Select seven: Family hikes under four hours

Black Pond Loop

Distance, round-trip: 2.5 miles

Time: 2 to 3 hours

Black Pond

Brief Overview: Heading in a clockwise direction from the trailhead, the trail starts flat and quickly comes to a lean-to on the western shore of Black Pond before coming to a narrow trail on a steep side slope. Continuing on, you will come to an intersection at the north end of Black Pond. Crossing the outlet, you will start the back portion of the loop and come to an attractive bridge over the outlet between the two Black Ponds. A lean-to is located on the smaller of the two with a trail that leads back to the Paul Smiths VIC. You will climb steeply away from the lean-to and stay high above the ponds before you descend to Keese Mill Road. a short distance from the trailhead parking.

Other Notable Features: This is very close to the VIC trail below. If you have extra time I recommend you swing over there, too.

How to Get There: In Saranac Lake, follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths. Continue to the intersection with Route 30 and take a right. Take the first left after Paul Smith's College, onto Keese Mill Road. Follow Keese Mill Road for just under 3-miles to the trailhead parking on the left. The trail is on the opposite side of the road.     


Paul Smiths VIC

Distance, round-trip: Depends on the loop chosen

Time: Up to 4 hours


Brief Overview: The VIC trails were designed for people all abilities. You can choose a loop or a combination of loops, and can hike for 1 to 6 hours. That is a nice feature about this trail network — it opens up so many possibilities and is moldable to what you want out of the day. While you are out there you can explore overlooks, observation decks and beautiful bodies of water.

Other Notable Features: There is a museum and gift shop inside the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center also does programs throughout the year. Be sure to stop in and pick up some information and a trail map.

How to Get There: In Saranac Lake, follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths. Continue to the intersection with Route 30 and take a right. The VIC will be on the left after 1 mile.       

McKenzie Pond

Distance, round-trip: 4.2 miles

Time: 2.5 to 3 hours


Brief Overview: From the trailhead parking for the Jackrabbit Trail, start your hike along a flat trail and climb slightly to the backside of Recreation Park. The trail drops down and follows a powerline for a short bit before entering an attractive forest. The hike is easy to moderate with only a couple rolling hills. McKenzie Pond is a short spur trail of about 0.1 miles.

Other Notable Features: Want another interesting walk? Just up the road from this parking area are the McKenzie Boulders. There is a herd path back to these massive boulders that draw climbers from all around.

How to Get There: From the intersection of Route 3 and Route 86 in Saranac Lake, follow Route 86 toward Lake Placid. Continue to Ray Brook and take a left onto McKenzie Pond Road. Follow it to the Jackrabbit Trail, on the right.

Bloomingdale Bog

Distance, round-trip: 6 miles

Time: 3 to 4 hours


Brief Overview: This hike starts and ends along an old railroad grade, which offers a very flat walk. Passing by a wonderful pond on your left, you start to see the beauty opening up. You will reach the start of the bog quite about 1 mile from the trailhead. Continue as far as you would like: At about 2 miles you are near the center of the bog and at 3 miles you should be at the bridge for Towbridge Brook. This is a good place to turn around.

Other Notable Features: This trail ends another mile farther near Bloomingdale, so you can do a hike through if you have two cars. 

How to Get There: From the intersection of Routes 3 and 86 in Saranac Lake, follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths. After around 3.5 miles there is a dirt road on the right. Follow this to the parking area for the bog. The run through is just under 4 miles. There is no sign marking the trail on Route 86.

Bone Pond Loop

Distance, round-trip: 2.5 miles

Time: 2 to 2.5 hours

Bone Pond

Brief Overview: From the parking area, start along the road and pass through a state barrier. From here you are in the wilds of a forest. In a short amount of easy walking time you arrive at Bone Pond, and a short spur trail will bring you down to it. Continuing on the loop, you will pass one Pond on your right and then quickly come out to the Fish Pond Truck Trail. Take a left on the road and walk back to your car.

Other Notable Features: Many other trails are located in the area to add to your day. With little added effort you could visit Rat Pond or extend you day even more by walking the Fish Pond Truck Trail.

How to Get There: From the intersection of Route 86 and Route 3 in Saranac Lake, follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths. Follow it to Route 186 and then follow that to Route 30. Continue straight on Route 30 and continue for just under 4 miles to Fish Hatchery Road, on the right. Turn down Fish Hatchery Road for about 0.1 miles to the access on the left; you may need to park roadside if not plowed.

Baker Mountain

Distance, round-trip: 2 miles

Time: 3 to 3.5 hours


Brief Overview: Baker Mountain, also referred to as Mount Baker, is one of the most popular family hikes in the region. The trail is a bit steep but offers boundless views as you ascend. At 0.6 miles from the trailhead is an intersection that's part of an upper mountain loop. More often than not it's passed right by as there is no sign marking the split. Left is a much less aggressive climb and avoids the steep ledges of the right path. Both finish on Baker's summit.

Other Notable Features: There is a loop on this mountain which has an easier side, but it’s hard to find the split on the way up. Fom the top it’s much more apparent. Take a right on the loop option on the way down for a less of a steep climb.

How to Get There: From the intersection of Route 3 and Route 86 in Saranac Lake, follow Route 3 toward Bloomingdale and take a right onto Pine Street, about 0.1 miles past the railroad tracks on the right. Follow Pine Street to East Pine Street (aka, Moody Pond Road). Follow here for a bit over 0.5 miles to the Baker Mountain trailhead, on the left.

Rock Pond

Distance, round-trip: 1 miles

Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

Rock Pond

Brief Overview: The trail starts along and soon enters an attractive stand of hemlocks. There is a small rise in the trail that is hardly noticeable before you start a soft descent to the shore of Rock Pond. The Seward Range can be seen in the backdrop — it's quite a nice sight, for sure.  

Other Notable Features: I am sure you will have the extra time to check out Pickerel Pond, too. It’s just up the road about another half mile, and it too is only about a mile round-trip hike.

How to Get There: From the intersection of Routes 3 and 86 in Saranac Lake, follow Route 3 toward Tupper Lake. Continue on Route 3 to Coreys Road on the left. Follow Coreys Road for about 3.5 miles to the trailhead, on the right.  

Ready to plan your next adventure? Start by finding lodging that suits your tastes!

Author:Spencer Morrissey
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