Balanced Rocks is a very popular destination along the Pitchoff traverse. Pitchoff Mountain is home to one of the few trails in the entire Sentinel Range Wilderness, the impressive wild area to the right of Whiteface Mountain when viewed from Lake Placid.
Note: The parking area for Pitchoff often fills quickly, especially in the summer. Consider choosing a less popular, and less crowded, trail. The State Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of a multi-year effort to reduce hiker congestion, and Pitchoff Mountain is included in this effort. Parking areas may change over the next few years.
How to get there
From the intersection of Route 73 and Route 86 in Lake Placid, follow Route 73 toward Keene. Continue on Route 73 for 7.5 miles to the Pitchoff West Trail.
By the numbers
- Distance: 1.6 miles, one way
- Elevation: 2,900 feet
- Ascent: 850 feet
Starting on the West Trail for Pitchoff, the route climbs steadily above Route 73 before leveling off along a lower ridgeline. Look to the right during this level stretch — there are two spots with nice views of Upper and Lower Cascade lakes, which stretch like two inky ribbons far below. A third overlook is located just above a steep scramble. It provides outstanding views of the new #7 slide - created during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 - and the namesake cascade waterfall on Cascade Mountain.
After a slight descent, there is a nice view through the canopy of the Balanced Rocks above. After passing through a low area that's usually muddy, (please stay on the trail by walking through the mud; this will avoid widening the trail and damaging the surrounding vegetation.) the trail swings up and left. It crosses the base of an old slide and continues steeply up, circumnavigating the ledges below Balanced Rocks. Be aware that there are a couple of well-worn herd paths in this area. For safety, do your best to stay on the marked trail by bearing left at these junctions. A steep climb over rocky and eroded terrain ends at the three-way junction with the 0.1 mile spur trail to Balanced Rocks. Turn right to reach the rocks. The rocks are glacial erratics — debris left behind by the last glacier to pass through the region.
The many rocky sections will be slippery in winter. Bring snowshoes and microspikes as conditions require. This trail is not suitable for cross-country skiing.