Hiking is one of the most satisfying ways to experience the Central Adirondacks. Hikers in this area — which includes the hamlets of Old Forge, Inlet, Eagle Bay, Big Moose, and Stillwater– can take advantage of a diverse 2,000- mile trail system, with hikes that include steep mountain ascents, pond-and lake-circling loops, and destination walks to special spots begging to be explored. Hikers of every age, ability and comfort level will find something to suit their tastes in the Central Adirondacks. One of the area’s unique features is that while it is nestled amongst the mountains, there are also plenty of low-grade loop hikes in the area. Flat, beginner-level hikes can be ideal when schedules are tight and the mercury is high, and more forgiving for families with pets and small children. Located just few miles outside of Inlet, Lost and Mitchell Ponds require a drive into the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, but the 2- and 3.8-mile routes, respectively, are considered easy and suitable for beginners. The trail to Lost Pond, a favorite fishing spot, follows a circuit of campsites and picnic areas, and branches off into spur trails, including one that leads to an outlet dam and another that reaches a remote, boggy pond, providing the opportunity for hours of exploration. Mitchell Pond (the former camp of World War I veteran Robert West) is an experience in the seclusion of nature that affords hikers views of the area’s unique cliff faces. There’s also the opportunity to add on a 5.8-mile spur excursion to Lower Mitchell Pond, where additional picnic and observation areas frame another gorgeous Adirondack shoreline. West of Eagle Bay on Big Moose Rd., you’ll find ever-popular Moss Lake, a 2.5 mile loop that follows the path used at a girls’ camp that was formerly housed on the site. The trail crosses over bridges and sandy areas as well as past the landmark of an tree growing out of a rock, and its proximity to the water makes for excellent vistas all the way around. The Moss Lake trailhead is also one starting point for the Bubb and Sis Lakes trails, with the other on Route 28 between Old Forge and Eagle Bay. Bubb and Sis Lakes can be hiked on their own or as an extension of the Moss Lake loop—if combined, the excursion becomes a 6.5-mile trek. Bub and Sis share their Route 28 trailhead with the Vista Trail, which traces the ridgeline around Fourth Lake for its namesake–excellent vistas. Just across the road from Moss Lake’s parking area lies the Cascade Lake trailhead, a family favorite that demands a photo op. The 5.5-mile trail winds around a lake and through the woods before revealing excellent views of Cascade Falls, a local icon; visible remnants of another girls’ camp- which stood here in the 1930s – adds an historical aspect to the journey. Cascade Lake’s trailhead is also a starting point for a network of additional trails, so tacking on extra miles of exploring is easy to do. There are plenty of trails to explore toward Old Forge, too; on Route 28, between Eagle Bay and Old Forge, the 8/10-mile Fly Pond trail passes Scenic Mountain as well as Fly, Carry Mountain, and Mountain ponds on gentle terrain. Within Old Forge itself, the 6.4-mile Nick’s Lake Loop at Nick’s Lake Public Campground accommodates hikers looking for a longer trail on flat terrain and offers plentiful views, from marshy areas to beaches to a boardwalk. Because the trail goes through the Nicks Lake Public Campground , visitors can extend their trek with a walk around one of the many loops or enjoy a break at a picnic area. Nick’s Lake’s beach is a perfect spot to stop and take a swim. A favorite mountain bike trail to Nelson Lake also begins here, which hikers can use as well. A walk of 3.5 miles will bring hikers to Remsen Falls, with an 11.5-mile loop trail option for the more adventurous souls. Hikers that enjoy a steeper trek can take advantage of the intermediate climbs on Bald, Bear and Rocky Mountains, all located on Route 28 just south of Inlet. Rocky Mountain is a one-mile round trip, with a fairly easy ascent that winds through pretty forest before leveling out at a rocky outcropping that overlooks the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Black Bear Mountain, which shares Rocky’s parking lot, offers hikers the option of a 3.8-mile round trip or a shorter 2.1-mile alternate trail with steeper spots along the ascent. At the end of either path, the summit offers similar views to Rocky Mountain’s, and it’s easy—even popular—to complete the hikes one after the other for a new twist. Bald Mountain, one of the most popular hikes in the area, winds through woods and over interesting rock slopes for a two-mile round trip with the Bald Mountain Fire Tower, part of the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge, perched at the top for maximum views. In Old Forge, McCauley Mountain, famous for the skiing opportunities it provides in the winter and the scenic chairlift that runs in the summer and fall, is also a prime hiking destination.
Expert-level Trail A runs about 5.2 miles and includes views of McCauley itself as well as Perry’s Pond and Little Moose Mountain; intermediate Trail B is 3.5 miles long and passes by nearby Gray Lake on its way toward Maple Ridge and back to McCauley. Inlet’s Arrowhead Park, Old Forge’s community waterfront, and Nick’s Lake and Limekiln Lake state campgrounds all provide paved paths to walk, and the ambitious can even trek the 15-mile roadside walk along twisting South Shore Road, which connects Inlet and Old Forge and passes by each of the first four lakes in the Fulton Chain with a handful of vistas and pond- or lakeside stops.