Bigger doesn’t always mean better
The High Peaks are an outstanding place to hike, but their summits aren’t as close as they appear. If you’re a first-time visitor, or if you’re new to hiking, we suggest challenging yourself with some of our more modest mountains before bagging one of the big ones. You’ll avoid some of the crowds that gather on our most popular peaks and still get the views you visited for — without all the leg ache and rock scrambling.
Cruise past all of the cars near the Cascade Mountain and Pitchoff west trailheads, and shortly after passing the stunning Lower Cascade Lake you’ll see a small, less-crowded parking area on the right that says “Pitchoff East.” Park here and carefully cross the road to the trailhead.
You’ll enter the words and climb slightly, then swing left to follow the road. Cliffs and boulders being to peak from the woods to the right, a sample of the stunning scenery that awaits. The landscape here is beautiful and rugged, and bears resemblance to hikes up bigger mountains out west.
Before long the path swings right and follows a nice stream as it climbs toward the narrow divide between two of Pitchoff’s knobs — there are several along the ridge — before it bends left and traverses open rock to a fantastic view. The 3,323-foot north summit is a fine destination, but those seeking more can continue on. Pitchoff’s viewless, 3,600-foot summit is 1.8 miles farther, making it quite a distance to backtrack, but it is possible to do a point-to-point hike with two vehicles, one parked at the west trailhead and the other at the east.
- Distance: 1.4 miles to the north summit
- Elevation: 3,323 feet
- Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
- Trailhead: Take Route 73 east from Lake Placid for about 10.5 miles. The parking area is on the right; the trailhead is across the road.
Mount Van Hoevenberg
Skip the Marcy-bound crowds and instead head to a smaller mountain with a killer view of some of the area’s highest High Peaks. The path actually begins with a nice, easy walk along South Meadow Road, a seasonal dirt road that’s closed in winter. The trailhead sign for Mount Van Hoevenberg is on the left at the 0.3-mile mark.
The path begins on the level and pretty much stays that way as it passes through a gorgeous red pine forest before reaching a large beaver pond. Your destination is across the water, high above the opposite shore. This is a great place to bird watch and to turn around for those looking for an easy stroll.
Head left at the pond and cross its outlet — the area below the beaver dams can be wet, so take your time — then the ascent begins. Things never get too steep, and before long the trail bends right to follow the ridge to the first overlook. The first one is nice, but the second is more open, as its sweeping panorama includes portions of the Great Range in the distance. Straight ahead is the main attraction, a dead-on view of Marcy, Colden, Algonquin, and Wright, all lined up from left to right (or from Marcy to Wright, as the case may be).
- Distance: 2.5 miles from the parking area
- Elevation: 2,860 feet
- Elevation gain: 740 feet
- Trailhead: Take Route 73 east from Lake Placid and turn right on Adirondack Loj Road after about 3 miles and follow that for another 3 miles. Park on the left, near the turn for South Meadow Road.
While everyone else is clambering up the steep flanks on Giant or tackling one of the many peaks along the Great Range, you’ll be sitting pretty on Round Mountain, enjoying the commanding view of those peaks. Often overlooked for its taller neighbors, Round offers a solid half-day of hiking that includes some steep sections, rugged little gorges, and plenty of glimpses of the tremendous finale the summit offers.
- Distance: 2.3 miles
- Elevation: 3,100 feet
- Elevation gain: 1,820 feet
- Trailhead: Take Route 73 east from Lake Placid for about 22.5 miles, then turn right on Ausable Club Road. The parking area is on the left. Park here and walk up the road to the trailhead, which is also on the left.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the 1,000-foot cliff in Indian Pass from Summit Rock for the first time. At 6 miles it’s a long haul to this view, but the steep sections are few and the rewards are great. There’s even a side path at 2 miles to a waterfall called Rocky Falls, which is a fine destination for a shorter trip, or for a place to take a mid-hike cool-down dip.
The most difficult part of the journey starts at 5 miles, where a rugged, half-mile climb into the pass begins. This section is difficult but exciting — the mountains close in, the boulders get larger, and then there’s the final reveal: the neck-craning cliff that makes up the entire side of the aptly-named Wallface Mountain
- Distance: 6 miles to Summit Rock
- Trailhead: Take Route 73 east from Lake Placid and turn right on Adirondack Loj Road after about 3 miles. Follow that to its end in about 4.5 miles, pay the parking fee at the booth, then turn left to enter the large parking area. The trail begins across the road from the parking booth.
This week in related ADK stories: