Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Buck Mountain: 09/28/2014

Lake George, from Buck Mountain's summit, Sunday 09/28/2014.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

As anyone who's been outdoors this weekend can attest, the fall foliage season has been progressing rapidly. Where there were just hints of color last weekend, the hillsides are now sporting brilliant yellows, oranges and reds.

Even though we only had Sunday afternoon available, it was simply too beautiful not to hike, so we made the 50-minute drive up to the Shelving Rock / Hogtown trailhead to hike Buck Mountain. The Pilot Knob trailhead for Buck may be more popular (I'll never understand why), but the route from Shelving Rock Road (4.6 miles round-trip, 1100' vertical) fit perfectly into the time we had available.

On a day like this it’s easy to see why fall seems to be everyone’s favorite time for hiking. There’s no mud and no bugs. Cooler temps (although it was downright balmy on Sunday) and low humidity mean better visibility from the summits, not to mention more comfortable hiking.

A small pool along Shelving Rock brook

It took us about an hour and a half to cover the 2.3 miles to the summit (yup, the sign says 2.5 miles - these things are loose in the Adirondacks). The trail passes through attractive pine and hemlock woods in the lower elevations, with more hardwoods in the upper elevations. Along the way the trail crosses the upper reaches of Shelving Rock brook several times, but with barely an inch of rain in the last month the streams were reduced to a trickle.

Just below the summit, the trail breaks out onto open rock. For the first time, Lake George comes into view a full 2,000 vertical feet below. From the broad summit rocks and ledges, there’s an expansive view up and down Lake George and beyond, with Crane, Gore, Marcy and the High Peaks all easy to pick out. Shelving Rock, whose cliffs are so imposing from the lake, is just a tiny bump way below.

With the great views and beautiful weather, we hung out at the summit for a good 40 minutes or so. There were several other hiking parties around – most of whom had come up the Pilot Knob trail – but by the time we left (4 o’clock) we had the summit to ourselves. After a quick hike down (though it didn’t feel quick) we still made it home to Saratoga by 6:15. It’s hard to beat Buck for its combination of spectacular views and easy access.

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