For our next five posts we’ll be sharing hikes in the Adirondacks High Peaks region. Up first… Flume Knob – this surprisingly tough 4-miler leads to a beautiful view looking toward Wilmington and the Jays.
Well… here we are in New York’s Adirondacks! We’ve wanted to visit the High Peaks region for years, and finally got around to making it happen. We found a delightful cabin in the woods on VRBO.com and rented it for a full week. We arrived late on a Saturday evening, so Sunday was the first day we had to hike. We had seen signs along the way to our cabin saying ‘ALERT: Lake Placid Heavy Race Traffic Sunday’. What we didn’t know was that it was the day of the Lake Place Ironman and most roads in the area would be closed in at least one direction – some roads closed completely.
We had initially selected a nice 9-mile waterfall loop – away from Lake Placid, in hopes of avoiding the race traffic. With GPS coordinates set and maps in hand, we set out toward our trailhead. Our GPS kept re-routing us and the drive time to the trailhead fluctuated wildly from 20 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes. Finally, we came upon a police officer directing traffic. All the rerouting on the GPS was due to real-time road closures for the Ironman. Boooo! We were forced onto a very long, one-way, circuitous route around the race – a route that took us nowhere near our planned hike. At this point, cell service was gone and we didn’t have any way to select a new hike that we could actually get to. So we drove and drove. We watched racers passing by on their bicycle leg in the closed lane of traffic. We both agreed it was a pretty disappointing start to the trip – after spending 11 hours in the car on Saturday, we were ready to hit the trail!
Eventually, we came upon a sign for High Gorge Falls. I told Adam ‘Go there – I remember reading about that place. It looked pretty!’ As it turned out, we had the entirety of this popular tourist stop all to ourselves. I guess no one else even tried to fight the Ironman traffic. We walked the network of trails and marveled at the impressive waterfall plunging through the chasm! After about an hour, we’d seen all there was to see and decided we’d try and figure out a way to get back to the house and spend the afternoon relaxing and enjoying our comfy little cabin. But as luck would have it, we passed a sign on the road labeled ‘Flume Trails’. Adam looked at me and we knew instantly that we were going to stop and check it out. The sign was brown and had little hiker stick figures – and that was good enough for us! Sure… it wasn’t the hike we planned. And yes – we had no idea how long the trail was, how difficult the trail was, or even where it led.
Fortunately, signage at the trailhead indicated that there was a 4-mile out-and-back to Flume Knob. We agreed that knobs usually have decent views and set off along the trail. The trail soon became a network of trails. Some signs indicated the way to Flume Knob, others made no mention of it. Trail names changed quickly from Corridor to Connector to Flume Knob. We just kept hiking uphill, following the path that looked most worn, and then verifying we were still on the right route any time Flume Knob was mentioned on a sign.
I took very few photos on the hike up, because my hands were being kept busy swatting at the army of mosquitoes unleashed in the forest. Bug spray didn’t slow them down – not even a little bit. What had become as an easy, gradual climb became steeper and steeper as we hiked along. I was hiking as fast as I could to outrun the mosquitoes, but the terrain slowed my pace. The trail climbed upward without the ameliorating effect of switchbacks. There were several sections of trail that were washed out and covered with loose, slippery scree. There was a small rock pass that had a rope to help hikers pull themselves upward. There were a couple small blow-downs to negotiate. It was pretty tough going for a little while. After the hike was over, I read a description of the terrain on the Lake Placid website – they used the word ‘aggressive’.
It was all worth it in the end! The view from Flume Knob was magnificent! We climbed around the side of a boulder and came out on a rocky outcropping with super views of the Adirondacks. We could even see tiny specks of triathletes on the road in the valley below. The viewpoint also had enough of a breeze to keep the insects at bay. We enjoyed the view for a while until we were finally joined by a large family group. They had been down in the valley cheering a family member along in the Ironman and decided to climb Flume Knob after he passed by.
The hike down was slow going until the terrain moderated. There were many places that were steep and covered with loose footing. We covered those parts with care and the added help of trekking poles. Once we descended a bit, we were able to complete the hike relatively quickly. When we got back to the trailhead, we took some time to explore Flume Falls. The falls are right next to the parking area and are definitely worth a look!
While it wasn’t the hike we planned, the day turned out really nicely overall! Sometimes it’s fun to let go of expectations and see where fate takes you. That said — I still don’t think I’m a fan of the Ironman!
