An Adirondack High Peaks native exchanges her 4,000-footer for a day on Lake George’s legendary Tongue Mountain Range.
By Annie Stoltie | Photo © Carl Heilman II
I live in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks, the northeastern section of this six-million-acre gem of a state park. While Lake George is more than an hour south, The Blue Line (the boundary on maps that outlines and legally protects the Adirondacks) holds us all together. And on this late-August day, while on this range named for the nine-mile tongue-shaped isthmus that punches into Lake George, I feel like I’m in another world.
Rewards comprised of five primary mountains – Brown Mountain, Five Mile Mountain, Fifth Peak, French Point Mountain, and First Peak – you can string the latter three main summits together on a 13.2-mile loop route called the Tongue Mountain Loop. While a huge undertaking, the entire loop is “just a spectacular hike,” explains David Thomas-Train, the editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Eastern Trails guidebook. Almost all of the Tongue’s peaks lure folks who are looking for day hikes, and, today, I was only savoring a small section of that route.
Though this particular trail sees a lot of foot traffic, we pass just two other hikers. We’re alone, but yet not. Owed to the lower elevation (reaching a max of a modest 1,000 feet), plants and species thrive here on the range, like a greenhouse gone haywire. The forest really is an effervescent, technicolor green – alive and lush – humming with a primeval vibe. Overall, the entire route is never very steep – no summit scramble on all fours – but it does have pretty unrelenting ups and downs that challenge even seasoned hikers. “After rolling up down, up down, you come, the last quarter-mile, to flat terrain, and you’ve got the lake there in your face,” says Thomas-Train.
Right. The lake – how could you ever ignore it? At 28,160 acres, it’s the largest body of water in the park. On sections of the Tongue Mountain Range, the water is often visible both on the east and west sides. It’s not hard to imagine why Georgia O’Keeffe made this place the subject of many of her early paintings when she’d summer here with her photographer husband Alfred Stieglitz. On first glance, her 1924 painting Lake George may seem a simple composition of shape and color, but a closer look reveals the true characteristics of this location: layers, life, and one of the loveliest destinations in the Adirondacks.
Check out our picks of other great Opal area hikes.