Don't be fooled by the relatively low mileage of this trail to the second-highest mountain in New York. The last mile or so of the hike is a relentlessly steep climb on open rock. It is advisable to hike smaller mountains in the region before attempting this hike.
The shortest route to Algonquin Peak’s open summit is from the Adirondak Loj parking area.
- Elevation: 5,114 feet
- Elevation gain: 2,936 feet
- Distance: 4.3 miles to the summit
- Algonquin Peak is the second highest mountain in the Adirondacks. It is the highest mountain in the MacIntyre Range
- Algonquin's summit is home to fragile alpine vegetation — avoid trampling it by staying on the rocks at all times
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73 and follow it toward Keene. Take the first right after the ski jumps onto Adirondack Loj Road and follow it to the its end at the large parking lot. There is a fee to park here, and the lot is often full on summer days so get there early.
This 4.3 mile hike starts along the popular trail that leads to the former site of Marcy Dam. The path traverses rolling terrain to an intersection at the 1 mile point. Continue straight to head up Algonquin. The path gets steadily steeper and reaches an impressive waterfall at 2.6 miles.
After two steep, rocky sections the path levels out, then it makes a sharp left at 3.1 miles, where a sign warns hikers about rapidly changing weather conditions above timberline. Heed the warning — from this point on much of the trail is open and exposed to the elements.
Shortly after the sign the intersection with the trail up Wright Peak’s summit is reached at 3.4 miles. Continuing straight, the path up Algonquin’s summit cone varies from steep to very steep as it approaches tree line, after which it is completely open as it steeply approaches the summit at 4.3 miles.
The trail continues over the top of Algonquin, following the mostly open ridge to Boundary and Iroquois mountains, the latter of which it reaches in 1.1 miles. The view from Iroquois is especially striking — Algonquin’s rocky crown towers above it and the striking 1,000-foot cliff on Wallace mountain rises from Indian Pass below.
A loop option that includes a return through Avalanche Pass is also possible by taking the path to Lake Colden from the col between Algonquin and Boundary peaks, then turning left toward the pass. This is an extremely steep, rugged trail that will add significant time to the hike, so plan accordingly.
The trail from Adirondak Loj parking area is by far the most popular and direct winter route to the summit of Algonquin; the only other option would be a very long and difficult climb up from Lake Colden. From the Loj, start your hike along the wide, well-traveled trail to the former site of Marcy Dam. After 0.9 mile you will come to an intersection; continue straight toward Algonquin Peak.
The grade remains moderate but eventually gets much steeper as you start to climb the shoulder of Wright Peak. At around 3,800 feet in elevation a sign warns climbers of the risks of winter climbing. Soon you will pass by the Wright Peak trail on the left and start a much harder and steeper climb that will bring you to timberline.
At tree line it is a good idea to assess the conditions and make the ruling to go or turn back, and if nothing else, to be prepared for the arctic conditions you could face. You will have no shelter or protection from the elements until you get back to this location. While only around a mile, it is difficult terrain with full-on exposure.
Many winter climbers will continue along the ridge to tackle Iroquois Peak, 1.1 miles past the summit.
Elevation: 5,114 feet
Distance: 4.3 miles
Winter Obstacles to be Aware of
Heavy winds, arctic conditions, white-outs, icy conditions, and severe wind-chill above tree line can be witnessed and should be prepared for.
Bring snow spikes or crampons for higher elevations, where ice often persists through spring. Bring plenty of extra layers: wind and cold protection, balaclava, mittens, and goggles.
Algonquin in winter
Algonquin is a challenging mountain that should only be attempted by experienced hikers, especially in winter. Snowshoes are a must for much of the route, and snow spikes or crampons are necessary to climb the exposed upper reaches of the peak. Plan on the temperature in the higher elevations being at least 20 degrees colder than in the valley, not including the windchill. Bring several extra non-cotton layers, a headlamp with spare batteries, extra food, and supplies for spending the night in case of emergency.