Christine did a great job with explaining the circumstances of doing this hike over other things we were considering for the day. What she didn’t mention was the day before on our drive up, we decided that it would be nice to stop at a brewery on our way up to stretch our legs and give our dogs a chance to get outside. We opted for Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY. I haven’t been a big baseball fan since I was a teenager, so I have been a little out of the loop for the timing of baseball events. When we arrived at Ommegang at 2:45PM, they said they were closing at 3PM for a private event (which wasn’t announced on their website). I started seeing lots of people arriving Red Sox gear (which I thought was odd for New York). It turns out they were closing things for a private party for Pedro Martinez for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame the next day. I was quite ticked and now have a little disdain for Pedro Martinez. Experiencing road closures this day that were keeping us doing the hike we wanted, I was not feeling the New York love.
The tough climbing on the hike and the incessant mosquitoes had me a little worried about how hiking would be overall in the Adirondacks. However, I will say that if you can just pull off the road, pick a random trail and find views like these, the Adirondacks are quite impressive. And luckily, those mosquitoes were the worst on this hike compared to the others we tried. What was looking to be an irritating day turned out to be great. It is amazing how a little bit of hiking and scenery can change your outlook quickly.
When we first pulled into the small parking lot for this hike, we were quickly joined by several other cars filled with people. We thought they were just friends and families of Ironman participants and wouldn’t want to hike. When we started to see them get on the trail, we decided to get our stuff together quickly to possibly get ahead of them so we weren’t stuck amidst a large group. We were able to start ahead of most of the pack and made our way. As you can see from the map below, there are a lot of interconnecting trails on this hike. You may see people heading out for mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing, or hiking along these trails.
Our experiences with “knobs” typically means some rocky outcropping with decent views, so we decided to give Flume Knob a try. The path started off from the parking lot and we soon took a right to head uphill on the trail as the signs directed. As Christine mentioned, because of the interconnecting trails that happened early on the hike, they didn’t always post the direction to Flume Knob. We did keep pressing forward on the widest, well-traveled trail and we eventually came on to other signs that showed we were going the correct way.
We kept a fast pace as best we could, more for survival purposes. Stopping for a quick drink from a water bottle would mean you would be attacked instantly by the flying piranha-like mosquitoes. The grade of the trail was very tough, with extremely steep sections to climb, often requiring you to pull yourself up with your hands to reach the higher step. Christine got a good deal of sap on her hands from grabbing ahold of trees to help hoist herself up and down. We felt this was one of the hardest two miles with the steepness of terrain. We eventually made it to the top, which just required climbing up a large boulder to a nice view. The viewpoint was a large slab of rock and we took a few moments to take in the view before others arrived.
We had it all to ourselves for about 20 minutes before the other families started to arrive. It turns out all of them were family members or friends of those participating in the Ironman. Their goal was to do a hike for the day and then meet up with them later. When getting to the view, one man asked one of the children if the view was worth the climb and she said “No”. But they pointed out to her that when she reflects back, she would change her mind. I think we would both say the views were worth the climb. On a clear day, you have miles and miles of mountains with barely any sign of civilization around you.
We made our way back down and started to see even more families making the trek up. When we arrived back at our car, we took a side path from the parking lot which led down to a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall has several platforms where the water drops into the gorge and is worth seeing. If you cross the road from the parking lot, you can look down into the gorge to see even more impressive sights.
We felt we made the most of the day. Getting great views on a random hike made us more excited for future hikes in this area.
- Distance – 4 miles
(There are no MapMyHike stats from this hike because we forgot to stop tracking at the end of our hike – oops!)
- Elevation Change – 1326 ft.
- Difficulty – 4. The climbing on this trail is mostly concentrated into a short, extremely steep section. There are no switchbacks to alleviate the climb – it is straight up the mountainside!
- Trail Conditions – 3. The trail was nice easy footing for the first half of the ascent. The footing was trickier with loose dirt and some eroded spots on the climb. There was one section aided by a rope hand-pull.
- Views – 4. Beautiful views over the valley and looking toward bigger peaks.
- Streams/Waterfalls – 5. There is an impressive waterfall gorge right at the beginning of the trail. Don’t miss seeing it at either the beginning or end of your hike.
- Wildlife – 2. We saw/heard red squirrels, chipmunks and birds.
- Ease to Navigate – 1.5. The signage on this network of trails is quite confusing. There are many foot and bike trails that cross multiple times in the woods. Not every sign lists the destination of Flume Knob. We basically continued on whatever trail seemed most uphill and checked our progress with the signs that did list Flume Knob.
- Solitude – 3. It’s hard for us to judge the popularity of this trail. We hiked it on a day that traffic was mostly impeded by the Lake Placid Ironman. Most people stayed away from the race course because the logistical issues it caused with traffic in the area. We saw a few other hikers, most of them knew someone racing and were hiking to pass the time until they could meet up with their racing friend.
Directions to trailhead: From the intersection of Route 73 and Route 86 in Lake Placid, follow Route 86 toward Wilmington. Continue for 10.5 miles to the Flume Parking on the left. Coordinates for the parking lot are 44.3701899,-73.8363359.