From the South (Albany and NYC): Take I-87 (Northway) from Albany to exit 23 at Warrensburg. Follow Rt. 9 north for @4 miles to Rt. 28. Take Rt. 28, @ 21 miles, to North River. At North River turn left onto 13th Lake Rd. and drive 5 miles to the sign for Garnet Hill Lodge. Turn left.
From the North (Albany and NYC): Take I-87 (Northway) to Pottersville, exit 26. Follow signs for Gore Mt.
The Garnet Hill Lodge Cross Country Ski & Mountain Bike Center is located in the southeastern quadrant of the Adirondack Mountains region just 35 miles west of Lake Placid, NY within the former Hooper Garnet Mine community (see Historical Notes below). It's location is spectacular. The resort borders the lush, forested Siamese Ponds Wilderness, an expanse of low mountains cut by rushing mountain streams and dotted with sparkling lakes and ponds. Nestled in the hills overlooking pristine Thirteenth Lake with mountain views, the Garnet Hill Lodge provides the quintessential Adirondack experience.
The centrally located Log House at Garnet Hill was built in 1936 just after the Hooper Mine closed. Although the style may be reminiscent of the Adirondack Great Camps, large rustic structures hewn from local timber and stone, we found the atmosphere to be relaxed and friendly, more like a country inn.
Inside the Log House are upstairs guestrooms (many with stunning balcony views), a full service restaurant (all meals included), the Miner’s Pub, a game room with big screen TV, computers with internet access, and lounge area with a massive garnet studded, stone fireplace. Additional lodging, especially good for groups, is available at the Teahouse and the Birches, both just a short walk from the main lodge. Some guests may enjoy a relaxing break from their hectic lives -- walking the picturesque grounds, enjoying the grand views, playing tennis, sunning at the beach or swimming in the clear waters of 13th Lake and ending the day curled up with a book in front of the fireplace.
However, what sets Garnet Hill apart are the many outdoor activities offered without having to leave the grounds, no matter what the season. The Lodge borders the 100,000 acre Siamese Ponds Wilderness with trail access directly from Garnet Hill (see Hooper Mine Trail Hike below). Included with your stay is access to a beautiful private beach on 13th Lake where a roped off swimming area, 2 floating rafts, a dock, picnic tables, classic Adirondack lounge chairs as well as canoes and kayaks are available for use.
The more adventurous can horseback ride through unspoiled Adirondack wilderness with one of Garnet Hills’ experienced wranglers (fee) or explore the extensive mountain bike trail system with or without a guide (free for guests). Some of the finest xc skiing, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the Adirondacks are offered during the winter months on over 30 miles (55 KM) of groomed trails. At an elevation of 2,000 feet, natural snowfall at the Garnet Hill XC Ski Center is abundant.
Nearby, local adventure outfitters run guided whitewater raft trips on the scenic Upper Hudson River or the wild class IV+ rapids of The Hudson River Gorge. Living in Manhattan, we found it hard to believe that the rocky, frothing, crystal clear upper reaches of the Hudson River is the same 2 mile wide river we bicycle along on the West Side Bike Path in New York City!
Thankfully, there are no phones or televisions in the Log House guest rooms. . . and your cell phones will probably not work here. We did not miss them!
The Garnet Hill Trail System
The extensive 1,600 acre cross country ski trail network is transformed into a mountain bike trail system for the summer and fall. In addition to the ski trails, Garnet Hill has developed an impressive interconnecting network of singletrack trails. The trail network combined with backcountry dirt roads provide a seemingly endless variety of landscapes, terrain and Adirondack mountain bike adventures. There are trails for all skill levels.
Routes are well marked with actual trail maps at some intersections. Trail difficulty ratings pretty much correspond to the xc ski ratings. The more and most difficult trails are actually easier for mountain bikers than for skiers. There are few obstacles and their difficulty is based more on the steep descents and ascents rather than on any technical aspects. Although the singletrack trails are more technical, there is nothing too extreme. Lots of roots, rock gardens, steep ascents and descents and sharp cornering. More advanced riders will find the between the tree squeezes on tight singletrack when you are barelling downhill something else!
Beginners with experience should be able to tackle some of the intermediate trails such as Solitude and Cougar for an added challenge. Just remember, trails below Old Faithful tend to go downhill, so there will be climbing on your return to the Lodge. Inquire at the front desk or at the bike shop for advice, help in route planning, or the possibility of guided rides.
