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Backpacker Magazine – June 2012

Mountain Map: Adirondacks - The High Peaks

Get a field-scouted tour of the High Peaks.

by: Kim Phillips

The Adirondacks (Image from Google Earth)
The Adirondacks (Image from Google Earth)

They're not tall, but they're tougher than snot. The steep, rocky, rooty beasts at the heart of northern New York's 6.1-million-acre tract of deeply wild forest arguably present the toughest hiking terrain in America. Dive in head first with our primer for the best hiking in and around the 'Dack's 43 4,000-footers.

Great Range Loop
Views of the High Peaks are dominated by the Great Range, an imposing chain of eight 4,000-foot peaks 12 miles southeast of Lake Placid. While many hikers choose to gaze at it from easier trails, those who tackle this demanding 11.2-mile lasso will trace the range’s airy ridgeline to three of its northernmost summits. Pick up West River Trail and amble southwest along the East Branch Ausable River through hemlock and beech. The climbing ramps up on Gothics-Armstrong Trail, gaining 2,700 feet in the 2.4-mile stretch to Gothics’s 4,736-foot summit. Hike north across slabs and krummholz to 4,400-foot Armstrong Mountain. Descend ledges on the back to finish the day’s climb on 4,185-foot Upper Wolfjaw. Trip ID* 840435

Giant’s Nubble
Need a quick fix? Scale the 2,760-foot knob on the flanks of Giant Mountain to see head-on views of the Great Range’s rolling, granite-topped peaks. Get there on a 3.6-mile point-to-point that ascends the Ridge Trail, past wood sorrel and raspberries, to Giant Washbowl, a cliff-rimmed pool stocked with brook trout. Crest the Nubble at mile 1.3, then return on Roaring Brook Trail. Trip ID 938224

Macomb Mountain, Hough Peak, & The Dixes
Sharpen your routefinding skills on this burly 17.3-mile loop that links a set of faint, unmarked trails to the tops of five 4,000-foot peaks. Trip ID 368779

Rooster Comb/Snow Mountain
Swarms of hikers buzz the slopes of popular Noonmark Mountain, leaving nearby peaks people-free. Veer north three miles to tag two of its quieter neighbors on a 6.3-mile loop. Climb 1,700 feet in 2.5 miles to 2,789-foot Rooster Comb, then hike east to tackle a short, .3-mile scramble to 2,360-foot Snow Mountain with eastern views of Giant Mountain. Trip ID 307753

Mt. Marcy
There’s no better place to scope out the High Peaks than from the tallest vantage point in the state. Climb it on a 14.2-mile out-and-back only 20 minutes south of Lake Placid. Follow the Van Hoevenberg Trail south 2.1 miles to the wooded banks of Marcy Dam. Bear left around the east side of the lake for a 5.1-mile ascent that hits treeline at 5,000 feet and ends on Marcy’s roomy, 5,344-foot rock crown. Trip ID 34982

*Get free GPS data and print custom maps by adding the Trip ID to

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Reader Rating: -


Aug 08, 2012

My family just got back from climbing Mt. Whitney and we thought boy are the Daks going to be easy in comparison. Yikes! Was I humbled. They are a challenge to be sure. Much more difficult than out west. We are 38R's so far and confirm they are a formidable goal that you will never regret! Some of the most majestic views from the summit and most amazing character we have ever experienced! Highly recommend it.
Happy Hiking!

Aug 08, 2012

Why doesn't the MacIntyre Range get any respect? Especially coming up the backside by Lake Colden. Now that' than snot.

Aug 03, 2012

I have no issues with Kim's calling them tougher than snot. I don't know how they compare with mountains around this great nation, other than some hiking I did in Rocky Mountain National Park, (which had much easier trail conditions, BTW), but as someone who's hiked 39 of the 46 "high peaks", I do feel that they're difficult. While not nearly as illustrious as a fourteener out in Colorado, these trails are covered in spider-webs of slippery wet roots that aim to send you on your ass at a moment's notice, knee-deep chocolate pudding-like mud that'll suck poorly-laced boots right off, ankle-twisting boulder-fields that double as streambeds, perilous algae and wet leaf-covered rock slides, head walls, downed trees, body-scratching and shoelace-untying thick cripplebrush/pines and more! Then tilt all of the stuff I just mentioned onto a 45-degree angle, and you tell me that it isn't tougher than snot? Really?

Aug 02, 2012

Snow was my first climb in the High Peaks. Pretty easy climb, relatively speaking, but with some nice views.

Aug 02, 2012

"...tougher than snot?"

C'mon, Kim! And - more importantly - C'mon, Backpacker editors!

It's not that I'm offended. It's just that ... well ... "tougher than snot" ... Really?

Aug 02, 2012

Tougher than snot? Really?


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