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31 August 2014

Hiking in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks


In mid August 2014, I enjoyed 5 days of hiking in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks.  During this timeframe, I was able to squeeze in treks to 9 destinations.  This region has a mindboggling array of hikes from which to choose.  While sorting through this huge collection, I tried to choose destinations that would provide an assortment of high elevation and low elevation hikes, as well as a variety of locations within the High Peaks Region.  The map below provides an overview of the places where I finally chose to hike.
Map showing places where I hiked (Click/tap to enlarge map)
These hikes were not done as an overnight backpacking experience.  Instead, my wife and I stayed at a place in the Village of Saranac Lake, NY.  It provided a centralized location for my hikes, as well as a setting for the types of things that my wife enjoys doing.

A strong case could be made for writing 9 separate blog reports for each of the hikes.  However, I've opted to prepare just one rather lengthy report by considering this as one BIG hiking adventure that just so happened to span a 5-day period of time.  I suppose this is a rather odd way of looking at it, but so be it!

And, just one other tidbit of information is worth mentioning in this introduction section.  This report will make frequent mention of mountains on the Adirondack 46ers list, and on the Saranac Lake 6ers list.  Shown below are links that provide a listing of the peaks on those lists.


1) Phelps Mountain (4,160 ft) is one of the mountains on the Adirondack 46ers list.  It  provides splendid views of Mts. Marcy and Colden, plus many other mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks Region.

For details about hiking to Phelps, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  This was my first time to climb an Adirondack 46er peak!

Phelps Photos:
View from Phelps showing Mt. Colden (left) and peaks in the MacIntyre Range (right)
Another view from Phelps: NY's highest peak (Mt. Marcy) is on horizon at far right

2) Ampersand Mountain (3,353 ft) takes its name from nearby Ampersand Creek, so named because it twists and turns like the ampersand symbol.  Although Ampersand isn't one of the high peaks on the Adirondack 46ers list, it is one of the six peaks included on the Saranac Lake 6ers list.

For details about hiking to Ampersand, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  At 8:30 AM, I was first person at the trailhead parking lot and as a result I had the entire mountain to myself for about half an hour before droves of hikers began to arrive at this very popular destination.  When I arrived back at the trailhead, the parking lot was filled, plus cars were parked on the shoulder of the road!

Ampersand Photos:
Misty morning view of Ampersand Lake with Seward Range in background
Another typical vista from the bare summit of Ampersand Mountain
3) Giant Mountain (4,627 ft) Giant Mountain is the twelfth highest peak in New York State, and as one might suspect, it's on the Adirondack 46ers list.  The present-day name is shortened from its original moniker of "Giant of the Valley", which was bestowed due to its huge presence overlooking the Keene Valley.

For details about hiking to Giant Mountain, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  I was enthralled by the many views available while hiking along the very well maintained Ridge Trail to Giant Mountain.  And, I was amazed at what a relatively easy hike it was to this 4,627 ft peak.

Giant Photos:
Trailside view en route to Giant Mtn.  Chapel Pond (left); Great Range on horizon
Another trailside vista with peaks in Dix Range on horizon at center/left
Looking down Roaring Brook Valley from top of Giant Mtn; nearby peaks in Great Range are just left of center
View of Rocky Peak Ridge from a point near the top of Giant Mtn
4) Hopkins Mountain (3,156 ft) provides a spectacular view.  On a clear day, there are reportedly 22 major peaks that are visible, and some say that it has the best view of the Adirondack High Peaks from a non-high peak summit.

For details about hiking to Hopkins Mountain, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  The views were indeed outstanding, and I was totally surprised by the beauty of the mountaintop itself.

Hopkins Photos:
Nearing the summit ledge on Hopkins Mountain
Top of Giant Mountain (on horizon), as viewed from Hopkins Mountain
Loved this view from Hopkins (Ausable Lakes Valley with Colvin Range on left and Great Range on right)
5) Big Crow Mountain (2,815 ft) was a short hike that I did after a much sooner than expected completion of the hike to Hopkins Mountain.  The hike to Big Crow was done rather hurriedly, and as a result I really didn't have time to do it justice.  Nor did I have time to visit a nearby peak named Little Crow, nor to do what appears to be an interesting 5.6 mile loop that leads over the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge, plus a peak named Weston Mountain.

For details about hiking to Big Crow (and the 5.6 mile loop), click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  Knowing that my time was limited, I opted to access Big Crow from the trailhead located at the end of O'Toole Lane where it's only about a 0.5 mile hike to the summit.  However, the impressive steepness of the climb was unexpected!

Big Crow Photos:

Views were great from Big Crow, but only managed to take one worthwhile photo which highlights a brilliant blue sky with nice cloud formations!
6) St. Regis Mountain (2,874 ft) is located at the center of the Saint Regis Canoe Area in the Adirondacks.  It is one of the six peaks included on the Saranac Lake 6ers list.  Many people consider the view from St. Regis as being among the best in the Adirondacks.

For details about hiking to St. Regis Mountain, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  As often happens in the mountains, the weather wasn't as nice as it was predicted to be.  As a result, my viewing experience was less than ideal.  However, it was still a very enjoyable hike, and despite the hazy conditions, I can understand why many would consider the views from St. Regis as being among the best in the Adirondacks.

