Pilot Knob Mountain – Hiking Trail – Lake George, NY

Pilot Knob Mountain is the peak directly south of Buck Mountain on Lake George, NY. To hike it, drive to the Buck Mountain trailhead by taking Ridge Road (9L) to Pilot Knob Road (County Road 38), take it for 3.4 miles, and look for the trailhead on the right. Primary outdoor recreation included hiking and dog walking. Parking was free and abundant but water and restrooms were not provided. My cell phone struggled to maintain service and GPS coordinates while on the trail. There was a register which was important to sign in to because there were several trails that started from this trailhead.

The hike to the top of Pilot Knob Mountain was about 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet; from 400 feet to 1,800 feet. The trail was not identified by the state of New York so it took a little bit of work to find. As a result, it was less popular than Buck Mountain and which meant it was a quieter and more peaceful experience. At the first intersection, we continued straight and followed the trail to Inman Pond.

From the trailhead, we hiked towards Inman Pond somewhere between 0.5 and 0.7 miles before turning right onto the trail to Pilot Knob. The intersection to look for was marked with a plastic ribbon on a tree and near the base of an incline. On the day we most recently hiked it, the ribbon was orange as seen below.

At the intersection with a ribbon, we took the trail to the right.

Once on the trail, we looked for and followed trees with yellow and red markings. At all times, we were able to see markings both in front and behind us.

Unlike the Buck Mountain trail which inclined gradually, this one inclined aggressively from the beginning and never tapered off.

In addition, the trail was rocky and full of tree roots. I do not recommend carrying a child in a carrier because of both its steep climb and rugged terrain.

I have hiked this about 10 times. One of its nice features has been that at the half way point we got views of Lake George whereas the Buck Mountain trail has not offered views until the very end.

On the edge of the trail, we spotted some blueberries.

Closer to the summit, we saw a beautiful orange flower. My best guess was that it was a Turk’s Cap Lily, do you think that is correct?

Unlike Buck Mountain, the summit was not clearly defined because there was not an official summit marker. We walked to the south side of the peak and set up a picnic on a large rock (seen in the foreground). The forested peak in the background of the next picture was a different one just south of Pilot Knob.

The pictures on this page were taken the second week of July 2010, which may have been the hottest, haziest, and breeze-free day I have ever experienced on Lake George. As a result, the view from the top was muted and we didn’t stay long because the sun was zapping our energy.

The video below was a 360 degree look from the top.

In sum, the hike up Pilot Knob has always been fun, challenging, and less popular/crowded than Buck Mountain. Additional Lake George hiking trails include Amy’s Park, Buck Mountain , Inman Pond , Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve , and Thomas Mountain and Cat Mountain.

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8 thoughts on “Pilot Knob Mountain – Hiking Trail – Lake George, NY”

  1. Yellow and Red are now Gray (Grey). Pretty crappy color to chose as it is very difficult to see on the trees.

  2. Just did Pilot Knob Mountain today. What is the mountain in your video? I thought I was on the top of Pilot Knob, I came around a corner and there was another peak with no real trail to it. There was a trail down the back side of Pilot Knob, but it was not marked at all.

    I think I made it to the top, but I’m not sure…

    I was in the same place where you made your video.

    Did I make it to the top?

    Thanks for the help,
    Mike

  3. Mike, yes, my video was taken from the summit. It sounds like you made it to the summit too. Pilot Knob doesn’t have an official summit marker like Buck Mountain so it’s hard to know where its highest point is.

    1. You stopped at the false summit. The true summit of Pilot Knob is a bushwhack to that peak in the background in picture 10 and marked by a cairn. Once on the false summit, continue down to the col, and then start a bushwhack to the true summit. Just stay on the ridge and you should make it. The summit is not very big and is treed in but there is a small rock cropping that offers views.

  4. Numerous people think Pilot Knob Mt is open/bald at the top as seen in the pics herewith but is not. Pilot Knob Mt is the next mt. to the south. Both mts are on private property, hence the reason NYS does not have any trail markers nor official summit marker.
    Approx 200 ft below the top of Pilot Knob Mt is the site of the Mohawk Airlines plane crash in Nov 1969 and some fuselage remains.
    See the official US Geological topo map for the official Pilot Knob Mt. The mt to the north of Pilot Knob is not named on the map.
    Happy Hiking,
    Ross ( a 50 yr local)

  5. The ribbon is no longer there and the intersection labels are not there either. We had an extremely difficult time trying to find this trail and when we did, it appeared that it is overgrown and we could not tell where the trail was (there were two gray markers and one yellow marker) and then nothing. Hike Buck Mt. instead and avoid all of this confusion.

  6. My brother and I hiked up this mountain today. We had done Buck Mt. earlier in the week and were looking for something more adventurous.

    The hike up to Pilot Knob is not a walk in the park like it used to be according to this article. Almost every blaze is either grey, as noted above, or extremely faded. It was a good deal of fun trying to find the trail. The views along the way are still spectacular, and I find them to be definitively more plentiful, and possibly more enjoyable than the two views afforded by the hike up the adjacent Buck Mt.

    If you’re not in the mood for a little dead reckoning and adventure, I’d say stick to Pilot Knob’s slightly taller and well marked Buck Mt.
    But, if you’re up for a change of pace, bush whacking, great views and mountain climbing give yourself a shot at this peak.

    -Typed on the summit

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