Saddleback is often climbed along the Great Range Trail with Lower Wolf Jaw, Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong and Gothics or Haystack and Basin. The views are outstanding, the climbs are packed with memories and the routes are so rugged and demanding, that you can’t help but have a great time. This summit offers near 360 degree views. There is one very demanding section on the backside of Saddleback known as the Saddleback Cliffs. This short section calls for all hands on deck and a lack of fear for exposure. The route described below is the most direct route and while steep does not involve any cliff climbing.
This Adirondack 46 High Peak is number 17 on the list.
This is a 7.1 mile hike, one way with a mixture of terrain. From the Garden Parking Area you will be hiking along a portion of 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. Just past Johns Brook Lodge is a trail on the left that drops down to cross Johns Brook and the Ore Bed Brook, this can be tricky in high water situations.
This short section of trail will bring you to five corners. The Ore Bed Trail that leads up to the Great Range Trail is the one to the right. Straight is Wolf Jaw Notch, angling left is Short Job, left is back to the Garden along the Southside Trail. The Ore Bed Trail is very straight forward but a bit demanding. The first portion is along a well-used trail, but the upper portion where it gets steeper has received a facelift by Hurricane Irene. The upper portion is not a slide. Steps and ladders have been put into place to make the trek a bit safer and easier. The top of the Ore Bed Trail leaves you between Gothics (left) and Saddleback (right). Head right and continue a steep climb over a false summit of Saddleback to the true summit of Saddleback.
Primary Trailhead: This route leaves from The Garden in Keene Valley; there is a small parking fee at the trailhead. Also, parking is limited and fills up early on most weekend mornings. Most weekends there is a shuttle bus from the overflow parking at Marcy Field north of Keene Valley, but make sure to be able to return before the bus stops running for the day. Leave Lake Placid on Rte 73, continue through Keene and into Keene Valley and turn right after the Ausable Inn. It is 1.6 miles up Adirondack St. and Johns Brook Lane, finishing with 1/4 mile of narrow, dirt road.
Elevation: 4,515 feet
Most Popular Winter Trailhead
Round Trip Distance
13.6 miles, Loop with Basin 16.5 miles, Loop with Basin and Haystack 18.6 miles
Average Round-trip Time
8 to 10 hours, 10 to 11 hours with Basin Mountain, 12 to 14 hours with Basina and Haystack
Winter Obstacles to be Aware Of
Saddleback is fairly well sheltered but steep terrain can make this difficult. The cliffs on the Basin side of Saddleback are dangerous in the winter and much better to be climbing than descending. Heavy winds and whiteout conditions can exist. Deep wind chill can also be a factor.
Via Orebed Trail
From the Garden Trailhead you will have a mellow snowshoe for the first 3.5 miles to Johns Brook Lodge; from there cross the brook and start to follow the Orebed Trail toward Saddleback. The Orebed Trail is very steep and follows the course of a slide, several steps have been put in, but in winter they are more often than not buried and unusable. Be very careful on this section, especially when descending.
The Orebed Trail will bring you just shy of the summit and Gothic Mountain. A right will bring you to Saddleback. The climb from here is much less demanding.
From Basin Mountain
You will drop steeply off Basin where much car should be taken as the trail approached a cliff top. Once in the col you will have a very steep climb up Saddleback. The climb will bring you to the base of the famous cliffs. The climb of the cliffs can be very challenging but it is much better to climb up than down. Bring an ice axe to reach out and grab areas to help pull you up. Often times you can find a way around the cliffs, but if the route is not broken out it can be equally as difficult. Once above the cliffs you will be out in the open and exposed to possible heavy winds and whiteout conditions.
An ice ax is nice if you plan to do the cliffs and traverse to Basin or from Basin. Wind and cold protection is a must.