Pair of trails offer nice escape
By Tim Rowland
There’s some excellent hiking to be had in the beautiful town of Arietta in the south-central part of the park, which may be off the radar of those who frequent the more touristy burgs to the north.
A nice introduction is Good Luck Lake and Good Luck Cliffs, the trailheads being 12 miles south of Piseco on Rt. 10. I say trailhead(s) because there is a separate trail to each destination. A simple hack, however, allows you to enjoy both without any appreciable added distance and having a far better experience in the process.
If you’re headed south, parking is on the left, with the trailheads across the road. Most prominently signed is the trail to the cliffs, which is slightly north of the trail to the lake, which has an obvious trail but with only a small arrow pointing in its direction.
Unfortunately, the trail that leads directly to the base of the cliff is not memorable — an old road with multiple wet spots and the attendant mud, rocks and insects.
And of course for every deer fly you kill, 10 come to its funeral, so you do more slapping and rock hopping than taking in the sights.
By contrast, after skirting some initial blowdown, the lake trail is a delightful hike through a charming mixed woods, the forest floor a green mosaic of hobblebush, ferns and moss. In less than half a mile, after a brief descent, the lake bloomed silver and blue beneath broken clouds, a rock-studded shore and a variety of aquatic plants adding interest to the view.
This is a nice little walk in its own right, if you just want to have lunch, throw in a line or dangle your feet in the water on a hot day.
But if the cliffs are your goal, take a right and follow an unmarked but well-established fishing trail along the shore. Instead of mud holes, you will be treated to constant views of this classic Adirondack lake, set off by rolling green hills. The trail leads past some marked campsites, the last one being located near the lake’s north end, about a mile into your hike.
Here, the path exits the campsite to the right across a wet seep, going maybe a tenth of a mile until it meets the wide, Good Luck Cliffs Trail you didn’t take back at the parking lot.
Join the trail, turning left, and follow it across a wooden bridge. At ~1.3 miles, a second wooden bridge will come into view. Just prior, turn right. There is a sign and a marker, and it’s marked the rest of the way.
The campsite/fisherman’s trail generally does not appear on maps, and it can be faint in spots, but it religiously follows the shore until it bumps up against the wetlands and jogs right to the “official” trail. It’s like a tube of toothpaste — it’s obvious once you know how it works, but the first time you may have to think about it.
The trail in short order will begin to climb, and when it does, it’s pretty much unrelenting. You will be gaining 630 feet in just over half a mile, which isn’t chopped liver. But as you gain altitude, the hike becomes fascinating, the narrowing gorge littered with imposing slabs of rock violently shed from the towering cliffs, along with the trees that got in their way.
It’s as if one day way back there, Satan and the Almighty decided to settle their differences once and for all, using motorhome-sized boulders for ordnance and mature yellow birch for shields.
You weave through this debris field until the trail crosses a (very) small stream and rounds to the back of the cliffs for the final approach. This last effort will bring you out on the north end of the southern hump of Good Luck Mountain.
The view from the top of the Good Luck Cliffs is not of Good Luck Lake, but of Spectacle Lake further to the southwest. I poked around looking for a view off-trail, but did not succeed. You might say I had bad luck finding Good Luck.
However, you can find an interesting perspective on the cliffs by turning left at cliffs’ edge and feeling your way through the woods along the rim until you reach a little funnel that will lead you down to a lower ledge with a lone pine tree (and a small painted stone that would mean something to people who paint stones). From there you can gaze back up to where you were just standing, as well as down into the chasm you just climbed.
To return, you can take the official trail to make something of a loop; if you do, you will need to make one more turn, a well-signed right that sends you back to the parking lot. But there’s really no reason to — returning by the lake shore will be a much more pleasant finish to your journey.
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation: 2324
- Elevation gain: 917