Hiking has exploded in popularity over the past decade, as evidenced by the concerns of overcrowding at many popular trails such as those in the Adirondack High Peaks.
Many of us enjoy the sport to get exercise and to enjoy the beauty as well as peace and quiet of the woods. The peace and quiet part is getting a little more difficult to come by on many of our more popular trails, however.
I have a number of friends, (yes, I have friends) who ask me all the time for suggestions on where to hike. And when I direct them to obscure spots that are typically nice and quiet, I'm often asked how I found out about this place or that place.
The answer is typically online, thanks to myriad resources such as Alltrails.com, the DEC's website, Champlain Area Trails website, Adirondack Mountain Club books and National Geographic's great trail maps. If you are looking for a spot in Warren County, the county Planning Department has put together this great online "recreation mapper."
One of my winter hobbies is scouring the Internet for out-of-the-way trails and public recreation areas, and there are a lot more around our region than many people realize. Towns like Corinth, Stony Creek, Queensbury and Lake George have their own trail system that offer fun outings when wanting to stay close to home.
That gets us to some recommendations for places to go to avoid crowds, but not burn up 14 hours of a day driving to the heart of the Adirondacks and embarking on a 10-mile or longer march.
Those hikes rightfully have their time, place and aficionados, but those of us who have family responsibilities typically just can't disappear for an entire weekend day that often. Plus, parking restrictions on the High Peaks will make it tougher to get on those trails this summer, anyway.
Here are a few of my favorites, marked, maintained small mountain trails close to the Glens Falls area where you will generally find only a few other hikers on the trail with you, particularly if you set out early on a weekend morning:
* Peaked Rock, Cambridge -- The trailhead is on Route 313. It's about 5 miles to the top, and a decent, easy-to-moderate hike that ends with great views of Washington County farm country and the Batten Kill. I've hiked this twice, and pulled numerous ticks off me afterward, so watch out for ticks.
* Shelving Rock Mountain, Fort Ann -- This mountain on state land offers great views of Lake George, typically without the crowds of nearby Buck Mountain or Sleeping Beauty Mountain. It's about 3 miles round trip, 700 feet or so of elevation gain. A little tip to find the best view on this hike is to follow a herd path from the peak west to a hidden ledge. There is limited parking at the trailhead.
* Pole Hill Pond, Bolton -- Many think this hike takes you just to a pond. But there is a lot more to it than just a jaunt to and around Pole Hill Pond. The state land off Route 9N also takes you to Walnut Ridge, which offers great views of Lake George as well as much of the Tongue Mountain Range. It can also be accessed from the Lake George Land Conservancy's Godwin Preserve.
* Trails at the Helen Buckner Preserve in West Haven, Vermont, just across the state line from Whitehall. There are two nice trails here, one of which leads to great views of the south end of Lake Champlain and the southern Adirondacks.
* Cook Mountain Preserve in Ticonderoga, about 3 miles round trip with 900 feet or so of elevation gain, there are nice overlooks of both Lake George and Lake Champlain at the top. The trailhead on Baldwin Road can be easy to miss, and there isn't a lot of parking, but the trail is maintained by Lake George Land Conservancy, which maintains all of its trails well.
Honorable mention goes to the trail network in Moreau Lake State Park, where there are miles of offerings of various difficulties, and Crane Mountain in Thurman. But Moreau Lake and Crane are so popular it's tough to find any solitude or quiet there these days.
There is also a ton of different places to hike in the Pharoah Lake Wilderness in northern Warren and southern Essex counties, including mountains, ponds and loops around Pharoah Lake.
-- Don Lehman