The perfect trip for new hikers, kids, and first-time backpackers, Black Mountain is accessible, easy to navigate, and a relatively short hike for big views of Lake George and Vermont's Green Mountains. The NYSDEC trailhead off of Pine Brook Road (43.611765,-73.493109) offers ample parking and a trail register. Most visitors to this trailhead are completing the Black Mountain Out-and-Back or the circuit described in this post. The Out-and-Back variation is approximately one mile shorter, but does not get views south of Lake George or views of the Black Mountain Ponds and Lapland Pond. For the extra mile, I would strongly recommend the circuit hike.
Though at 2,641' Black Mountain is dwarfed by the 46ers to its west, the views from the summit are spectacular. The summit is made even more unique because of the active windmill and communications tower. The communications tower is blocked for access as it is currently used for search and rescue efforts.
I was surprised to see the well-maintained shelter at Lapland Pond as I was unaware of lean-tos in the area. The lean-to is shielded from winds by a grove of trees and is close to the pond and adjoining tributaries. This would be a great beginners backpacking trip or a great first winter backpacking trip as the miles are short, the terrain is gentle, and the trails are wide. For backpackers looking for a greater challenge or longer miles, signage marks a trail junction after Black Mountain Ponds. Heading south at the trail junction, mileage junkies can pick up two more peaks and a few more pond views on a circuit that includes Sleeping Beauty and Buck Mountain- two beginner's favorites. Detours to Shelving Rock Mountain and Shelving Rock Falls can also be included to add slightly more mileage. (Forewarning: the aforementioned circuit does include some distance on paved roads. Please use caution when walking on roadways).
Just completing the Black Mountain lollipop loop took Jordan and I approximately 3 hours with a break at the summit for photos and a break at Lapland Pond for a snack. The Black Mountain loop would also be suitable for trail runners in warmer months when the trail is not as muddy and covered with ice.