In honor of Labor Day, I’ll let you in on an Adirondack North Country secret: most of us who live here work for a living. Contrary to rumors, we don’t hike, paddle, or ski all day, every day, although many of us would prefer to do exactly that. This work thing is why, until all the paid work and home chores are completed, a hike or any Adirondack outdoor recreation that takes most of the day is usually out of the question. (Naturally, powder days are the exception to that not-so-strict stricture.) Anyone who reads knows time spent outdoors is good for humans, and even makes us better workers. But even those of us who live here can’t spend all day playing outside, despite the temptation to do so in the enticing Adirondack Mountains. The good news is you don’t have to.
Henry’s Woods to the Rescue
Henry’s Woods Community Preserve is a relatively new trail system for the Adirondacks. It was inspired by and named after one of Lake Placid’s greatest benefactors, Henry Uihlein. The trails are updated and reworked bridle paths used by patrons of the Lake Placid Club in the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
The preserve and trail system seems further away from the bustling Village of Lake Placid than it is. You can be sitting in an office or a pub on Main Street 10 minutes after finishing an immersive outdoor experience at Henry’s Woods.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs
The 212-acre parcel of land is accessed from Bear Cub Lane off of Old Military Road in Lake Placid. The original 2.5-mile loop and newly added numerous steep and short side-loops wind through the woods behind the Uihlein Mercy Center. The trail system was designed and engineered by a famous North Country Skier who knows his stuff, Tony Goodwin, of Keene. Goodwin is the former director of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society.
The trails are impeccably planned and maintained. Wet areas are well-drained which makes the trails a great choice in wet weather. The area is multi-use which means you will encounter hikers, runners, mountain bikers, walkers, strollers, chatterers, and in the winter, skiers and snowshoers. Henry’s Woods is also dog friendly. Well-behaved dogs are welcome and do not have to abide the High Peaks leash laws. The trails are popular with local dogs and their people, and most humans encountered will be sniffed and/or licked. Most dog owners remember to use the doggie bags provided (not the kind you get from restaurants on Main St.) and keep an eye on their pup.
The trail system starts from the parking lot, on the connector trail which is about .3 mile. The connector brings you to the main loop which starts with a minor climb regardless of which direction you choose to start.
Loop Trail: This main trail is the longest trail in the system and intersects the Plateau, Switchback, and Rocky Knob Trails. If you start by taking a right on the loop trail, it drops slightly to cross a bridge and goes around a high plateau. On the far side of the loop it climbs to the top and descends to its beginning. That reverses if you start out taking a left. Either way, this section is 2 miles.
Along the Loop Trail is the bridge to nowhere. This suspension bridge was built a few years ago by members of the Adirondack Mountain Club trail crew and funded by the Uihlein Foundation. The bridge leads to a large rock along a stream. A small waterfall babbles nearby, a perfect spot to sit, pause, and calm the mind on a busy work day.
Plateau Trail: This side-trail is mostly flat and is accessed off the Loop Trail. It follows along the edge of a long plateau and winds back to the Loop Trail. The views are great along the way. This section of trail is almost a mile long.
Switchback Trail: This is the steepest trail in the system. Starting from the Plateau Trail this side-trail descends slowly to a switchback, then a steeper grade and more switchbacks. The trail comes back out further down the the Loop Trail and is about .25 miles long.
Rocky Knob Trail: This side-trail is accessed from the Loop Trail. It climbs a bit, but has some good switchbacks that cut the incline and are fun to run. This trail is rocky in spots and the top is called, “Rocky Knob.” The trail descends back to the Loop Trail and is almost a mile long.
Views at Henry’s Woods: You can see four 1980 Winter Olympic venues from the trails at Henry’s Woods: Whiteface Mountain, the Bobrun at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the ski jumps at Intervale hill, and the ice arena in the Village of Lake Placid. You can also see Mirror Lake, Lake Placid, and more Adirondack mountains than I want to list.
The side trails are superb trail running; cushiony soil and well-placed rocks make it a thinking runner’s delight. This means you have to pay attention to where you put your feet and try not to stare at the views.
Henry’s Woods is a community resource that reflects the generosity of Henry Uihlein, who placed value on the outdoor experience. Based on current research that tells us to spend more time outside, Mr. Uihlein was ahead of his time.
To get to there:
From the intersection of New York State Route 73 and Old Military Road in Lake Placid, at the ski jumps, take Old Military Road toward Saranac Lake. Continue about a mile and a half to Bear Cub Road on the left. Make a left onto Bear Cub and an immediate right into Henry’s Woods parking lot to the trailhead.
Joann Reed lives in Lake Placid and spends too much time dreaming about all-day adventures in the Adirondacks. She writes about life and culture in the Adirondack Mountains at Adirondacklifestyle.net