alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Day Hikers, paddlers, and backpackers alike will enjoy the hike up Black Mountain, just off the eastern shore of Lake George and the tallest summit on the 12ster List.

Looking for moderate trail grade, and rewarding views? Check. Trail access for those coming off the water and need to dock? Check. Oh, and shoreline campsites or backcountry lean-tos are available if you’re interested in extending your stay. So, check. Whichever category you fall in, consider tackling the hike as a loop to soak in all that the mountain has to offer, including rolling trails and beaver activity along the pond shorelines below.

Quick Facts

Distance: 7.4 miles, round-trip
Time to Complete: Half day for most
Difficulty: ★★★

Season: May through October
Fees/Permits: None


From Whitehall, New York, head north on Route 22 for 7.2 miles, from the intersection with Route 4 (43.54859, -73.40529). Take a left onto County Road 6 in Clemons, and in 2.6 miles, you’ll find Pike Brook Road. Trailhead parking will be on the right in 0.8 miles, with the classic brown and yellow DEC signage acting as a beacon for hikers.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Forest Roads

Once you’ve filled out your information at the trail registry, follow red blazes on a rocky forest road for 0.6 miles. Several hardwoods line the roadsides, and you may even be able to hear a creek flowing parallel to you about 20 yards off trail. Keep in mind this road isn’t suitable to drive on if looking to get closer to the mountain.

The road stops at gated property (43,60931, -73.50423), so it’s time to turn towards the trail—follow your blazes. Shortly, 1 mile further is the junction towards Lapland Pond (and following ponds). Stay tuned, as you’ll be returning from the summit from this direction. For follow the red blazes, as you’ll walk over moderate trail grade and gain roughly 1,000 feet of elevation towards the summit.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

The Summit

About 2.5 miles in to your counterclockwise loop, trees will begin to open up a bit more, with Sugarloaf Mountain and Lake George waters peeking through behind you. Not too much further, on a windy day, you may even hear the windmill above you whirling. Once it’s in full view, the summit is attainable beyond a few open rock faces. Adjacent to the windmill is the retired fire tower which now helps provide emergency search and rescue communications (so you unfortunately can’t climb it). Begin your descent (43.60679, -73.53117) and make sure to bear right for a well-traveled path alongside the radio tower and out to a lookout. Enjoy a great spot for photos, snacks, and expansive views of the lake, as well as Ticonderoga and Vermont beyond.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Switch It Up

Descending towards Black Mountain Point, you’ll encounter a series of switchbacks on the southwest side of the mountain. For those unfamiliar with Adirondack Park terrain, it’s a pleasant surprise to find this more modern trail rather than the typical straight shot that most ADK paths fall under. Views of Erebus Mountain, Lake George, and the Narrows will greet you on the descent (43.60359, 73.53458). The three small Black Mountain ponds will catch your eye shimmering down to the left, at the foot of the mountain you’re standing on. Hopefully your knees feel solid after the 1 mile descending the switchbacks—you’ve reached the 4 mile mark of the hike. You’ll come across a trail junction (43.59983, -73.53725) for Black Mountain Point to the right and the trail you’ll take towards Black Mountain ponds on to the left.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Ponds and Out

Head on, following blue blazes to an undulating stretch of trail along the ponds. The first of the three will begin to poke through the trees to your right, and once arriving at a small stone outcropping (43.59947, -73.53283), look up to your left to see the Black Mountain lean-to overlooking the pond. Continue along the shores where the water may even creep up on the trail. Enjoy spotting beaver tracks (look for the tail stamp) in the earth. After reaching the 5.3-mile mark and Lapland Pond, bear left to take the yellow blazes north/northeast towards Pike Brook Road, and away from Fishbrook Pond. With 0.2 miles before reaching the final trail junction reuniting you with the forest road, take in the low boardwalk crossing the dammed area, with your day’s success visible across the water and up.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

The Kit

  • Nobody enjoys soaked feet while on the trail! With the numerous small bodies of water you’ll pass, and many small creeks in between, a trusty pair of waterproof hiking boots like the Salomon Outline Mids will have you keep moving forward.
  • This isn’t a quick out and back hike, so you’ll want to have plenty of water, trail snacks, and room for other potential essentials to bring along. A sturdy, light day pack like the Camelbak Cloud Walker 18 will assure you’ve got what you need while not slowing you down.
  • If the windmill is spinning at the summit, odds are it’s pretty breezy up there. Consider investing in a solid wind shell for this and any future summits—something like the EMS Ultralight Franconia Jacket. Don’t you want to keep your feet planted to grab those views?

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Keys to the Trip

  • If you’re able to get your hands on a canoe or boat, try starting your hike via water access from Black Mountain Point on Lake George. The 1.8 miles and about 1,400 feet in elevation gain to the summit junction, combined with the switchbacks, make this route a proper alternative.
  • Make sure to pack in a bear canister if making this an overnight stay at one of the lean-tos in the area. The use of these is encouraged for overnight stays between April 1 and November 30 in the Adirondacks. The Black Mountain Pond sight offers nice views, a running water source, and is easily accessible from the trail.
  • Afterwards, stop back in to Whitehall for a solid bite to eat. The Tex Mex Taco stand on Williams Street will satisfy those post-hike cravings Head across the street next for that sweet Stewarts ice cream waiting to be ordered behind the counter.

Current Conditions

Have you gone up Black Mountain recently? Post your experience and trail conditions below!