Haystack is one of the most demanding hikes of the 46 High Peaks due to its rugged terrain and hiking distance. The summit of Haystack is a bald dome in the shape of a stack of hay. Its appearance is not like the other High Peaks in the Adirondacks.
*If you are hiking Haystack as part of a Great Range loop from AMR, this hike will require a parking reservation from May 1 - October 31. Please plan accordingly.*
By the numbers
- Elevation: 4,960 feet
- Haystack is the third highest High Peak
- There are two main approaches. Please see individual trail distances and parking locations below.
Primary Trailhead (Phelps Trail): This route leaves from The Garden in Keene Valley; there is a small parking fee at the trailhead. Also, parking is limited and is usually full early on weekend mornings. On most busy weekends a shuttle bus brings hikers from the alternate parking at Marcy Field lot north of Keene Valley, but be aware that this is a long hike and one may return after the last bus. Leave Lake Placid on Rte 73, continue through Keene and into Keene Valley and turn right after the Ausable Inn and continue for 1.6 miles, the last 0.2 mile on a narrow dirt road.
This is an 8.8 mile hike, one way, with a mixture of demanding terrain. From the Garden Parking Area, the terrain is gently rolling hills till you drop steeply into Johns Brook Valley at 3.0 miles. Making a right into the valley you will continue a bit further to Johns Brook Lodge. Continue straight past Johns Brook Lodge and head toward Bushnell Falls. Avoiding the side trail leading to the base of the falls, continue to the junction and go left and down and now with red markers to cross Johns Brook. As you pass by the Bushnell Falls lean-to the grade will be moderate but a continuous climb to Slant Rock. From Slant rock you will climb steep and steady to the intersection with the Marcy Trail. Continue left and climb very steeply to an amazing view of the Haystacks. From here it is a slight descent to the base of the tree line. From here you will be totally exposed to the elements all the way to the summit. First you climb Little Haystack and then descend to a col before an open rock climb to the summit of Haystack.
Second Trailhead (Marcy Trail): This route leaves from the Adirondack Loj. From the intersection of Rte 86 and Rte 73 in Lake Placid follow Rte 73 through Keene and Keene Valley, take a right onto Adirondack Loj Road – first right after the ski jumps. Follow to the end at the hiker parking area, where there is a fee to use the lot.
This is a 16.5 mile round trip hike with a moderate climb. Starting from the Loj parking you will pass by Marcy Dam where excellent views of the High Peaks can be had. The trail then follows along Phelps Brook before it enters its steepest portion up to Indian Falls. From Indian Falls you will enjoy a very moderate ascent up to the trail intersection with Haystack at 4,900 feet. From here you will have to descend quite a bit to 4,200 feet to reach the Phelps Trail mentioned above.
Haystack alone has a long ridge by climbing over Little Haystack. Along here you can expect heavy winds and whiteout conditions with a deep wind chill. In the col between Little Haystack and Haystack can be tricky and slippery. The climb out is steep and the ridge can be windblown with little snow coverage, but ice may be present nonetheless. Be sure top have snowshoes, microspikes, and/or trail crampons. Before parking lots are maintained in winter.