LAKE GEORGE -- On paper, climbing Prospect Mountain is a 1.5-mile trek with bathrooms and a sweet 100-mile view at the top.
That simple description can lull a person into believing the hike, which starts a few blocks away from Canada Street in Lake George Village, is just a little more strenuous than a summer stroll among tourists.
It’s actually a lot more strenuous.
The writer pauses for a selfie on one of her successful trips to the top of Prospect Mountain.
Getting to the 2,030-foot summit requires ascending 1,630 feet, partially in a muddy, rock-studded gulley and partly up a sloped rock face. Both are even more difficult on the descent, which is also 1.5 miles, because of the slippery dead leaves that obscure ankle-twisting rocks.
I have hiked Prospect Mountain about half a dozen times, often in the spring, when I tell myself I’ll use this short hike to get myself in shape for longer ones. Inevitably, somewhere between the poison ivy thicket where I parked my car and the coin-operated binoculars at the summit, I abandon my plans to become a great hiker.
It happened again on a Saturday this spring when, armed with water and snacks, I decided to make a quick trip to the summit in the late afternoon. I set off at a brisk pace, but about three-quarters of the way up, sweat-soaked and dizzy, I turned back. It wasn’t worth possibly hurting myself just to get a selfie at the top.
Fortunately for those of us who are less than fit, there is another way to enjoy the Prospect Mountain summit without pulling a muscle.
Visitors to Prospect Mountain can hike to the top or drive up a parkway to a parking area near the summit. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)
The 5½-mile Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Parkway opened for the season on May 27 and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week through mid-October, said David Winchell, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the site.
The road will close earlier than 6 p.m. in the fall as the days get shorter, Winchell added.
The entrance to Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Parkway is on Route 9 just south of the village of Lake George; it’s a left turn if you’re heading north. The parkway offers three overlooks -- The Narrows, Lake George and Eagle’s Eye.
The cost to enter the road is $10 for cars and $5 for motorcycles.
From a parking lot at the top, visitors can take a shuttle to the summit, which offers a picnic area. The privy, picnic pavilion and summit walkways are accessible for people with disabilities, according to the DEC.
The summit also is home to a bullwheel and other ruins from the cable railway that was constructed in 1875 and ran cars every half-hour to bring people from the village of Lake George to the summit and the Prospect Mountain House hotel there, according to a plaque at the summit.
The 50-cent fare was steep then, and the railway couldn’t make ends meet. It closed eight years after opening. The cable railway was the world’s largest, according to DEC.
Unlike the parkway and the cable railway before it, hiking the trail on foot is free, and it offers at least one thrill that motorists miss – namely, crossing the footbridge over the Northway.
Parking for the hiking trail is available on Smith Street, a tiny dead-end street off West Street. From there, hikers climb a few flights of stairs to the bridge, a swaying, enclosed wire cage suspended above six lanes of traffic.
Crossing the bridge can awaken primal fears, principally heights and being pancaked by a tractor trailer.
Seriously, though, the bridge is perfectly safe. It just seems a little scary to me when I can see traffic speeding below me. I’m phobic enough that the fear gives me a jolt of energy for the hike.
Unfortunately, the energy failed to get me to the top this time. There’s still a chance for me to be a hiker this summer, though.
I just have to be prepared for something more than a leisurely stroll.