Lower Wolf Jaw is the first High Peak along the Great Range Trail and has five distinct approaches to its summit. The views are pretty good even though the summit is mostly wooded. The Wolf Jaws got their names because a painter, Alexander Wyant, said the deep col between them resembled a wolf's jaw.
This hike is accessed through a conservation easement with the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). A parking reservation is needed from May 1 - October 31. Although it is called a “parking reservation,” everyone will need a reservation to access hikes leaving from AMR, whether you drove yourself, rode a bike, got dropped-off, or walked. These reservations can be made online via the AMR website. For more information, please read these FAQs or contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
By the numbers
- Elevation: 4,175 feet
- Elevation gain: Depends on which trail is taken. See below.
- Distance: Depends on which trail is taken. See below.
- Lower Wolf Jaw is High Peak #30
- Follow Leave No Trace principles
The are many different approaches to Lower Wolf Jaw. We're going to describe three. It is highly recommended you pick up a map and guidebook to learn more about each route.
This is part of the St Huberts parking area/trailhead. Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, follow Route 73 through Keene and Keene Valley and into Saint Huberts. Parking is across the road from the Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead for Giant Mountain. This approach is on private land of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). Dogs are absolutely prohibited in this preserve. (If you do want to take your dog, use the secondary trailhead from the Garden.)
This is 4.2 miles, one way, with a moderate to steep ascent. From the parking lot you will initially have to follow a dirt road to a paved road. At 1/2 mile from the parking area and just before reaching the main club house, turn left and down between two tennis courts on Lake Road Way to get to the gate into the AMR. The AMR is a private property area with recreational easements, special rules apply to use and those are posted at the gate.
Following the West River Trail, the footpath starts right behind the gatehouse. It follows the bank of the Ausable River, featuring views of distant mountains and river pools. 2 miles from the parking lot, you reach the Wedge Brook Trail. From here, the trail climbs steeply to a possible campsite 3.2 miles from the parking lot. Once again, the trail starts climbing steeply to a cut off with the State Range Trail which leads to Upper Wolf Jaw. Follow the trail to the right to climb very steeply to the summit of Lower Wolf Jaw, where decent views can be had to the north and west.
- Distance from AMR parking: 4.8 miles, one way
- Elevation gain: 2,825 from Lake Road
From the Garden
This route leaves from The Garden in Keene Valley; there is a small parking fee at the trailhead. Parking is limited and fills up early most weekend mornings. Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, continue through Keene and into Keene Valley and turn right at the sign for the High Peaks at the Ausable Inn and follow Adirondack St. to Johns Brook Lane. It is 1.6 miles from Rt. 73 to the Garden with the last 0.2 miles on a narrow dirt road.
This is a 7.1 mile hike, one way with a mixture of terrain. From the Garden parking area, the trail is mostly flat with gentle climbs past an intersection with the Southside Trial (not maintained) at 0.5 miles. Continuing straight you will be hiking along a portion of rolling hills till you drop steeply into Johns Brook Valley with a trail register at the junction. Johns Brook Lodge is to the right, but the most direct route to Upper Wolfjaw goes left past the DEC Interior Outpost to a bridge over Johns Brook. Stay straight immediately after the bridge and begin the climb up to the ADK Range Trail.
From the Outpost, you'll climb steady and pass by two campsites within 0.4 and 0.6 miles. Around one mile from the Outpost, cross over a debris field from a slide. The trail climbs moderately from here until it reaches the intersection of the trail coming from AMR 2 miles from the Outpost. Follow the trail to the left to climb very steeply to the summit of Lower Wolf Jaw, where decent views can be had to the north and west.
- Distance from the Garden: 5.6 miles, one way
*Note: Lower Wolfjaw can also be accessed by climbing the Bennie's Brook Slide. This is only for experienced climbers as it involves off-trail travel and climbing on open, exposed rock slab. For those who are prepared, Bennie's can best be accessed from the Garden parking lot.
From Rooster Comb
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, follow Route 73 toward Keene. Continue through Keene and to the outskirts of Keene Valley and look for the trailhead for Rooster Comb on the right.
This is a 5.0 miles, one way hike over varied terrain. From the Rooster Comb parking area, cross the long bridge over the beaver dam and sign in at the trail register. You will hike past a small pond to your right and start a moderate climb. The climb will remain moderate to the junction with the trail to the summit of Rooster Comb at 2.0 miles.
Past this junction, the climbing is steeper to the summit of Hedgehog Mountain, which offers no views. A short descent will bring you to a junction with the W.A. White Trail at 3.5 miles. Turn right to continue the climb up to the summit of the Wolf's Chin. The Wolf's Chin is not a 46er High Peaks but a small knob on LWJ. The descent off the Chin is very steep which brings you into a deep valley where an exceedingly steep climb brings you up LWJ.
- Distance: 5 miles, one way
All three trails are a steady climb and proper winter gear is necessary, including snowshoes, microspikes, and/ or trail crampons. The entire trail from Rooster Comb may not be broken out after a snow, so be prepared for a long day of breaking trail.