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Thread: Must Do Adirondack High Peak Hikes

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Must Do Adirondack High Peak Hikes

    Been lining up my usual list of Summer hikes I'd like to do this year and I want to include more peaks in NY. I was able to get out there for the first time last year, hit a few peaks and find a campground I like that works out for easy access to the popular trail heads (Heart Lake and The Garden) and isn't 9 hours from my house in CT. So I want to return this year and do 3-4 "classic" High Peak hikes. Not knowing much about the Adirondacks though I don't really know what those might be.

    So for the experienced New Yorkers here what would you say are the "must do" hikes in the Adirondacks High Peaks, i.e. the Katahdin via Knife Edge, the Franconia Ridge, etc of NY, and by which trails?? The only peak as of right now that I definitely want to visit is the Gothics because I have seen that one referenced in many places as being memorable.

    I have already done Mt Marcy via the Van Hoevenberg and Algonquin/Wright via Avalanche Lake and I do prefer to get above treeline if that sways any ones opinion of suggestions. It would also be highly likely that these would be done as day hikes as well. It is also highly unlikely that I will ever do the 46ers so the suggestions don't need to encompass any list requirement. Doing it strictly to see the best of what the High Peaks has to offer. Thanks in advance for any suggestions people might have.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 44/48; NY 46: 5/46

  2. #2
    Senior Member alexmtn's Avatar
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    I teamed with an ADK friend to lead an AMC group on a single-day Great Range traverse three years ago, entering at the Rooster Comb trailhead and exiting at the Garden. The peaks are amazing in their own right, but even more so to someone who's steeped in the Whites' interpretation of beauty. Both the peaks you're hiking and the ones in your views tend to be starkly more numerous, steeper and more closely spaced than "normal," and all the ledges and cliffs are done in a distinctive white-colored rock that my friend told me is anorthosite. The combined impact of these two contrasts is the same sort of otherworldly feeling that I get when looking at some of China's very exotic mountains and valleys.

    The "classic" version of this traverse includes Hedgehog, Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, and Haystack. It entails 21 miles of hiking, with approximately 8000' of elevation gain. You can shorten the hike by eliminating peaks off the end, or extend the size by adding peaks not usually considered to be in the Great Range, such as Marcy, Skylight, and Gray. If big single-day traverses aren't your thing, you can access some of the peaks "from the outside" over relatively short distances, or stay at the centrally located Johns Brook Lodge and hike the Great Range peaks from there.

    There's a natural tendency to compare the Great Range traverse with the Presi traverse in the Whites. The stats are roughly comparable, and in IMHO neither trip is "better" than the other -- each in its own way leaves you with a feeling of breathtaking awe. The Great Range doesn't offer the convenience and comfort (or unwanted blight depending on your tastes) of 2-3 huts and a full service visitor center that's usually packed with non-hikers, and the terrain is tougher, with a couple of cruxes solidly in Class 3 territory.

    Alex

  3. #3
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    The Great Range is certainly spectacular. I think it's made more so by the fact that there is SO MUCH packed into a single hike. We make a point off doing that every year (sort of a fitness test, as we age. If we can still do it, great!)

    But as you noted, it's a big endurance hike. If you are picking of individual peaks or smaller groups of peaks, I would aim for Gothics, and "HABASA" (Haystack - Basin - Saddleback).

    Outside the Great Range (and Alg - Wr which the OP has already done), I would aim for Dix (which has an impressive step ridge summit), Rocky Peak Ridge from New Russia (long hike, but a lot of open traverse with views), Phelps (easy hike, great view); and Whiteface (opportunity for non-hikers to drive up and meet you, impressive conical summit with classic "cirque-arête" geography.

    Also, don't forget the many "non-46" mountains here that are great (kind of like Monadnock and Chocurua are great): Noonmark, Hurricane, Pitchoff to name a few.

    Enjoy!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Trail Boss's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    What TCD said.

    A Great Range Traverse, as spectacular a hike as it is, is a big step up from your samplings of Marcy and some of the MacIntyre Range.

    Gothics is a worthwhile destination. I think the view from nearby Pyramid is more memorable and definitely worth checking out, especially if you're already on Gothics. You have a choice of ascent routes to Gothics:
    1. The "easiest" route is by way of the Beaver Meadows Trail. 95% of the route is in the woods and is "no drama".
    2. The Weld Trail goes up and over Pyramid to Gothics and features a few steep sections (but includes lovely Pyramid).
    3. The Ore Bed Trail features a lengthy staircase (if you're into that kind of thing) and then connects with the Range Trail along the so-called "cable-route". It's two long sections of steel cable, sheathed in garden hose, that serve as handrails (~200' in total). It's there to keep hikers from treading on the nearby krummholz. It's a very scenic ascent but can be challenging if the weather or trail conditions are not in your favor.
    4. You can also approach Gothics via the Range Trail from the north. However, you will first have to ascend over Upper Wolf Jaw and Armstrong.

