Mount Colden has been known to be one of the more popular peaks in the High Peaks Region, 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.
This Adirondack 46 High Peak is number 11 on the list.
Colden has two main approaches, both of which get used rather heavily, but one more than the other. Both trails could be combined to make for an excellent, but very long loop.
Below are brief descriptions of the two routes, we recommend you pick up a guide book for more in depth detail or hire a local guide to assist you.
Primary Trailhead: Leave Lake Placid on Rte 73, follow Rte 73 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. ($10/day fee as of 2013)
This is a 12.0 mile RT with mixed terrain. This route starts out along a very busy and popular hiking trail that leads to Marcy Dam. From Marcy Dam you will continue on a well-used trail toward Avalanche Camps. Make a left and start a modest to steep climb up to Lake Arnold. Lake Arnold is one of the highest bodies of water in the Adirondack Park at just under 3800'. From here you will turn right and hike past and above the pond for some outstanding views. The terrain now gets very steep in sections but views are to be had as you get closer to the false summit. On cloudy days the false summit can be very deceiving and mistaken to the true top. From the false summit a slight descent to a steep climb to the rewarding Mount Colden views.
Secondary Trailhead: This is a 14.75 mile RT with a moderate to steep terrain. Follow the primary trail to Avalanche Camps and instead of heading toward Lake Arnold head toward Avalanche Pass. This next mile is referred to as "Misery Mile"; it's a bit steep, but not too bad. You will pass through Avalanche Pass where the temperatures are much cooler and make your way along Avalanche Lake. This trail along the lake is very demanding and consists of scrambling, boulders and numerous ladders. Once past the lake the trail moderates and descends to a register at a junction. Go left and along the shore of Lake Colden a bit before going left and starting a very steep and strenuous climb to the summit of Colden.
It is highly recommended that you use the two trails to make for a very rewarding loop.
12-15 miles RT (depending on route,) moderate to challenging, Elevation: 4714', Ascent 2850'
Family with Young Kids: Not recommended
Experienced Hiker: Primary trail - 4 to 4.5 hours to summit, Secondary trail - 5 to 6 hours to summit
Out of Shape Hiker: Not Recommended