Note: Most riders bring their own bikes and helmets. If you didn't, bike rentals are available for a full or half day. We saw a nice fleet of Trek mountain bikes. Garnet Hill also runs a “bike downhill – ride back shuttle bus service for groups. Inquire at the bike shop for availability. This allows riders to explore the outer reaches of the trail system. It’s a long, mostly downhill route (around 10 miles) ending at the pick-up location on Roger’s Road.
On a recent visit (July 2009) to the Garnet Hill Lodge we had an opportunity to sample a three hour mountain bike tour on a variety of Garnet Hill trails with Mountain Bike Director Richard Stibley and Recreation Director Tom Merkt.
RICHARD'S BLOWOUT RIDE (Download Garnet Hill Mountain Bike Trail Map (PDF) to follow along)
Our mountain bike ride literally started out with a BANG! While waiting for Tom to join us, we took a short ride over to the “The Tailings”, a multi level open area near the Log House and Garnet Hill Bike Shop. Three trails cross this large deposit of mine tailings from the long abandoned Hooper Garnet Mine. We were riding on the upper level, enjoying the beautiful mountain vistas, when Richard suddenly disappeared over the edge. We heard a loud explosion which was soon followed by a plume of dust. Certain that some undetected mine explosives from the Hooper mining days had just been set off, we rushed to the edge. Looking down, we were relieved to see Richard alive and well examining his bent wheel rim and blown tire.
By the time Richard returned with another bike, Tom had caught up to us and we set off on our ride. Our Trail Map follows the route we took with Richard and Tom.
We call it “Richard’s Blowout Ride”.
Start from the Ski/Bike Shop. Take dirt 4-H Road to the Old Faithful Trail. Going straight here will take you onto the Old Faithful loop in a clockwise direction, recommended for beginning riders. Instead, we turned right onto Old Faithful. This is a wide, relatively smooth doubletrack that travels through forest and over rolling terrain. It is rated easy.
Turn right onto the Solitude Trail. This is an intermediate rated double track trail that drops nearly 500 feet, steeply in places toward the Harvey Tailings. These tailings, unlike the large mound near the Garnet Hill Bike Shop, are flat with trails circling the scenic pond and stream at its center. The surface is made of tailings from the old Hooper Mine. Small pieces of clear, ruby-colored garnets can be found everywhere within the gravel.
From the east side of Harvey’s Tailings, head north on the Cougar Trail. This intermediate rated doubletrack trail climbs steadily over a mix of dirt, grass and gravel, with some rocky sections. Turn right at the Sugarhouse trail. At the intersection with the easier Mt. View trail is the Sugar House, which looks like it hasn't been used to make maple syrup for some time. Turn left onto Mt. View, continue straight onto Apple Way, turn right onto Cougar and at North Acres Farm turn left onto dirt Harvey Road.
These trails near North Acres Farm are all easy and pass through open meadows allowing glimpses of the High Peaks and Gore Mountain. Several minutes from North Acres Farm on Harvey Road (long, steady climb) you can re-enter the trail system. Keeping to the right, take the easy Old Faithful Trail to the 4-H Road which leads back to the Bike Shop.
Note: Richard, a multi-faceted outdoors guide, grew up in Rockland County, just north of New York City. He spent his early teen years exploring and hiking the trails throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains and later completed a through-hike (2,000 mile trek from Georgia to Maine) on the Appalachian Trail. Richard’s dream is to become one of an elite group of climbers to have scaled the highest peak on each of the seven continents. He’s already bagged Mount McKinley (North America), Mount Elbrus (Europe) and Aconcagua (South America). He attempted Mount Everest (Asia) but had to turn back just short of the summit.
If you want to talk about mountain climbing, mountain biking, mountain bikes (he builds them) or just want to know the best bike route to suit your skill level on the Garnet Hill mountain bike trail system, ask for Richard. While you are at it, be sure to ask him to show you his photo scrapbook for a real treat.
TOM'S FAVORITE SINGLETRACK
Tom’s Favorite mountain bike ride is mostly over technical single track trails. These are the most difficult trails in the system. The trails wind through lush forest and along streams. They are tight and twisty, with lots of roots, rocks and steep descents. Enter the trail network behind the Bike Rental tent, turning left onto Trail #2. Turn right onto Trail #1. At the intersection with Old Faithful, turn left onto Old Faithful. Look for the Trail #3 sign and turn left. Trail #3 ends at the Cougar Trail where you have several options for continuing the ride or heading back on the ski trails.
