Revisit Your Youth: Hike Sleeping Beauty in Lake George this Summer
A Hike on Sleeping Beauty Mountain in Lake George
With this summer’s excessive heat, some might be tempted to steal away in an air-conditioned mall or lounge in the pool. I challenge you to try something more active: hiking. As a fall hiker, my standards for a great summer trail are steep: somewhere wooded and shady is best, with a breeze at the top. Small brooks are a plus, but not necessary. Summer is a tricky season. The temperature means you’ll have to carry extra water, and the higher humidity could mean more insects. My solution? Keep the hike simple with a shortened distance and shallow ascent.
My motivation to take this particular hike was, I’ll admit it, jealousy. Many schools in the Capital Region—excluding mine—had the opportunity to go to Camp Chingachgook and hike Buck Mountain. They made memories I’ll never have. So I drove to the area to see what all the hubbub was about, settling on a different mountain close by for my hike: Sleeping Beauty.
It’s no hidden gem, more of a legend, an old classic. You can access all the trails along Shelving Rock Road by taking I-87 north to exit 20 toward Fort Ann/Whitehall, route 9 to route 149, and then Buttermilk Falls Road on the left 6 miles down 149. The road goes on for several miles, turning into Sly Pond Road, on which you’ll want to bear left. Past some construction, you’ll come to a remote parking lot with a sign (Hog Town Trailhead Parking).
The Sleeping Beauty trail begins on Dacy Clearing Road, a trail sometimes open to vehicles. Along the trail are a few (I counted four) authorized primitive tent sites. The most strenuous part of this section of the hike is swatting away bugs. The sign-in binder at the head of the trail even reminded hikers to use bug repellent! This is a particularly good area to bring dogs for a walk, if you’re looking to change up your route.
After 1.6 miles on this gravelly road, there’s a meadow called Dacy Clearing where people can camp. The campers I noticed were following safe and considerate procedures, utilizing bear bags (to store food and scented items in a tree away from the sleeping area) and Leave No Trace (to help preserve nature). The trail continues to the right, with a signpost marking 1.8 miles to the Sleeping Beauty Summit, 1.5 miles to Bumps Pond, and 2.6 miles to Fish Brook Pond.
The path becomes considerably more rocky from here, and slippery, as there are many tiny streams running through the path. The deciduous and coniferous blend of trees shades the trail well, and for the most part it’s quiet. There is the occasional Chingachgook group passing by, but the kids are friendly and mind their own ways. Like any well-traveled hiking trail, this path has colored markers on the trees to follow, which lend themselves to less experienced trailblazers.
Another great thing about this trail is that you don’t need to be a 46er to do it—not even close. It’s easy enough for a family trip. Folks interested in biology might find this trail captivating for its many varieties of plant life, fungi, and animals. The swamplands are rich with life, I observed at least two species of butterflies cross my path, and witnessed bird calls I had never heard before.
The ascent of 1049’ begins 1.2 miles from the summit. The trail shifts between a soft pine bed and a maze of surfacing tree roots. It zigzags steeply upward, gaining altitude quickly. Huge slabs of flat rock mark an area close to the summit. At last you will reach a sign: summit 0.1. The trail narrows in this final stretch, becoming grassy. The trees give way to an open air summit and a spectacular, nearly 360-degree view of the Lake George and Fort Ann area. Complete with warm breeze, the peak is well worth the hike and beautiful beyond words. It avoids the okay-we-made-it-now-what feeling by providing an expanse of rock slabs and grass patches for resting or picnicking. Like all good summits, I found Sleeping Beauty’s to be a gasp of fresh air after surfacing the, at times, oppressive forest.
The main reason Sleeping Beauty is a good summer hike is because it is quick. You won’t have to be out in dangerous heat for too long, but you also have the option to camp out overnight in designated areas if you wish. This versatile area is all about options. For a longer hike, explore the ponds. Do all the mountain trails in the area for a more grueling day: Buck Mountain (5.5 miles from Hog Town), Shelving Rock Mountain (4.4 miles), Black Mountain (7.5 miles), and Sleeping Beauty (3.2 miles). Whatever your hiking preferences, this one has definitely made my must-hike list for summer—and fall. Because I have to admit, that view will be even more spectacular when the fall foliage starts changing.
–Kate Smith is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.
The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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