Sunday, January 21, 2024

Jenkins Mountain

2,513-foot Jenkins Mountain rises in the northern Adirondacks near Paul Smiths College. The unassuming mountain stands as the high point of the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) trail system. With nearly no snow on the ground January 2nd, I wanted to get in a hike since cross country skiing was out of the question. I wanted to take Choya along but and wasn't looking for a terribly long or difficult hike. Although I have hiked Jenkins before, it seemed like it a good hike for the day.

Two trailheads can be used to reach the trail up Jenkins. Probably the more common route accesses the mountain from the VIC. Usually in the winter, the VIC trails are groomed for cross country skiing and require a trail fee (no fee out of the ski season). Even though it was January, the trails were probably lacking enough snow for skiing or snowshoeing after rain and warm temperatures in late December. 

A second trailhead along Keese Mills Road provides another route to Jenkins via the Black Pond Trail. Although still on the VIC property, these trails aren't groomed and avoid the busier, main VIC area. I used this route to start my hike both times I have been to Jenkins.
Although the forecast called for clearing skies, low clouds covered the sky on the morning January 2nd. When I left my house, only a fine dusting of snow covered the ground. By the time I reached the trailhead, about an inch covered the ground with bare ground under the canopy of the coniferous trees. A previous hiker, tracked down the little bit of snow that covered the ground.

Black Pond Outlet near the trailhead

The route follows close to water for the first part of the hike. Initially along the outlet of Black Pond,  the trail soon reaches Black Pond. A lean to sits on the shore of Black Pond less than a half-mile from the trailhead. (all lean tos on the VIC property require a reservation to use) The outlet still remained unfrozen, but the pond itself was covered in ice.

Open water on Black Pond Outlet

The lean to by Black Pond

Black Pond from the lean to

Choya enjoying the view over Black Pond on
a previous hike when it wasn't frozen

The trail often travels just a few feet from Black Pond. At the north end of the pond, the Black Pond Trail turns right and continues around the pond and passes another lean to. I continued straight on the Long Pond Trail. Just beyond the junction, I soon reached the southern end of Long Pond.

Choya on a bog bridge

Choya following the shore of Black Pond

The Long Pond trail follows its namesake body of water. Another lean sits on the shore of Long Pond.
As its name implies, Long Pond is a skinny pond that is much longer than it is wide. The Long Pond Trail travels just over a half-mile before reaching its northern end at a junction on a wider woods road.

View from the south end of Long Pond

From the right, the woods road comes in from the main VIC trailhead and cross country trails. Turning left, the trail heads toward Jenkins Mountain. The woods road quickly fades into a trail as it travels between a beaver bog at the base of Jenkins and a large esker.

View over Long Pond by the lean to

Hiking along the woods road

Part of Jenkins visible above the beaver bog

View across the beaver bog

After passing the last remnants of the beaver bog, the trail turns toward Jenkins. The trail takes an indirect route winding around the south side of Jenkins. A light snow began to fall as I made my way up the trail. The snow on the ground grew deeper as I gained elevation. The last remnants of foot prints from previous hikers disappeared part way up the mountain. By the time I reached the summit, 3-4 inches covered the trail. Although the trail was generally pretty easy to follow, I had to pay attention a few spots to make sure I stayed on track. This isn't a problem when the ground is snowless however. 

Despite gaining around 900' from the trailhead, the climbing never seems to steep. The trail even loses some elevation when it departs from the beaver bog. The few inches of snow provided a greater challenge than the actual elevation gain. The snow was just deep enough to hide the rocks, roots, and ice; but not deep enough to pass over the obstacles. You never knew what you would trip or slip on just under the fine snow. 

The trail ends at a rock outcropping with open 180-degree views to the south. Unfortunately, low clouds and snow left me with pretty limited views. I could still see some of the lakes and ponds nearby in the valley, but the mountains in the area hid behind clouds. 

Besides a few ponds, not much to see from Jenkins
on this day

I traveled most of the hike in the cover of the woods with pretty tranquil conditions. At the summit clearing, wind blasted the mountain, making for an uncomfortable windchill. It was close to 30F, but the wind definitely felt unpleasant. With little to see I began my hike back down after just a few minutes. 

Choya on Jenkins

View on a previous hike with better visibility
toward the High Peaks

Another view from the summit on a better day

Whiteface on the left on a previous hike to Jenkins

Back in the cover of the woods, I enjoyed the forest scenery. It's hard not to appreciate the forest under snow cover, especially when it’s untouched and you have it to yourself. I broke from the trail at one point to get a closer look at a large ice flow on a cliffside. The short diversion was well worth it to get a close up look at the 20-foot tall ice flow.

Enjoying the snowy forest

Ice flow on a cliff

Choya waiting patiently 

As I returned back to the end of the beaver bog, I left the trail. Long Pond lies just a few hundred yards from the beaver bog on the other side of a steep esker. I bushwhacked to the top of the esker. The west side of the esker isn't too steep, but the side closer to Long Pond is quite steep and overgrown. Once I reached the top of the esker, I followed the crest of the esker, which travels parallel to the pond. A herd path or old trail travels along the esker, allowing for pretty easy travel apart from a cluster of blowdowns that I had to bypass. Sticking to the crest of the esker, I reached the south end of Long Pond at a point where the esker drops off to the pond on a very shallow pitch. The little detour cuts off more than a mile of trail that I already hiked. Following the esker provided a more interesting route.

Hiking along the top of the esker

At the southern end of Long Pond, I was back on trail. I soon reached the shore of Black Pond and hiked out the last stretch back to the trailhead. I stopped a few times to appreciate the view over Black Pond which had some interesting patterns on the ice. 

Interesting patterns on the ice of Black Pond

My route to Jenkins Mountain traveled just shy of 7.5 miles roundtrip. Without the bushwhack over the esker, the hike would approach 9 miles. Hiking from the main VIC trailhead would also make for about a 9 mile hike. Although not overly difficult, I'd consider the hike to be moderate, given the distance. Hiking with snow on the ground makes the hike a little more difficult, but on snow free trails, the hike isn't too difficult if you're comfortable hiking 9 miles.  Although I struck out on the summit visibility on my most recent hike to Jenkins, the summit offers pretty views. Lakes and ponds dot the valley with the High Peaks lining the horizon in the distance. 

Choya on the edge of Black Pond

Choya enjoying the view on Jenkins on a 
day with better visibility

Click Map to see a trail map and description of the trails in the area. 

If you enjoyed this post, check out and “LIKE” Tomcat’s Outdoor Adventures   where I post photos more often and revisit past adventures. 

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