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Backpacker Magazine – October 2010

The Peak: Mt. Marcy, Adirondacks, NY

Take the scenic--and sporting--route to New York's highest summit.

by: Berne Broudy

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Mt. Marcy forms the western wall of Panther Gorge. (Tim Seaver)
Mt. Marcy forms the western wall of Panther Gorge. (Tim Seaver)

It’s always about the journey, of course, but sometimes that’s more true than others. Such as on a climb of 5,344-foot Mt. Marcy, where you’ll shoot into the most peak-packed section of 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. The most sporting route is the 25.2-mile Great Range approach. You’ll scramble as much as hike as you tag eight of the range’s tallest 46 peaks.

Pack your bear canister (required) and start the three-day loop from The Garden trailhead at the end of John’s Brook Road in Keene Valley. Ascend 2.9 miles on the Southside Trail to the Wolf Jaws Trail, then set foot on the rocky spine of the Great Range, the most airy and view-rich traverse in the Adirondacks. Hike along the root-knotted ridge rising up and over Upper Wolf Jaw and Armstrong Mountain. Next stop: 4,736-foot Gothics, with backside cables to assist on the descent, then Saddleback and Basin Mountains. Camp at the old Sno Bird Lean-To site .8 mile past the summit of Basin, with room for three tents next to the brook.

Next day, intersect the Haystack Trail in .5 mile and follow it through stunted spruce over Little Haystack and Mt. Haystack, sucking in your first view of plunging Panther Gorge and Mt. Marcy to the west. At Four Corners, drop your pack and bag 4,926-foot Mt. Skylight (a steep, 1.2-mile out-and-back). And now the finale: Climb up 800 feet over loose rocks and scrub on Marcy’s bald southwest slope. Alpine vegetation carpets the summit area, with views of the rounded, tree-covered High Peaks, and diamond-bright lakes shining below. Camp at Slant Rock campsite beneath an overhanging boulder, then take the Phelps Trail 6.5 miles back to The Garden.

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Reader Rating: -


Aug 07, 2011

Nice write up and photos of your experiences. If anyone's interested in my experience this summer, I have a video of my climb, photos, gps trailhead coordinates and waypoints at my site

Dec 25, 2010

Are there any plans to create a downloadable trip of this itinerary with directions & waypoints? I would like to hike this during the Spring 2011 wildflower season and, while an experienced hiker, I've only truly "backpacked" a few times and' as trip leader, need as much knowledgeable guidance as possible!

Mike F.
Nov 14, 2010

I enjoy trail running and am always looking for a challenge. This past July I ran/jogged/walked to the top of Mt. Marcey from the Loj and back in a little under 5 hours (100oz Camelbak, three Powerbars) and loved every minute of it. It was about 72F and calm at the trail head and about 52F and very windy at the peak. Actually only about 7 miles of the 15 mile out and back trail from the Loj is very runnable. The scrambles force you to slow down a bit and recover for the next runnable stretch. The rocky sections make it slower coming down than going up. If you're a trail runner give it a try.

C. Kerchner
Nov 12, 2010

We took our Boy Scout Troop 377 (Reading, PA) to the ADK and hiked up to Mt. Algonquin (2nd highest) starting at the Loj. Fabulous hike; though as mentioned, quite a bit of scramling to get there. We're looking to go back and tackle Mt. Marcy, soon.

Scott Bahantka
Nov 11, 2010

I loved Mt Marcy!! Granted its a long day, 14 miles, but its a very do-able day hike! Great views, Park steward at the summit, not as crowded or busy as you may be led to believe.


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