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TRIP REPORT: The lesser known side of Van Hoevenberg
February 15, 2012 - Morgan Ryan
Mount Van Hoevenberg isn’t exactly the first mountain that comes to mind when I think of places to hike or run. I’ve skied on the groomed cross-country trails and watched bobsled and luge at the Olympic sliding track. Guess I never really considered going around to the other side to climb the mountain from a trail.
It’s not all that hard to imagine how this small mountain gets overlooked considering that it sits in the shadows of the Adirondacks’ highest and most spectacular peaks. At 2,860 feet, Van Hoevenberg is just a bump in the road compared to its 4,000-foot neighbors.
Two things sparked my interest in heading out to Mount Van Hoevenberg today. One was passing by the trailhead on South Meadow Road yesterday during a cross-country ski trip to Marcy Dam. The skiing conditions weren’t all that great, especially early in the trip before we started to gain elevation. It got me to thinking that maybe the conditions were better suited to hiking or running, rather than scrapping my skis on dirt and exposed rocks. The sign off South Meadow Road said that it was only 2.2 miles to the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg. Huh, I thought. I need to check that out sometime. And it was only a quarter-mile from where we parked the car.
It was really hard to get Van Ho off my mind today at work as I prepared this week’s Lake Placid News. The main sports story, of course, was the bobsled and skeleton World Championships coming to town this weekend and next. It’s the Super Bowl for these sports, except with 26 nations competing. Sliding fans around the world are going to be focused on the north side of the mountain. No surprise that it would cross my mind a time or two.
With the LPN pages sent to the press to be printed, I got in my car and headed for Adirondack Loj Road. It had been snowing lightly most of the day and by the time I got out there it was about 30 degrees. The trail was very flat for the first mile or so before reaching an open swampy area lined with beaver dams.
Then it started to climb. Nothing too steep, just a somewhat gradual uphill with interesting cliffs and icicles not far off the trail. The last half-mile was the steepest section, but again, nothing too crazy.
Before I knew it, I reached an overlook where the book says you can see Mount Marcy and Algonquin. It was a cloudy, snowy day so I didn’t see much other than the valley floor below. I bet it’s quite scenic on a clear day though.
The trail follows along open ledges before heading down the north side of the mountain. Not far from the top, I guess there are still some remnants from the original 1.5-mile bobsled run that had to be replaced with a shorter mile-long track in 1936 because it was too fast and too dangerous. I’m sure you get a good look at the current track on the way down. I didn’t see any of that stuff though. It was getting kind of dark so I turned back just as the trail started sloping down to the north.
It would be fun to explore the area more some time. You could have lunch overlooking the Adirondacks tallest mountains then head down to get a good look at a modern Olympic venue. And all for not very much effort.
My trip to the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg and back was about 4.8 miles. Tack on another 3 miles if you’re feeling ambitious and want to walk down to the bobsled track.
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The trail to Mount Van Hoevenberg