Mount Colden

This Adirondack 46 High Peak is number 11 on the list.

Mount Colden is one of the more popular mountains in the High Peaks, but this is mostly due to its more formidable approach, the Trap Dike. While the Trap Dike is an excellent approach and was the first route used to reach the summit by Robert Clarke and Alexander Ralph back in 1850, it is best not to attempt it without proper training and/or a guide. Colden has two main approaches, both of which get used rather heavily. Both trails could be combined to make for an excellent, but very long, loop.

Below are brief descriptions of the two major routes up Colden. These can be combined to make a long, rugged, and scenic loop. We recommend ascending on the Lake Arnold trail, then continuing over the summit to descend to Lake Colden and Avalanche Pass for a spectacular 13.7 mile loop.

Colden via Lake Arnold

The first 2.3 miles of this route are easy and follow the popular and often busy trail to the former site of Marcy Dam. From the remains of the dam — it was destroyed by hurricane Irene in August 2011 —continue on the well-used trail toward Avalanche Camps at 3.4 miles. Make a left and start a modest to steep climb up to Lake Arnold. At just under 3,800 feet, Lake Arnold is one of the highest bodies of water in the Adirondacks. Turn right and hike past and above the pond for some outstanding views.

From the turn it's 1.4 miles to Colden's summit. The terrain gets very steep in sections, but there are views as the path approaches the mountain's secondary summit. Note that the trail doesn't actually go over this rocky outcrop, but instead bears left at its base. Make the descent to the base of the true summit, then climb steeply to the rewarding Mount Colden views.

Trailhead: Leave Lake Placid on Route 73 and follow it toward Keene. Take the first right after the ski jumps onto Adirondack Loj Road. Follow this road to its end and park at the hiker trailhead. There is a fee to park here. Take note, this lot often fills early on nice days. The next closest place to park is about a mile down Adirondack Lodge Road.

Distance: 6.3 miles to the summit

Elevation: 4,714 feet 

Ascent: 2,535 feet

Colden via Avalanche Pass

This longer approach passes through Avalanche Pass — some of the most striking scenery in the Adirondacks. Follow the Colden via Lake Arnold trail. At Avalanche Camp, 3.4 miles from the trailhead, bear right to head toward Avalanche Pass. This next mile is referred to as “misery mile." It’s a bit steep, but not too bad.

At Avalanche Pass, turn right to follow Avalanche Lake's extremely rugged shore. This trail is very demanding and consists of scrambling, boulders, and numerous ladders — allow a good hour just to get through this section. Once past the lake, the trail moderates and descends to a register at a junction at the 5.8 mile mark. Head left and follow the shore of Lake Colden a bit before going left again to start the very steep and strenuous 1,950-foot climb to the summit of Colden.

Trailhead: Leave Lake Placid on Route 73 and follow it toward Keene. Take the first right after the ski jumps onto Adirondack Loj Road. Follow this road to its end and park at the hiker trailhead. There is a fee to park here. Take note, this lot often fills early on nice days. The next closest place to park is about a mile down Adirondack Lodge Road.

Distance: 7.4 miles to the summit

Elevation: 4,714 feet 

Ascent: 2,535 feet

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