act like natural marbles under your feet.
Quickly you will be at the intersection with the Lapland Pond Trail. This intersection was the one you were at in the beginning and that you will need to follow left, back to the trailhead.