If you don't have the time or inclination to try out the suggested rides above, there are a wide variety of trails suited to all abilities and skill levels at Garnet Hill.
The easiest riding is on the local unpaved roads and Old Faithful Trail. Ride Old Faithful in the easy direction, marked “Easy Way Bikes” on Garnet Hill’s own more detailed Trail Map. The Old Faithful trailhead is near the Ski/Bike Shop. Other easy trails are Apple Way and Mt.View located near North Acre Farms. The first section of Old Faithful is actually a dirt road, part of the original 4-H Road. Old Faithful Trail connects with both Harvey Road and 4-H Road for a good beginner’s loop. The Harvey Road back toward the Lodge requires a long uphill climb.
Sample Trapper, Cougar, Blue Jay and Solitude Trails. Mix it up with some of the singletrack for a challenging ride.
Bobcat, Matt & Jeff, Joe Pete and Duffany’s Run (steep and rocky) are some of the advanced trails that can be used together with singletrack for a more challenging ride. The singletrack trails are marked with numbers and are best used as downhill rides. Downhill direction of singletrack is marked on the Garnet Hill Map with arrows.
A good rule of thumb: Ski Trails are best for climbing and the singletrack for downhill.
Beware of Garnet fever. You can literally get addicted to picking up small pieces of ruby red garnets at the mine tailings scattered throughout the Garnet Hill Lodge trail system or rocks embedded with chunks of garnets at the site of the Old Hooper Mine. The Garnet Hill Lodge and Ski / Mountain Bike Center lie within the old mining community associated with the abandoned open pit Hooper Mine.
After a practical application was found, the mountains around North Creek attracted prospectors and geologists to the rich deposits of garnet. Garnet is the official gemstone of New York State and is known locally as the “Adirondack Ruby”. Gemstone quality crystals that could be faceted have been found here, but the mines mainly produced commercial grade ore which is used as an industrial abrasive. Frank C. Hooper is probably the most interesting character to be associated with the areas early mining days. He invented a machine that would economically separate garnets from the ore and his mill was up and running by 1894.
The Hooper mine, located about 1 mile east of the northern part of Thirteenth Lake, has reverted to state ownership and is now part of the 100,000 acre Siamese Pond Wilderness. Bikes are not allowed but a short hike from the Garnet Hill Lodge Ski Shop (around 20 minutes) will take you to the old garnet mine. Begin on the driveway opposite the bike/ski shop that passes the tennis courts. At the fork keep to the right (the left is a private driveway). This leads straight to the mine. It's a relatively easy hike that requires some climbing up onto rock ledges, rock scrambling, and a steady uphill trek back to the Lodge.
Pockets of garnet can still be seen in the rock talus at the base of the cliffs. After poking around for about 15 minutes we found a few small, low grade garnets embedded in a rock matrix of white quartz, plagioclase feldspar and hornblende. Eureka! A nice sample for our rock collection. From above the mine, we enjoyed the beautiful view of Ruby Mountain and the present day Barton Garnet Mine. Tours and collecting are offered at the Barton Mine.
Signs from the mining era will reveal themselves to the observant rider and hiker. These include the mine tailings, walls and foundations and some surviving structures. At the trailhead for Old Faithful you can see stone wall and foundation remnants, and an old concrete dynamite shed. The gray private home and “Schoolhouse” seen at the beginning of the hike are both from the original mine village. Garnet Hill’s Log House was built in 1936, soon after the Hooper mine closed.
Check out our Hooper Mine Trail Hike Photos
Note: Use CAUTION when exploring the Hooper mine. Beware of loose rubble and boulders on the steep slopes.
Upper Hudson River Railroad
If you are a railroad history buff, don’t miss the Upper Hudson River Railroad in the nearby town of North Creek. The scenic train ride winds along the upper reaches of the Hudson River. Construction began in Saratoga in 1865 and reached North Creek in 1871. The railroad played an important role in the social and industrial development of the region. The original depot is now a museum. There is also an engine house, refurbished section shed and a 90 ft. operating turntable.
When President William McKinley was shot in 1901, VP Teddy Roosevelt was on vacation in the Adirondacks. He returned to the North Creek Station where he learned of McKinley’s death and that he was to become president.
For more information:
Garnet Hill Lodge
Phone: (518) 251.2444