    If you start from the east side (from the Ausable Club), you have options to create a Gothics-loop (i.e. up Weld down Beaver Meadows). If you start from the west side (from the Garden), loop options must include additional peaks (Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw).
    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.1...=15&b=oo&a=mba

    If you want more of the "above treeline" experience, you should head to Haystack. It's about 9 miles from the Garden. It's about the same distance from ADK Loj but there's more ascent involved (mostly in re-ascending Marcy's shoulder on the return leg). If you have access to two vehicles, an interesting hike would be in from the Loj to Haystack and then out to the Garden. Mileage and ascent are virtually the same as an "out and back" from the Garden, but you get to see more terrain.
    http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.11...9396&z=15&b=oo


    Gothics viewed from Sawteeth. Pyramid is in the foreground.


    Summit of Gothics.


    Upper Great Range and Gothics viewed from Pyramid.


    Same view from Pyramid in summer.


    TCD's suggestion for a Giant-RPR Traverse is spot on. Easily one of the most beautiful and memorable hikes in the High Peaks. Head west-to-east to save about a 1000 feet of elevation gain. Head east-to-west if you like your hikes to end with the tallest peak.
    http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.14...8303&z=14&b=oo


    Along the way to RPR and Giant from New Russia.

    Skylight has a wonderful feeling of remoteness ... and for good reason. It's a long walk from any of the major trailheads. It's dome-shaped and has a substantial alpine zone (although it's small in comparison to what you experience in the Whites).


    Relaxing on Skylight

  5. #5
    Senior Member Charlie's Avatar
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    Agreed the Great Range is a must and also a worthy yearly "fitness test" for sure as TCD mentioned. There are so many options to break it up into parts and so many directions to come from. A personal favorite of mine is from the Ausable Club Road to Gothics first because you just can't beat the awe inspiring view you get when you first crest Pyramid Peak.

    I also like Basin and Saddleback from the Garden - link

    Honorable mention and again in agreement is Giant. It's a great view of the rest of the High Peaks from a somewhat distant vantage point.

  6. #6
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    If one of your days you are tight for time and need a shorter hike with a great view I recommend "Hurricane"!
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  7. #7
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Thanks for the ideas. I'd be hiking alone though so a car spot is out. I'd have to do loops or out and backs. I'll research these further. Seems like near unanimous approval.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 44/48; NY 46: 5/46

  8. #8
    Senior Member TEO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Thanks for the ideas. I'd be hiking alone though so a car spot is out. I'd have to do loops or out and backs. I'll research these further. Seems like near unanimous approval.
    In my experience, car spots are unusual in the Adirondacks—most of the car shuttles would be too long to make much sense. You can't go wrong with any of the previous suggestions.

    Trail Boss's suggestion of Gothics/Armstrong/Upper Wolf Jaw from the Ausable Club, ascending via the Weld Trail & Pyramid Peak was my first hike over there. Even though we were in the clouds all day, I was hooked immediately on the Adirondacks. (Fortunately, I've been back up Gothics when there were better views.)

    I would add two things:

    1) Don't expect the Adirondacks to be like the Whites. You're not going to get the long, continuous, above-treeline terrain stretches that you'll find on the Presidentials, Franconia Ridge, the Twin-Bonds, and the Baldfaces. That said, the hikes are no less spectacular.

    2) Another one of the Whites/Adirondacks differences is that, for the most part, the approaches are much longer in the Adirondacks. Fortunately, they tend to be gradual. So don't be scared off too much by bigger mileage days.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEO View Post
    In my experience, car spots are unusual in the Adirondacks—most of the car shuttles would be too long to make much sense. You can't go wrong with any of the previous suggestions.

    Trail Boss's suggestion of Gothics/Armstrong/Upper Wolf Jaw from the Ausable Club, ascending via the Weld Trail & Pyramid Peak was my first hike over there. Even though we were in the clouds all day, I was hooked immediately on the Adirondacks. (Fortunately, I've been back up Gothics when there were better views.)

    I would add two things:

    1) Don't expect the Adirondacks to be like the Whites. You're not going to get the long, continuous, above-treeline terrain stretches that you'll find on the Presidentials, Franconia Ridge, the Twin-Bonds, and the Baldfaces. That said, the hikes are no less spectacular.

