Thursday, October 13, 2016
Cobble Hill, Lake Placid: 10/09/2016
We were in Lake Placid over Columbus Day weekend and had a couple hours free Sunday afternoon, so we decided to check out a Cobble Hill, a short hike that's been on my to-do list for a few years. Cobble Hill has long been a favorite quick jaunt of Lake Placid locals, but what caught my attention was its short-lived history as a downhill ski area in the late 1950s (more on that shortly).
There are two options for climbing Cobble Hill. The straight-up option is a moderately steep climb to the summit in under a mile. The longer approach switchbacks up the back side of the mountain after first skirting Echo Lake. We decided to hike a clockwise loop, going up the longer approach past Echo Lake and returning via the steeper descent down the front side.
We've done many fall hikes in the Adirondacks over the years, but we hardly ever seem to hit the foliage at its absolute peak. This time we did. Despite the overcast day, the fall colors were brilliant. Being a relatively low elevation hike (the summit is around 2400'), there were lots of maples and birches mixed in with the hemlocks and spruces.
Even the "long" approach to the summit is a quick hike. We covered the 1.2 miles to the summit in well under an hour with plenty of stops to check out the leaves. As expected, there were plenty of other hikers along the trail, and we found at least a dozen others at the summit when we arrived, checking out the view towards the High Peaks with the highest summits in the clouds. It's an OK view (probably better on a blue-sky day), but the golf course, airport and ski jumps in the foreground left me less than awed. A bit of exploring led us to the ledges on the backside of the mountain, with a view more to my liking: Wilmington Notch, the Sentinel Range and the West Branch of the Ausable River. Even better, we had the ledges to ourselves.
On our hike down we looked for evidence of the former ski area that had operated for just two seasons in the late '50s. We located the counterweight from the top of the double chair lift, some of the old lift towers, and the lift line of the old poma lift. The ski area was named named Kobl Mountain, with the unusual spelling attributed to Melvin Dewey, the Dewey Decimal system guy who was also responsible for the unusual spelling of Adirondack Loj. Kobl Mountain would have been a wonderful small ski area had it survived, with about 500 vertical feet, two lifts (the double chair and the poma) and an interesting variety of slopes and trails. Financial difficulties led to the ski area's closure. There's an extensive chapter on Kobl Mountain in Jeremy Davis' book "Lost Ski Areas of the Northern Adirondacks," which I highly recommend.
If you go: the trailhead for Cobble Mountain is located on the new entrance road to the Northwoods School, about one-tenth of a mile up from Mirror Lake Drive. Follow the trail signs carefully as there are a number of intersections with other trails and woods roads in the area. Round-trip distance if you hike the loop is about 2 miles with around 500 vertical feet of climbing.