A precious low peak
By Michael Zeugin
As you drive away from Whiteface Mountain, heading north on Bonnie View Road, you get the feeling you’re leaving the High Peaks region behind. Make a left onto Silver Lake Road and head west, winding uphill. As you approach Taylor Pond, the rocky spine of a long mountain looms on the right.
This escarpment is strikingly different from most Adirondack mountains, with its sheer cliffs and rounded sloping faces. From the road below, you imagine yourself enjoying expansive views from the top. Fortunately there’s a trail that helps fulfill that fantasy.
Silver Lake Mountain’s western end is wedged like a backwards doorstop be- tween Taylor Pond and its namesake, Silver Lake. The road skirts its rounded shoulder tightly enough that it’s easy to zip right by the small hiker’s parking lot.
The 1.2-mile trail climbs gradually for a short distance, quickly spiking to a steep, rocky serpentine ascent. About a third of the way up, you’ll encounter the first outcroppings. These openings offer small views that hint at bigger things to come.
About halfway, the trail changes into a series of staircases mixed with vertical scrambles. Rock outcroppings and trees become handholds. The sense of climbing a spine is enhanced as the left and right sides drop away sharply. Views of Silver Lake, Taylor Pond and the extensive bog at the base of the mountain begin to unfold.
Near the summit plateau the trail swings to the right, clinging to the south edge of the ridge. As the trail levels, the trees open to sweeping vistas to the south and west. The edge of Catamount Mountain dips into Taylor Pond, and beyond a rise to its west, Silver Lake stretches into the forest.
The trail doesn’t end the way one might expect. It just wanders off and fades, branching out to different outcroppings and herd paths. Following this web of trails eventually yields a transformation: The sloping rock becomes a 1,000-foot precipice—the hangout of the hawks that can be seen circling outward from the cliffs, scanning the bog and forests below for a meal. The trails disappear altogether as the open forest turns into a dense bushwhack. Pressing on to explore another mile or so of exposed ridge is difficult, not to be undertaken without map and compass.
The top of Silver Lake Mountain is perfect for a picnic. You can start climbing at 11 a.m., make your lunch appointment at noon and be back at the car by 2 p.m.
As for resident wildlife, you may well encounter marauding chipmunks and red squirrels. Aside from scrounging through the pines for cones with seeds, they seem attuned to the possibility of crumbs left behind by humankind.
If you’re climbing Silver Lake Mountain in late July or early August, look for wild blueberries at the end of the trail. It’s some of the best berry picking I’ve encountered in the Adirondacks.
From the blinking light in Ausable Forks, head northeast on North Main Street for 0.2 mile to a stop sign. Turn left onto County 1 (or Turnpike Road or Silver Lake Road) and go 11.5 miles to a parking area on the right. Note: Silver Lake Road forks left about 3 miles from the stop sign. You can also reach Silver Lake Road by following Bonnie View Road from Wilmington.