Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Shelving Rock Mtn: 05/21/2016

Lake George from Shelving Rock Mountain.

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

We've had a bit of difficulty getting our hiking days in this spring. It seems that we've had commitments when the weather's been good, and when we're free the weather's been lousy. I thought we'd finally break that pattern last weekend. Five days out the forecast for Saturday looked stellar. Next thing I know, it's mostly cloudy, chance of showers. Unwilling to keep the hiking boots in the closet any longer, we headed up the east shore of Lake George to hike Shelving Rock Mountain anyway. The gamble paid off with a great hike, beautiful views and tons of spring wildflowers.

If you've never been all the way in to Shelving Rock before, you're in for an adventure. It's a 12 mile, dead end dirt road that winds up and down and around blind corners until you think you're almost at the end of the earth. When you finally arrive at the trailhead you're surrounded by towering pines and hemlocks that are as wild and beautiful as any in the Adirondacks.

Beth and Daniel hiking up the switchbacked carriage road

Race to the top

The hike itself is a piece of cake, thanks to the extensive carriage road system built by George Knapp more than 100 years ago for his hotel on Log Bay. The "trail" is wide and smooth as it gently switchbacks its way 1.7 miles and 650 vertical feet up the mountain. It's exactly the opposite of most Adirondack trails, which tend to ignore whatever rocks, roots and mud might happen to be in the way of a straight path to the summit.

The actual summit of Shelving Rock Mountain is treed, but a clearing a short distance beyond offers views of Lake George's southern basin. It's a nice enough spot, but the real payoff comes by following an unmarked side path another couple hundred yards down to a sweeping viewpoint above the lake. The mid-lake panorama takes in the coves and bays of Lake George's east shore, Dome Island, the Sagamore and the lower end of the Narrows. Just a handful of boats plied the quiet water 700 vertical feet below.

As a bonus, we were treated to a nice variety of spring wildflowers. A couple days after the hike I asked the kids if they could remember 5 out of the 7 wildflowers we had seen on the hike, and to my surprise they actually named all 7. On the other hand, Sylvie suggested that we had seen palm trees, so I guess we've still got some work to do. Here's a sample of what was blooming last weekend, all right along the edges of the carriage road:

Purple violets

Yellow violets


A nice cluster of Fringed Polygala


Fiddleheads. OK, not a wildflower but still interesting and beautiful.


Our time was limited on Saturday, but a hike up Shelving Rock Mountain could easily be combined with a visit to Shelving Rock Falls. There's also access to Lake George via a short (200 yards) path, and rock climbing on Shelving Rock Mountain's cliffs. Perhaps one of these will be the topic for a future blog post.

If you go: Take Buttermilk Falls Road off Route 149 and follow it approximately 10 miles to the Hogtown parking area. Continue another 2.5 miles to the Shelving Rock Mountain trailhead on your right. The trailhead to the falls is a short distance away. Continue down the road to its end (another mile) to access Lake George. A canoe or kayak can be easily launched.

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