This may seem like a long ways from the south end of the Champlain Valley, but it’s that good of a hike that’s it’s worth the extra drive time to reach it. We have to stress that the trailhead is difficult to find so follow the directions above closely and print out the brochure to have in hand. The preserve is maintained by the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) and the NYSDEC and is made up of two loops with excellent payoffs.
How to get there
From the Ticonderoga traffic circle, head south on Route 9N for 23 miles. The trail entrance will be on the right. If you pass the driveway with the stone lions, you have gone too far. The trailhead on Route 9N is not marked look for a dirt drive, you may need to park along the roadside the drive is a bit rough for small cars. The key is to look for the two stone lions on the driveway across the road. There are trail signs and markers at the backside of the drive but not seen from the main road.
Bear Knob Loop
This is the shorter of the two loops and is a bit more rugged than would be expected. The trail is marked in yellow. At about 0.2 miles in the yellow trail breaks off to the left and continues an easy climb and quickly comes to an unmarked intersection with the Blue Trail up Walnut Ridge. From here the trail takes a sharp right and starts climbing steadily over rough footing at times. The trail is well marked but not used heavily so you will need to look ahead for the next marker and be aware of sharp turns to stay on track. There are nice views along the climb of Walnut Ridge from open rock areas. The actual summit of Bear Knob has what they call seasonal views. From the summit you will descent, at times fairly steeply back to the blue trail about 0.4 miles from the parking lot.
Bear Knob Loop: 2 miles
Walnut Ridge Loop
This loop is much longer and fairly demanding at times, and at 5.7 miles it will take a good part of your day. The trail starts out slowly climbing along a stream along an old forest road and eventually crosses it before starting a much more demanding climb. The climb is steady and at times a bit steep as you approach the top of Middle Mountain. Middle Mountain is a wooded summit with decent views through the trees and open forest. There is a slight descent from Middle Mountain that will bring you to a col with a sign pointing back to Middle Mountain and ahead to Walnut Ridge. The climb up to Walnut Ridge is the continuation of the loop and is a steep pitch. Once on the ridge the views start to appear and eventually they become quite stellar as you overlook the lake. The open part of the ridge lasts a bit before it descends steadily down to Pole Hill Pond, which is a lovely back-country gem. From here the trail continues to descend at a steady clip along an old road that brings you down to the yellow trail, which you should follow straight ahead and not uphill toward Bear Knob, unless of course you wish to go there, this is an unmarked intersection but the blue trail ends at this point. It isn’t all that far back to the other side of the Blue Trail and the trailhead from here.
Walnut Ridge Loop: 5.7 miles