MacNaughton or “MacNaughty” as it gets called so often is a very obscure hike to a 4000 footer that never made the 46 High Peaks, due to being shown as just under 4,000 feet on the 1903 era maps from which the original list was made. MacNaughton is a somewhat popular climb by those working on the 46 High Peaks and the Adirondack 100 Highest – it is not a typical hike for everyone. While being obscure and very demanding, only those with adequate hiking experience should move forward to climbing this peak.
The payoff is decent views from a couple viewing areas and the hike is filled with mixed terrain and required bushwhacking and route-finding skills. Not for the light-hearted and it is recommended that a guide be hired to help aid in the location.
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, follow Route 73 toward Keene. Take a right onto Adirondack Loj Road and follow it to the end.
From the Adirondack Loj parking area hike back to the toll booth and get on the trail to Indian Pass. The trail to Indian Pass follows along the Shore of Heart Lake before moving away from the lake and starting a moderate hike over rolling hills. You will pass by many side trails that should be avoided – Mount Jo, Heart Lake Loop, and Rocky Falls.
In a short period of time you will hike past Scott Clearing Lean-to and then to Scott Clearing. Scott Clearing is a nice spot for a break before you start a serious climb up to Wallface and Scott Ponds. You will take the trail that leads west out of the Clearing which is on the downhill side of the old dam. From here the climb is steady and very steep in sections to Scott Ponds. Past Scott Ponds the trail gets very wet and you will need ample balance to pass through some of the wet areas.
Once at Wallface Pond the trail ends at the shore. Looking to your left is a path to a campsite. This path continues through the campsite and through a thick forest to a crossing of an outlet of Wallface Pond. The herd path continues on the other side and continues to be easy to follow for a short period of time. Soon the herd path will disappear and you will need to take a bearing.
DO NOT take a bearing straight at the summit, it will be a very thick and unforgiving bushwhack if you do. Aim for the middle summit along the ridge. The woods are much more open and easy to get through.
The terrain will be some of the steepest you have possibly encountered up to this point in your hiking career. Once on the ridge a herd path will lead right and left. Follow right to a rocky overlook. This is not the summit, the path continues for about another 0.25 miles to the true summit where a summit sign usually resides. The summit is a small rock shelf with a nice view of the Sawtooth Range. The summit is at the far north end of the long ridge.
As you can see, this mountain is relentless and demanding with a very difficult approach and finish. For more information on MacNaughton you can pick up a copy of The Other 54 by Spencer Morrissey at a local bookshop or outdoor retailer. Again we cannot stress enough that this should only be attempted by experienced hikers with the possibility of a guide in service.
Family with Young Kids: Primary Trail – Not Recommended
Experienced Hiker: Primary Trail – 4 to 5 hours to summit
Out of Shape Hiker: Primary Trail – Not Recommended
Once at Wallface Pond the trail ends at the shore. Looking to your left is a path to a campsite.
Find out more
Read our blog post, Is it MacNaughton or MacNaughty? You Decide.
Most Popular Winter Trailhead
Indian Pass Trail and Wallface Ponds Trail
Round Trip Distance
Average Round-trip Time
10 to 12 hours
Winter Obstacles to be Aware Of
This is a full on bushwhack from Wallface Ponds, be aware that there is most likely no trail broken out. In fact, the trail past Scott Clearing may not be touched very often either. Waterproof jacket is essential to stay dry from falling snow from the trees.
MacNaughton is not technically a 46 High Peak, but upon completion of the 46, MacNaughton is on many hikers radar. MacNaughton is by far one of the most difficult if not THE most difficult of the High Peaks. Its seclusion, lack of consistent usage, and lack of a defined trail and route make this a sure-fire challenge for even the most experienced and fit snowshoers.
From the parking area return to the toll booth and cross the road to access the Indian Pass Trail. Follow this well-developed trail as you circle around Heart Lake, on your left. Passing by the trails to Mount Jo, Rocky Falls and a couple designated ski trails you will come to the Scott Clearing Lean-to. Scott Clearing is not that far away from this point. It has been a steady but easy uphill hike most of the way.
At Scott Clearing locate the trail on the right for Scott and Wallface Ponds. This trail gets very little use in the winter and if it is broken out it’s by a group that is trying to attempt or has climbed MacNaughton recently. To reach the ponds it is nearly all uphill and at times a bit steep. If it is not broken out expect very deep and possibly unconsolidated snow.
Once at Wallface Pond, the trail ends. In winter, many hike on the ice along shore to access the herdpath that is located between Upper and Lower Wallface Ponds. The herdpath at this point is very hard to follow but it does give a clearer path through the woods than without, the difficulty is finding it. At the base of MacNaughton where the climbing really begins the herdpath disappears and you are on your own to find your own way. From here the slopes are very steep and it will be hard to get footing in unconsolidated snow. This will be the most demanding part of the day. DO NOT head straight for the summit, it is unforgivingly thick and hard to pass at any time of the year. Instead aim for the center of the long ridge and locate the herdpath along that ridge and head to the right to the signed summit. Modest views can be had from the summit.