Rocky Peak Ridge offers outstanding views from its summit, and it is usually less crowded than its larger, more accessible neighbor, Giant. The trail from the east is said to be one of the finest in the Adirondacks, from a scenic perspective, but those views come at a price with significant elevation gain and loss over a series of smaller summits.
How to get there
There is a trail to Rocky Peak that leaves the Giant trail, but for those who are just looking to ascend Rocky Peak, the most direct parking area leaves from Lake Placid and follow Route 73 east for 27.5 miles, then turns left on Route 9 at the spaghetti junction and follow that for about 4.5 miles. The parking area and trailhead are on the left.
By the numbers
- Elevation: 4,420 feet
- Elevation gain: 4,700 feet
- Distance: 6.7 miles, one way
- Rocky Peak Ridge is High Peak #20
The East Trail is a scenic and demanding hike that follows a long, mostly exposed ridge as it goes over several lower peaks on its way to the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge. Along the way this trail gains, loses, then regains a lot of ground, adding up to a whopping 4,700 feet of total elevation gain. Hikers can also approach Rocky Peak Ridge by going over the shoulder of Giant Mountain. It's easier than the East Trail but still a strenuous hike. Both approaches should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs! The trail leaves the parking area and works its way up, following a stream at one point, to a lookout at 1.6 miles followed by a brief climb to the summit of Blueberry Cobbles at 1.9 miles. There is a trail junction shortly after the summit, with the left route passing more views and right descending more directly into Mason Notch, where the two paths converge.
Leaving the notch, the path climbs over the wooded summit of Mason Mountain at 2.8 miles, descends into another notch, then climbs steeply to the summit of Bald Peak at 3.9 miles. The 3,060-foot, open summit of this peak is a great place to turn around if you're already feeling tired from the hike — the trail is only going to get more difficult past this point.
Leaving the summit, the trail descends into Dickerson Notch, then it begins a long climb along the ridge to the top of the 4,060-foot Rocky Peak at 5.4 miles. After a few minor bumps the path descends to the outlet of Mary Louise Pond at 6.1 miles. There is a designated campsite on the left, just before the outlet. Leaving the pond, the trail climbs through open meadows to the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge at 6.7 miles.
There is a primitive tent site near the outlet to Mary Louise Pond, which is just below the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge. The waterbody is small and swimming is not recommended. The real attraction here is being able to camp so close to the top of a High Peak, which is a rare thing since camping is generally prohibited above 4,000 feet unless at a designated site.
Snowshoeing Rocky Peak Ridge in winter is a serious endeavor that should only be attempted after tackling a few of the area's smaller mountains. Snowshoes are required and will suffice on the lower reaches of the trail, but snow spikes are highly recommended on the steep, mostly exposed ridge and on the upper reaches of the mountain. The open stretches along the East Trail are particularly hazardous when icy and should only be attempted by hikers with the proper gear and with experience on steep, open, icy routes. This is especially important on the descent.
Expect a significant drop in temperature as elevation is gained, and be prepared for strong winds along the ridge line and on the summit. Always bring extra layers, especially for higher elevations, and don't hesitate to turn around if the weather starts to turn. Goggles and a face mask are highly recommended.