Rip & Go: Five Mountain Loop – Adirondack High Peaks, NY

Trek to the trail-free summits of Macomb, Hough, and The Dixes

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Do It
Forty-six peaks in the Adirondacks rise higher than 4,000 feet. Locals call them “46ers,” and you’ll tag five on this 17.3-mile loop. From a parking area on the south side of NY 73, seven miles south of Keene Valley, access the unsigned (and unnamed) but easy-to-spot trail (1). Head southwest past a killer swimming hole to cross the North Fork of the Bouquet River at mile .7 (2). From here, the trail weaves through ferny undergrowth to another crossing at mile 3.3. Just beyond are three tent sites (Note: There are also multiple tent sites before mile 3.3) (3). Camp here and rest up for a big day two. In the morning, top off your water; this is your last reliable water source for the next 10 miles. The trail gets steeper and rockier and peters out at mile 4.7, at the base of the East Dix slide (4), where a 35- to 40-degree rock slab leads .3 mile to the open summit of East Dix (5). Note: If it’s raining, skip the steep scramble for a faint path to the right of the slide’s base.

At the 4,012-foot summit, follow cairns and blue markers southwest along the ridge for a mile to the top of 4,060-foot South Dix (6). From here, drop 500 feet to a saddle (7) between South Dix and 4,405-foot Macomb Mountain. A spur leads to Macomb (8), the day’s third 46er. Return to South Dix and head north to 4,400-foot Hough Peak (9). Beyond, the forest transitions to birch and stunted balsam as you climb steeply toward 4,857-foot Dix Mountain. Reach the Beckhorn (a false summit) at mile 8.9 (10), then continue to the top (11). Descend the steep and rooty Dix Trail 1,600 feet to a traverse of the Dix Slide at mile 9.9 (12); Do not attempt in the dark. The trail levels out beyond here and reaches the Bouquet lean-to at mile 11.2 (13). Camp here for one more night out (first-come, first-serve). From here, it’s a gradual 4.2-mile descent to the road (14), then 1.9 miles east to your car.


Trip Planner
Driving From Keene Valley, drive south on NY 73 seven miles to a bridge over the North Fork of the Bouquet River. Park in a pullout on the left, immediately after the bridge. Beware: The parking entrance is rough. Late August is primo (no blackflies).

Gear up Get everything from fuel to crampons, rent a pack and poles, and browse the region’s best map selection for ADK trails at The Mountaineer (1866 NY 73, Keene Valley, NY; 518-576-2281;

None required.

Key Skill
Slide Hiking
At mile 4.75, you’ll encounter East Dix slide, a vertiginous, 850-foot-long rock slab. It’s the most exciting–and dangerous–section of the hike. Follow these steps to ascend with ease:

1) Shorten your trekking poles for a more stable plant, and use the wrist straps so you can let go of the pole to scramble on all fours for short sections.
2) Maintain a low and forward center of gravity by keeping your knees bent and relaxed and your hands slightly forward. If you use a chest pack for your camera, move it to your pack and stuff the heaviest items closest to your back.
3) Test footing and handholds before committing. Sections of trickling water can be slippery. Slide your foot back and forth with part of your weight on it while balancing your upper body with your poles. If it slips, search for another hold.
4) Use the rest step; it’s not just for high-altitude peaks. Step forward onto your left leg while keeping body weight on your right leg with your knee locked. Pause before transferring your weight to your left leg. Then step forward. These micro-rests between steps will enable you to ascend steadily without burning out.


See This

Geologists believe that this rock, one of the oldest on Earth, formed when North America and Europe split, bringing billion-year-old magma to the surface. East Dix slide, an 850-foot-long swath, is one of the best places to see the bumpy, blue-gray rock. The slide is significantly older than the peaks surrounding it, which are a comparatively youthful 10 million years old.

Locals Know
The Adirondacks, and the Dix Wilderness in particular, are hotbeds for rare birds (almost 300 total species have been sighted here). “Boreal bird habitat is rare in the continental U.S.,” says Phil Brown, publisher of Adirondack Birds: 60 Great Places to Find Birds. “The black pole warbler, Swainson’s thrush, American pipet, and black-backed woodpecker are most often seen in Canada and Alaska. But we have them here, too, thanks to pockets of boreal habitat in the High Peaks.” In shady stands of stunted spruce, like on the slopes of Hough, listen for the soft rat-a-tat tapping of the black-backed woodpecker, or the call of the yellow-bellied flycatcher, which makes itself known with a kill-ink, tu-wee, or when it’s feeling territorial, a confident brrrt sound.

On The Menu

Breakfast 1
On the road
Lunch 1
Peanut butter and banana on a pita
Dinner 1

Great Slide Salmon Pasta
Breakfast 2

Cranberry Lake Tabbouleh
Lunch 2
New York sharp cheddar and summer sausage on a pita
Fig Newtons, almonds

Great Slide Salmon Pasta
An easy, Asian-inspired, one-pot meal 8 ounces rotini
3 ounces pink salmon
1 small carrot
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 ounce soy sauce (or 4 packets)
1 teaspoon pepper

Boil four cups water. Sliver carrot and chop salmon, cucumber, and pepper. Add pasta to water. A minute before it’s done, add carrot. Drain, add rest of ingredients (soy sauce and pepper to taste), toss, and eat.

Cranberry Lake Tabbouleh
A fruity breakfast
5 ounces tabbouleh
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in pot with one cup water. Cover and boil. Remove from stove. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.

The Grocery List (Aisle #) In nearest store below
3-oz. jar honey (1)
8-oz. jar peanut butter (1)
1 pack pitas (2)
1 pack Fig Newtons (2)
8 oz. dried cranberries (3)
8 oz. rotini (3)
1 box tabbouleh (3)
3-oz. salmon pouch (back shelves)
8 oz. New York cheddar (dairy)
8 oz. summer sausage (meat case)
8 oz. almonds (produce)
2 bananas (produce)
1 carrot (produce)
1 cucumber (produce)

Pack: salt, pepper, soy sauce, olive oil

Valley Grocery Store
1815 NY 73, Keene Valley, NY;
(518) 576-4477

Noonmark Diner Get a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie at the counter; then pore over the menu. We like the Hector (ham, egg, and cheese on homemade bread) with a short stack on the side. 1770 NY 73, Keene Valley, NY; (518) 576-4477, (570) 476-0132

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