There is plenty of snow underfoot, but Arctic temperatures and sub-zero wind chills coaxed me to stay indoors. When the weather forecast called for sunny skies and above zero temperatures this past weekend, I sprung at the chance to get some fresh air.
Prospect Mountain is located just outside Lake George Village and offers easy access to sweeping views of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains. In the summer motorists can drive up the scenic highway for a small toll and hikers can access the footpath on a residential street tucked on the side of the village. Winter opens the scenic highway to snowmobilers who wind 5.5 miles to the summit on a meticulously groomed road.
A friend and I decided to start our winter season with a trek up the 1.4-mile foot trail. We parked on a residential back street and climbed the stairway to the bridge that crosses I-87. As we hustled across the bridge a climber on his way down greeted us and noted we probably wouldn't need the snowshoes that were strapped to our packs. He was right on the mark. The well-traveled trail was hard-packed with snow and we slipped our trusty micro-spikes over our boots. These would prove helpful on a few stretches of icy terrain.
As we approached the trailhead sign-in I realized my first rookie mistake of the new year - no baskets on my trekking poles. Better to figure this out on a short hike before a long day in the backwoods. While the trail was hard-packed snow, everything around us was fluffy and white, scattered with oak leaves from high wind a few days earlier.
It seemed like a quick 1/2 mile when the hiking trail crossed the scenic highway. I stopped to listen for a passing snowmobile. It was quiet. The snow was groomed to perfection and not a hint of bare road to be seen. I'm not a snowmobiler, but these appeared to be pretty sweet riding conditions. I was soon rewarded with a wave from two sledders heading down the mountain. They hummed by at a leisurely speed, enjoying the glory of this bluebird day.
The trail is easy to follow, tagged with frequent red markers, and follows the rocky bed of an old railway that once took guests to a hotel at the top of the mountain. I found the snow-covered trail somewhat easier to navigate than the rock hopping trail of summer.
It wasn't long before we heard the whir of snowmobiles again, which signaled that we were near the road to the summit. We popped out of the trees to bright sunshine and made our way to the summit. A slight wind reminded us of the temperature and we quickly added an outer layer and pulled up our hoods. The view of the frozen lake was magical. It has been a few years since we've had a solid winter with ice on the lake and snow on the trails, so it was a welcome sight.
We wandered around the picnic area at the summit which had been criss-crossed by sleds, snapped some pictures and admired the view, then realized a chill was starting to set in. The sun was lowering in the afternoon sky and it was time to head down. The trek up the mountain was about 80 minutes but down would be much quicker.
If you are looking for a short but moderate hike near Lake George, Prospect Mountain is a good choice for you. I would recommend micro-spikes even if snowshoes are not warranted, as I have been on this trail when there is more ice than snow. An easier choice may be The Pinnacle or Thomas Mountain in Bolton Landing. Both offer manageable routes and views of the lake!