“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way” –Dr. Seuss
Big, bold, and beautiful, the Adirondack High Peaks have been a magnet for explorers for more than 150 years. The original list of High Peaks included the 46 Adirondack mountains that were higher than 4,000 feet in elevation. Later, it was determined that one mountain had been overlooked and four of the original group were actually a little lower than 4,000 feet.
These days, people seeking the coveted 46er patch must summit the mountains on the original list. All but four of the High Peaks are located in the Lake Placid/Keene-Keene Valley area. The other four, Seymour Mountain and the Seward Range, are located a bit to the west.
Roughly twenty of the High Peaks do not have a marked trail to the top. On those mountains unmaintained, unmarked herd paths have developed over the years. These paths are generally easy to follow, but anyone attempting them should know how to use a map and compass. Hikers are urged to buy a good hiking guidebook or to hire an Adirondack guide.
Learn more about the High Peaks and read on to see some of our top picks for peaks that won’t take you all day to complete.
Keene Valley, NY
Moderate – Difficult: ~6 hours
Roundtrip: 9.6 miles
NOTE: The Garden Parking Lot will be closed for Spring/Summer 2019. Hikers and backpackers may gain access to the Garden Trailhead by parking at the Marcy Field Parking Lot (just north of Keene Valley on Route 73) and using the Town of Keene Shuttle. The bus will transport hikers between the parking lot and the trail head. This will be the only means for accessing the Garden Trailhead during the closure period. The Town of Keene plans to operate the Shuttle from 7 am to 7 pm seven days a week. The cost will be $10 round-trip per person ($13 Canadian). However, due to the current lack of bus drivers this schedule may be reduced. Please check the town website for up-to-date shuttle schedules.
This is a moderately difficult hike over open rock and steep terrain, but the views of the Great Range, especially from The Brothers, can’t be beat. Parking is limited at the popular Garden parking area, which fills early in the summer, so have a backup plan when setting out to hike Big Slide. A shuttle bus is often available during the busiest times of year. The best way to climb Big Slide is to make a 9.6 mile loop by going up the mountain via The Brothers — a scenic series of three smaller mountains — then returning by way of Johns Brook Valley.
Directions: 21.9 miles | 36 minute drive
Turn left out of the Golden Arrow. Turn right at the second light (Sentinel Road.) Continue on 73E to Keene Valley. The trailhead is located at the Garden Parking Lot.
North Elba, NY
Moderate: ~6 hours
Roundtrip: 8.2 miles
Phelps can be found east of Marcy Dam and north of Mount Marcy. Resting in the heart of the High Peaks Wilderness Area it boasts some of the best views in the park. The hike starts from Heart Lake and follows a highly used trail that leads to Marcy Dam. Marcy Dam offer outstanding view of the High Peaks and Avalanche Pass. From this point the hike continues to follow the Mt. Marcy Trail before heading east on the Phelps Mountain Trail at a junction 1.0 miles from Marcy Dam. The Phelps Mountain Trail is quite steep and at times feels very arduous. You will have outstanding views as you approach 4000’ feet in elevation. Don’t stop at the viewing rock, this is not the true summit; the summit is located through the trees and at a large viewing shelf. Breathtaking views of Mount Marcy, The MacIntyre’s, Mount Colden, and Mount Haystack and beyond are waiting for you here.
Directions: 8.7 miles | 20 minute drive
Turn left out of the Golden Arrow. Turn right at the second light (Sentinel Road.) Continue on 73E towards Keene. Continue for just over 3-miles to Adirondack Loj Road on the right. Follow here to the end at Heart Lake and the Adirondack Loj.
Roundtrip: 9.4 miles
Primary Trailhead: This is a 3.9 mile hike, one way. From the trailhead you descend a bit to a very long and steep climb up Marble Mountain. The Marble Mountain section used to be an old ski slope and you will be able to see that one way – old cement footers still line the trail. From the top of Marble Mountain you will come to an intersection, left is the secondary trail outlined below. Right is the route you will want. After a short break on a flatter section you will start a demanding climb through an evergreen forest that opens up a few views along the way. After about 1.5 miles you will come to a rather large cairn at a trail intersection, this is the herd-path to Esther Mountain. Making this right onto the herd-path you will climb a bit to the summit of Lookout Mountain where you will have outstanding views to the north. From the summit of Lookout you will descend for a while to a col between Lookout and Esther. The climb out of the col isn’t too dramatic, but tends to seem to drag on a bit before it reaches the summit. Be sure to not stop at the false summit prior to final push, this can be easy to do when visibility is poor. There is a plaque on the summit in commemoration of Esther McComb.
Directions: 15.4 miles | 25 minute drive
Turn left out of the Golden Arrow. Stay straight on 86 toward Wilmington. At the four-way stop, turn left onto Route 431 (Whiteface Mountain Road). Follow for 2.4 miles. Turn left on to Marble Mt Road towards the Atmospheric Science Research Center. Follow this road around the one-way roundabout to the trail on the right, just past a dirt road that descends into the woods. The trail is not labeled with a DEC sign, and there are no signs or markers until one reaches the marked trail at the summit of Marble Mountain.
Secondary Trailhead: This is a 5.7 mile hike, one way to the summit. This route is used as equally to the primary, and offers a marked trail at the start, but more elevation gain. From the trailhead you will hike through an attractive open forest along a well-trodden foot trail. The grade isn’t too steep at first, but after an intersection at 1.3 miles the trail swings right and climbs steeply to Marble Mt. and a junction with the primary trail at 2.2 miles.
Directions: 13.4 miles | 21 minute drive
Turn left out of the Golden Arrow. Stay straight on 86 toward Wilmington. At the four-way stop, turn left onto Route 431 (Whiteface Mountain Road). Follow for 0.6 mile to Reservoir Road on the left, drive to the end and park.