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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.
Adirondack Trails: High Peaks Region ($20, adk.org)
Adirondak Loj Wilderness Campground on the shores of Heart Lake ($35 for two people). adk.org
Peak to view Marcy
Climb 4,960-foot Mt. Haystack, via 3.5-mile-long Bartlett Ridge from Warden’s Camp. You’ll see Panther Gorge’s deep void and experience airy solitude punctuated by the High Peaks.
Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, famous for its pies and killer milkshakes. noonmarkdiner.com