Lake Mary Road opens up a world of outdoor activities. You can rent horses at the riding livery. You can rent boats and paddleboards to splash in the waters of Lake George. You can also hike any number of trails and find amazing views. In fact, the views start before you are even out of your car.
Macleod Lake - At the top of Lake Mary Road, the Horseshoe Lake parking area provides access to the Mammoth Pass trail head. McLeod Lake is a short 1/2-mile jaunt up the trail (one way), while you can continue on through Mammoth Pass to Red's Meadow if you walk about 3.5 miles.
We've seen a number of lakes that were beautiful but didn't exactly beckon you to jump in for a swim. All of them had us swatting away mosquitoes constantly. In contrast, McLeod Lake left us wishing we had come earlier in the day with a beach towel and a picnic! After a walk around the lake, we found a sunny rock that was about the same shape as a lounge chair!
Emerald Lake - The Emerald Lake trailhead is up Lake Mary Road in the parking area past the Coldwater Campground. There is plenty of parking here, even on a busy day in the summer with the Mammoth Brewfest going on and summer vacation crowds in full swing. The trailhead is clearly designated, and a prudent set of rules are posted.
The trail is easy, steep enough to let you know that you are hiking in the mountains, but easy enough that you can march right up to the lake and back in short order. It is a beautiful location filled with friendly people and lots of dogs, and mosquitos near the water in the summer!
Bottomless Pit, Dragon's Back, and Seven Lakes Point Trail - The guide books describe this hike as having "a view to die for" and "not so slippery as greased ball bearings", so my wife and son sent me off on my own after checking that I had paid the premium on the life insurance. The trail head can be found in the Twin Lakes Campground near site 31.
This trail doesn't mess around. After a quick bit of flat behind campsites 31 and 34, it starts up a series of switchbacks. In less than 10 minutes, you're looking down on Twin Lakes.
The trail is fairly well marked, but, without my wife to navigate, I'm lucky that I made it back alive. I did OK at the first turn, clearly marked by a post. As the trail nears the Bottomless Pit, the view improves.
The Bottomless Pit is a sheer ravine with a hole in the bottom. In the summer, it looks like this.
Now, this is where the journey gets fun. Amazed and enthralled by the terrain around the Bottomless Pit, I naturally assume the trail continues around it to give views from all angles. Of course, I do not see the much easier trail that is right behind me and clearly marked until the return journey. So, instead of taking the "Easy Trail", or the "More Demanding" trail, I take the "Wrong Trail". Pictured below is the "Wrong Trail".
Here is the sign clearing marking the trails behind me.
After a quick scramble around the Pit, and a second scramble up the side of the mountain above, I fortunately rejoin the main trail just before the section described as having "views to die for" and "not so slippery as greased ball bearings". From the bottom, this short section of trail looks fairly benign.
Just past the midpoint, I was glad that I wasn't walking the crest of a ridge. The mountainside full of large, loose rock hanging above me was comforting compared to the slide to my right.
I was happy to begin climbing up the switchbacks to the Dragon's Back overlook. Looking back, the entire section of trail through the scree looks like this.
From here, it is a short, sharp climb up to fantastic views that stretch as far as Boundary Peak in the White Mountains of Nevada. Turning your back on this view, one last scramble up the dragon's spine, and you arrive at Seven Lakes Point. The name comes from the fact that you can see lakes George, Mary Jane, Mamie, Horseshoe, the pair of Twin Lakes, and TJ.
The walk back can be down the "More Demanding" trail pictured above, or you can loop arond on the "Easy Trail". Keep an eye out for this rock on the "Easy Trail", and let me know if the little tree has split this large boulder.