If you are looking for a short and moderately steep hike, that is also kid-friendly (not dog-friendly unless your dog is secretly a mountain goat), Mount Jo is the place to be. There are two trails, the long and short, that are quite self descriptive, and as always, the short trail is a tad bit more arduous.
We stayed in a hotel in Essex County’s Lake Placid, overlooking the glistening waters of the famed Mirror Lake. Don’t be fooled by the word “village” that is often used to describe Lake Placid. It is known for top-notch alpine skiing and some of the best hikes of the region. It has also hosted two Winter Olympic Games. As for the grub-o-meter, the food and especially the local brew are worthy of a post of their own.
From NY 73, about 4 miles east of Lake Placid, turn south on Adirondack Loj Rd (first right after the massive ski jumps). After about 4.3 miles, you will find yourself at the hiker parking self-registration window. The Adirondack Loj parking lot is just beyond the booth, on the left.
Before you hit the sign for the actual trail-head of Mt. Jo, you will have to walk for a few 100 yards on a path that winds alongside Heart Lake. Along the way, naturalists have put up signs describing the various flora and fauna found in that region. It’s a great learning opportunity for kids.
Seeing as it is a 2.6 miles RT, the hike is officially rated moderate. But remember that in order to achieve an elevation of 2876 feet, one needs to scramble over a few rough patches. The knotty, scopious roots of the tall trees provided easy foot-holds, as did the rough worn-out trail. After about one-fourth of a mile, there is that option we talked about before. Long and short. The trails merge before you make the final march to the summit ledge, which by the way, is preceded by a rather steep rock pitch.
We took the long trail, and before reaching the summit, we did find a few open vistas which gave us a glimpse of the scenery that awaited us at the peak. We also came upon jumpy squirrels, giant mushrooms on tree barks, acorns, and autumn leaves laying out the proverbial carpet.
The hike is a classic for a reason. Once we were safely perched on a bare rock at the summit, we had a clear view of the Heart Lake, smooth and unruffled, right below us. To the south, we were met with the Algonquin and the core of the High Peaks. This being October, the Adirondack Mountains had a chance to show off their true colors. Amidst splashes of green, they shone orange, auburn, golden, red and yellow. It was a sight to behold. The kind of view that makes it all worthwhile.
I believe in what Cheryl Strayed said – “Put yourself in the way of beauty.” To add to the concept, if possible, put kids in the way of beauty. We met a group of fourth graders on our way up. Seeing our almost five-year-old scamper up the rocky terrain, their leader said “If the little guy can do it, so can you.”
Surprisingly, after that comment, all queries to the tune of “how long till the top” were completely done away with. A little praise goes a long way. And a little hike now and then does wonders for our well-being.
If you go:
1. Google distances, trail heads and weather.
2. Wear sturdy hiking boots. These mountains are not kind to sneakers.
3. Pack lunch. We had sandwiches and apples at the summit.
4. Carry water.
5. Stay on trail.
6. Make way for fellow hikers both at the trail and at the outlooks.
7. I was going to mention flashlight, watch, compass and camera but then I realized that everybody is going to have their phones on them.