On July 17, the corner of Lake Placid’s Northwood Road and Mirror Lake Drive hums with summer activity. Walkers and joggers circle Mirror Lake. Two dozen pre-teens do hockey drills in the Northwood School parking lot. A doe and spotted fawn cross the driveway from one stand of trees to another. Hikers step off pavement to a dirt path that leads 0.8 miles across private land into the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest and the summit Cobble Hill, a 2,343-foot peak overlooking the village’s Main Street. 

Those hikers soon encounter a group of 10 community stakeholders standing on a soft dirt path 40 inches wide. Steve Ovitt, the owner of trail building company Wilderness Property Management, describes the first day of work on a trail designed to improve safety and access to Cobble Hill. 

“We’ve been working on this for nearly three years as a stakeholder group and it’s great to see that come to fruition,” said Becca Halter, stewardship and GIS manager for the Adirondack Land Trust. “Having a purpose-built trail will serve hikers and the natural resources for many years to come.” 

That morning, Ovitt used stake flags to mark the planned route, an earthen trail designed to create a well-drained, durable footpath that runs 1,850 feet across a relatively flat area. This guides hikers away from residential development and erosion-prone soils. Then, Ovitt cleared small leaf litter and organic material with a small excavator. 

Ovitt removes a cantaloupe-sized rock from the trail, describing how he and his crew will clear objects and avoid trail features that create “obstruction height” challenges for hikers. “From what I saw it’s going to be an upgrade and it will be better for a wider range of people to hike,” said Lisa Grigoriadis, a neighbor whose backyard borders the existing trail. This section of new trail opens July 26 with temporary signage in place. 

This fall Tahawus Trails will build a 200-foot section of wheelchair-accessible boardwalk from a new trailhead on Mirror Lake Drive to a forest clearing with a trail register and kiosk. In summer 2024, Ovitt’s crew will return to build stairs using natural materials to guide hikers around slick rock slabs just below the summit. For a hike that sees about 10,000 hikers per year, these changes will increase sustainability, access, and safety.  

This community-led initiative began in 2020, a partnership between the Town of North Elba, Northwood School, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Paul Smith’s College, the Lake Placid 9’er hiking challenge, the Barkeater Trails Alliance, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and private landowners. The estimated total cost of trail improvements is $227,000, funded by grants and gifts from community members raised and administered by Adirondack Land Trust. 

Cobble Hill is open to hikers at this time. There is no designated trailhead parking, but the trail is close to downtown Lake Placid. Hikers are advised to find a parking spot in the village and walk along Mirror Lake Drive to the trailhead.  

Photo by Mary Thill. Steve Ovitt (lefts) speaks to Cobble Hill community stakeholders while members of the Wilderness Property Management trail building crew look on.