    2) Another one of the Whites/Adirondacks differences is that, for the most part, the approaches are much longer in the Adirondacks. Fortunately, they tend to be gradual. So don't be scared off too much by bigger mileage days.
    Definitely noticed that on my first few hikes. The mileage, especially with how gentle the early miles can be, doesn't bother me. And there are so many rivers to filter water that you can go very light for a large portion of the miles too. I have to say the lack of substantial above treeline cruising, especially after doing my first visit to Baxter State Park prior to doing the NY hikes I did, did make for a bit of a disappointment. But I'm just scratching the surface in NY. Only done Marcy (in the clouds), Algonquin and Wright. Views were fine but the crowds were absolutely insane (both SAT hikes and I realize they're the popular ones). I was a bit bummed out. Haven't had the "wow" moment yet (although Avalanche Lake was close).
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 44/48; NY 46: 5/46

  10. #10
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Here is a list 'we' compiled of the 'easier' ADK peaks.

    http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/f...es-in-the-adks
    Tom Rankin
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  11. #11
    Member sleepy_mike's Avatar
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    As mentioned above, with the sometimes long approaches it has been fun to backpack and stay for a night or two while doing the mountains. Backpack in to Bradley Pond and do the Santanonis. Or backpack in to Ward Brook leanto and do the Sewards. Or backpack in to Feldspar Brook leanto and do Cliff, Redfield, Gray, Skylight. Or backpack in to the Elk Lake area and do McComb and the Dixes.
    These areas will give you a good feeling of isolation and being away from the crowds. To me this has very much been the difference between NH and the Adirondacks. Instead of day hikes, these became camping trips with mountain climbing during the days.
    NE 115; Kilimanjaro

  12. #12
    Senior Member jrbren's Avatar
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    Debatably my favorite Adirondack hike is a loop involving Pyramid & Gothics. Pyramid is probably my favorite single view in the Adirondacks, photos already given above. For a little more climbing and adding a mile or so you can add Sawteeth. I have done this hike a few times from St. Huberts parking area. It's been a few years though.

    Given I think you are an experienced mountain hiker and off trail hiker, I do not think any of these should be beyond your scope, try a slide. My favorites that I have done (I only consider these when I think conditions will be dry) :

    1.) Colden Trap Dike (very popular, I think I read somewhere it is the #1 spot for SAR incidents. In any case, it is easy to underestimate). Get beta on route details, trick is to know when to get out of the dike and onto the slide face. I seem to recall 3700' but check that out, don't rely on my memory. I have done this several times, allot of fun when dry and I get out at the right spot. If you stay in too long it can become an arduous bushwack. When wet I find it scary, but I am not a technical climber.

    2.) Colden East Slide - Easy to pick up from either end from the main trails. I have gone up this a few times, and it makes a nice descent route if you go up the dike. My partners may debate that, it is steep on spots, but I find the rock grippy, when dry.

    3.) Giant Eagle Slide - Nice way to dodge the crowds of the main trail going up. Very steep, but doable when dry (for me).

    4.) Nippletop Slide - I found the bottom to be pretty daunting so I bush wacked around the 1st cliff or 2. The upper half of the slide is among the best views anywhere, IMHO.

    I did not encounter any other parties aside from the popular trap dike. These slides are big differentiator from the Whites, at least hikes I have done. North Slide on Tripyramid or Huntington Ravine Trial comes close.

    I used to hike in the Adirondacks allot from ~1991-2013, then I moved to MA from greater BTV and have only back a couple of times since. Those are the hikes I miss the most. Many other nice ones mentioned by others. Hard to go wrong.

    Have fun.

    My 2 cents.

    Edited to add I am assuming you are proficient and in practice for map & compass and altimeter for the slide climbs. Many on this forum swear by GPS, if that is your weapon of choice to stay found, have at it. They involve off trail travel with some spots where the herd path is not obvious.
    Last edited by jrbren; 03-08-2017 at 08:49 PM.

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    Lots of good suggestions above. One detail that I didn't see was to note that the Ausable Club approach to Gothics is on private land. There is a foot travel easement, but no dogs are allowed. I mention this just in case you do normally hike with a dog.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Cascade is a great hike & not hard, I would avoid Saturdays though.

    A doable day hike, can be done of Sawteeth, Pyramid and Gothics up by Beaver Meadow Falls & descending the trail that comes down between Gothics and Armstrong

    Big Slide and the Brothers, many question if a great view can be had from Gothics as you can't see it while on it (why Sawteeth & Pyramid is a good option) Big Slide & the brothers provide a view from Across JBL.

    You may be able to find a person interested in joining you on a Giant & RPR trip as I did with TCD. Huge amounts of blueberries on the RPR descent

    Haystack & Basin along with Dix are great summits, Haystack is my 2nd favorite, after Katahdin.

    Several small ones are great two, Hurricane, Hopkins, Moxham in the central area, Vanderwhacker, Noonmark and Ampersand.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Willie's Avatar
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    I've always enjoyed Colden via the Loj. Not too demanding of a hike. Nice summit to enjoy lunch and the views.
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