St. Regis Photos:
A typical vista from St. Regis showing many lakes in foreground with high peaks on the horizon
Another of the many expansive vistas from St. Regis Mountain
7) McKenzie Mountain (3,861 ft) is excluded as one of the ADK 46er high peaks, even though it's actually higher than Mt. Couchsachraga (3,820 ft) which is a 46er peak!  Regardless, McKenzie is included as one of the six peaks on the Sarancac Lake 6ers list.

For details about hiking to McKenzie Mountain, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  I knew beforehand that this mountain has a double peak.  Nonetheless, I was somewhat astounded by the steep descent from the lower peak and subsequent steep ascent of the main peak.  And then I was hit with the realization that this would need to be done in reverse on the return leg of the hike!  Fortunately, I like scrambling over steep ledges, and this hike certainly provided a lot of that!

McKenzie Photos:
Looking at the main peak of McKenzie Mountain from the top of its lower peak
This was the misty view that greeted me upon arrival at the top of McKenzie Mtn!
Eventually the mist dissipated enough to get a few views, such as this one looking  toward Lake Placid.
This photo attempts to show the steepness of some of the ledges along the trail to McKenzie Mountain.  The trail is at the bottom of the big black hole in the center of the photo!
8) Haystack Mountain (2,878 ft) is located near the Village of Saranac Lake and is a considerably lower mountain than the more famous Mt. Haystack which stands at 4,960 ft and is one of the high peaks on the ADK 46ers list.

For details about hiking to Haystack Mountain, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  Although viewing conditions were overcast and hazy, the vistas from this mountain far exceeded my expectations.  I would definitely consider making a return visit, but only on a bright sunny day!

Haystack Photos:

This rather hazy view from Haystack features Mt. Marcy on horizon (right of center) which is flanked by peaks in the Great Range on left
A highly zoomed image of some peaks in Great Range (Gothics, Saddleback, etc), as seen from Haystack
9) Silver Lake Bog Preserve actually offers two hikes in one.  The trek begins with the Bog Walk which is a 0.5 mile segment of very well-constructed boardwalk.  You then transition to a 0.6 mile hike along the Bluff Trail which is a conventional hiking trail that leads through a hardwood forest to a bluff overlooking Silver Lake.  From this viewpoint, some of the more conspicuous peaks that can be seen are Whiteface Mountain, Catamount, and Silver Lake Mountain.

For details about hiking at the Silver Lake Bog Preserve, click HERE.

Most memorable aspect:  The half mile of boardwalk at the beginning of this hike was a remarkable piece of workmanship.  And, the vista from the bluff was another case of where my expectations were far exceeded.

Silver Lake Bog Preserve Photos:

View from the bluff overlooking Silver Lake.  On distant horizon are Whiteface Mtn and Ester Mtn
Typical scene along boardwalk at beginning of hike at Silver Lake Bog Preserve


One Day in America said...

John, this was fun to read. I liked the way you composed this post by giving: 1) a short synopsis of the hike, 2) a link to the hike's description, and 3) your most memorable aspect of the hike—for each of the nine destinations. Nicely done!
And the pictures were amazing, as always. Looks like you had a very rewarding trip to New York.
I'll bet fall color season would be a spectacular time to return for more Adirondack hiking!

1HappyHiker said...

Rita . . . thank you so much for providing feedback on the layout of this blog posting. Believe me, there was a lot of deliberation about how to present this series of hikes! Somehow, it didn’t feel right to prepare 9 separate reports. But on the other hand, it seemed like it could be unwieldy to lump them all into one report. Anyway, the format that I ended up using seemed like a reasonable way to keep the report to a manageable size, and still display enough information and photos to provide readers with a fairly good idea about the character of each hike.

And yes, Autumn in the Adirondacks is spectacular. But of course, it’s equally impressive in NH, ME, and VT! Too many choices! :-)

Thanks again!

Steve Smith said...


What a fantastic report! Great summary in photos and words of what must have been a highly rewarding five days of trekking. The Giant is one of the great ones. I've long wanted to do St. Regis and McKenzie. Thanks for bringing them to life! It sounds like you will soon be a Saranac 6er if you're not already!

I'm delighted to see that you have been enjoying the Adirondacks. The options over there are limitless, and there is MUCH more than the High Peaks area to explore. If only they were a little closer...

Thanks for sharing your explorations.


1HappyHiker said...


Thanks for your enthusiastic compliments about my report!

You are so right on target by saying that “The options over there are limitless, and there is MUCH more than the High Peaks area to explore.” However, considering the hours it takes to drive to the Adirondacks from here in NH, I suppose one has to be content with relishing a few days here and there to hike in those magnificent mountains. Then again, since we both live in the heart of the White Mountain Region of NH, perhaps it would be difficult to classify us as being pitifully ‘mountain-deprived’! :-)

Regarding becoming a Saranac 6er, I only need to climb Scarface Mountain to qualify. As you know, I’m not a ‘list-driven’ person. Nonetheless, chances are good that Scarface will be climbed on my next visit to that region!

And lastly, should you ever decide to hike the McKenzie/Haystack duo, as you might already know, there is a shorter/easier way of doing this than the traditional route. Will be happy to supply details.


Ellen Snyder said...

What a wonderful post John. And such a gift to the rest of us who have yet to visit these places. You've focused our attention on a suite of really nice hikes. One more set for the "To Do" list. Thanks!


1HappyHiker said...

Ellen, thank you for such kind words about my blog posting!

As I think you would likely agree, we are so blessed to live here in the Northeastern part of the U.S where we have access to our beautiful mountains here in NH, as well as to the equally attractive mountains of ME, VT and the Adirondacks of NY.