Saturday, June 10, 2023

Tomcat Hiking Thomas and Cat Mountains

Thomas and Cat are two smaller mountains that stand on the west side of Lake George. Last spring, I backpacked on the east side of Lake George and enjoyed the impressive lake views from the summits. I knew I wanted to visit the area again and explore some other mountains. 

My plan for the day was originally to hike Moxham Mountain, another smaller mountain near the town of Minerva. Since the hike to Moxham is relatively short, I thought I would add a second hike to my agenda for the day. With Thomas and Cat not too far away, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit these two mountains. 

Since Thomas and Cat are further away, I decided to tackle this hike first. I had a hiking partner along for the trip, my dog Choya. We started just after 8AM from the Valley Woods Road Trailhead, just off the Northway, not too far from Bolton Landing.

Choya enjoying the view from Cat Mountain

The trails to both Thomas and Cat travel along old woods roads much of the way. It sounded like Cat has the better views, so I decided to hike up Thomas first to build up to better scenery. The route to Thomas hiked along an old woods road all the way to its vista. The footing was somewhat rocky as it climbed toward Thomas, but fairly easy hiking.


The first junction

Typical conditions along the old wood roads

I reached Thomas fairly quickly. From the parking lot, I covered about a mile and a half and gained more than 750' in elevation, but it never seemed very difficult or steep. The trail takes you to an overlook just below the true summit. I went off trail and explored the area and found a high area of ground with a cairn that I assume was the true summit at 2,031'. Another trail comes in near the summit but the main route is well marked with signage.

Cairn marking the true summit of Thomas

Back on the main trail, I reached the lookout of Thomas Mountain at an open ledge. The view takes in  about 180 degrees, looking mostly to the south and west. Part of Lake George is visible in the distance just beyond Cat Mountain to the south. Crane Mountain dominates the unobstructed view to the west . Unfortunately, the views were somewhat hazy from distant wildfire smoke.

Marker on Thomas

Crane Mountain

Lake George in the distance

Choya on Thomas

Cat Mountain on the right

The Yellow Ridge Trail heads south from Thomas and makes its way toward Cat Mountain. The hiking along this ridge follows a nice trail through a mix of forest. Immediately leaving Thomas, the trail drops along some interesting cliffs. The trail negotiates a series of short, and at times rugged, ups and downs. It's a nice change from the old road leading to the top of Thomas. A small cairn marks a side trail to a lesser vista, before reaching the spur to Cat. I didn't see anyone else and along the ridge and enjoyed this stretch. 

Cliffs along the trail

Trail under cliffs

Junction to Cat Mountain

From the spur trail to Cat Mountain, the last .4 miles climbs its way to the 1,946' summit. Cat's summit features a long open stretch of rock. The higher mountains on the east side of the lake, such as Black, Erebus, Sleeping Beauty, and Buck, stand out  beyond the Tongue Range in the foreground. A fairly long stretch of the lake can be seen toward the south as well as smaller bodies of water like Trout Lake. You also get a decent look at the mountains in the distance to the southwest.

Choya on Cat

Lake George with Trout Pond in the foreground

Black, Erebus, and Sleeping Beauty Mountains 
beyond the Tongue Range

I enjoyed the views from different parts of the rocky summit while allowing Choya a chance to cool down and drink. Cat's summit definitely outshined Thomas with a wider view and a much better look at Lake George. A steady breeze seemed to keep the black flies at bay. I had the summit to myself the entire time. 

Choya as we are getting ready
to leave the summit

Looking southwest

I saw my first other hiker of the day shortly after leaving the summit. After retracing my steps on the spur, I soon reached a junction of the Yellow Ridge Trail and the path to the trailhead. I continued straight, descending toward the trailhead. Soon the trail is back on another old road, occasionally leaving the road for short stretches in more eroded sections. Now midmorning, I passed a handful of groups on their way toward Cat.

The three miles from the summit of Cat went by quickly. The trail lost more than 750' of elevation as it made its way back to the trailhead. Much of the elevation loss is early and the terrain doesn't seem too steep after the first mile or so. The old woods road allows for quick travel once it levels out. At one point, the trail passes a nice pond with a view back to Cat.

Pond along the trail

Cat Mountain barely visible over the pond

Calculating the route on Caltopo, the total mileage measured 7.3 miles to complete the loop of Thomas and Cat. Signage, guidebook, maps, and online sources show varying mileage distances but they all seem to be in the neighborhood of 7.0 miles. 

Although the hazy skies hampered the visibility a bit on my hike, I enjoyed this outing. Compared to strenuous hikes in the High Peaks, this loop is a moderate hike with manageable elevation gain and distance. The views, particularly on Cat were quite nice. Cat's large area of open rock and good views of Lake George invite you to linger. While Thomas's vista wasn't quite as expansive as Cat's, the relatively short, three mile round trip, makes for a worthy outing if you are short on time. These two mountains are also part of the Lake George 12ster hiking challenge, a group of 12 peaks around the lake showcasing the scenery of Lake George's mountains.

Cat Mountain view across Montcalm Point
on the south end of the Tongue Range

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