This is a moderately difficult hike over open rock and steep terrain, but the views of the Great Range, especially from The Brothers, can't be beat. Parking is limited at the popular Garden parking area, which fills early in the summer, so have a backup plan when setting out to hike Big Slide. A shuttle bus is often available during the busiest times of year.
How to get there
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, heading east toward Keene and Keene Valley. After about 19 miles, in downtown Keene Valley, turn right at the large wooden DEC sign for the Garden parking lot. This turn is also about 12 miles from Exit 30 on I-87.
Note: There is a small fee to park at the Garden. Parking here is limited and the lot fills up early most weekend mornings, especially in summer. On busy weekends, there is often a shuttle bus that runs from the overflow parking lot at Marcy Field, just north of Keene Valley on Route 73.
By the numbers
- Elevation: 4,240 feet
- Elevation gain: 2,800 feet
- Distance: 4 miles to Big Slide's summit via The Brothers; 5.6 miles via the Johns Brook trail. Total loop: 9.6 miles
- Big Slide is the 27th highest of the Adirondack High Peaks
The best way to climb Big Slide is to make a 9.6 mile loop by going up the mountain via The Brothers — a scenic series of three smaller mountains — then returning by way of Johns Brook Valley.
From the trail register at the Garden parking area, turn right and continue climbing past the trail junction for Porter Mountain. Shortly after a pretty brook crossing, the path begins a steep ascent to an overlook on the First Brother at 0.8 mile. This view is the first of many along this extremely scenic route. After ducking back into the woods, the trail passes a couple more views before climbing steeply over open rock to the summit of the 2,940 foot First Brother at the 1.5 mile mark. Take time to enjoy the view — this perch is 1,437 feet above the parking area!
Now that the ridge has been gained, the climbs aren't as strenuous until Big Slide is reached. Leaving the summit of the First Brother, the path dips gently into a col, levels off, then climbs briefly to the mostly open and slightly higher summit of the Second Brother at 1.7 miles. The trail remains level for a bit, then descends past a couple more ledges before climbing moderately to the summit of the Third Brother at 2.7 miles, elevation 3,681 feet. Be sure to check out the view of Big Slide from this vantage point — it's the shark-fin-shaped mountain that's straight ahead.
Continuing on, the path descends gradually and eventually levels out. This is the calm before the storm. The trail soon begins to climb moderately to a junction at 3.8 miles. Left is the descent into Johns Brook, right heads to the summit of Big Slide. Turning right, the path immediately becomes very steep, so much so that there are large wooden ladders (more like steep log staircases) in place to aid hikers. Be sure to check out the herd path to the left. Carefully following it a short distance leads to an outstanding view of the peak's namesake slide, an impressive strip of open rock on the face of the mountain. The relentless incline eases after this side trail and the summit, with its impressive view of the Great Range, awaits at the 4-mile mark.
For the loop, simply head back down the trail, and instead of turning left to return over the Brothers continue straight down into Johns Brook Valley. Turn left and follow the scenic, rolling path back to the Garden, bearing left at the four-way junction for the DEC interior outpost. For a longer hike, continue straight over Big Slide and on to the seldom-visited summit of Yard Mountain. Take the path from Yard down into Johns Brook Valley and turn left to head back to the Garden.
Big Slide is an excellent snowshoe excursion after you've tried a few of the area's smaller mountains. Snowshoes will suffice in Johns Brook Valley and along the lower portions of the mountain, but snow spikes are a must on the steeper sections, especially along open areas and near the summit.
Expect a significant drop in temperature as elevation is gained, and be prepared for strong winds on the open sections, especially at the summit. Always bring extra layers, especially for higher elevations, and don't hesitate to turn around if the weather starts to turn.