Adirondack Mountains: Mt. Marcy
Adirondack Mountains: Mt. Marcy
By: Kayla “Clover” McKinney
Trip Length: 3 days, 2 nights (does not include full driving time.)
Total Mileage: ~14 miles
Date: Late November
Conditions: Icy, some snow, brisk, windy. During the day, the high temperatures were in the 30s and at night the temperatures were in the low teens. Limited daylight. Sunrise was not until ~6:50Am and sunset was at ~4:30pm.
Highlights: The tallest mountain in New York, technical hiking, nice shelters, well maintained trails (thanks 46ers club!), and exposed mountain summits.
Distance from Cincinnati: We set our GPS directions to Keene, New York. If you drive straight, it is about a ~13 hour drive. However, we broke up the drive by staying a night night in Wooster, OH (which is about a 4 hour drive from Cincinnati.)
Description: The Adirondack Mountains are a beautiful range in northeastern New York with Mt. Marcy being the tallest peak at 5,344 feet. Mt. Marcy is located in the High Peaks Wilderness near Lake Placid. It is a part of the Adirondack 46ers – the 46 peaks in the range that are over 4,000ft in elevation. There is an organization known as the 46ers club, which is comprised of volunteers who work to maintain and improve this wilderness area. Aside from the beautiful mountains, there are many pristine rivers and lakes, as well as rare high alpine regions. We started at the Van Hovenberg trail head, which is one of the most popular trails in the region.
Permits: To camp at the Adirondack Loj campground, it costs $10 per person per night. Additionally, to park at the Adirondack Loj trailhead parking it is $10 per day per vehicle.
Day One: Drive from Cincinnati to Keene, New York. Consider stopping somewhere along the way to break up the drive. Once you’ve arrived, camp at Adirondack Loj, which is the campground nearest to the Van Hovenberg trail head. There is an information center and little shop to get any last minute items you may need. There are also bathrooms and showers and coffee with limited hours. Make sure to pack your bags and have everything ready to go the night before and get to bed early.
Day Two: We set our alarms for 5:00AM. You can walk to the trail head from the campground, but you will need to move your car to the trail head parking area. Be sure to register at the trail head as well. Get ready to ascend ~3,100 feet. However, it is not too steep as the distance is gained over about 6 miles. Follow the signs for Mt. Marcy and avoid turning onto the skiing only regions of the trail. The junctions are straightforward and, with common sense, you don’t need the take out the map for much of the hike. Be sure to take the brief side trail to Indian Falls, as it is your first exposed view of the mountains around you and is well worth the additional distance. As you gain elevation, the trail gets very icy and it was necessary to use traction* in order to hike safely along the trail. Once you break treeline, the trail becomes significantly icy and technical. From here, follow yellow blazes on the rocks to the obvious summit of Mt. Marcy. Stop and enjoy the panoramic and exposed view from the tallest peak in New York! For the descent, continue to follow the yellow blazes past the summit. Use extreme caution when descending as the trail is steep, rocky, icy and technical. You’ll eventually reach a junction and be sure to follow the signs for the Feldspar Shelter. The trail flattens out and you’ll see a bridge on your right which will cross over a rushing stream next to your shelter for the night. There is even a privy located down a separate trail from the shelter. Stay at the Shelter for the night and be sure to dress and outfit yourself properly for a cold night. We strung up two tarps with paracord to cover the entrance of the shelter in order to block out wind and snow.
Day Three: For the descent back to the trail head, follow the signs for Adirondack Loj. There will be many sketchy log bridge river crossings (refer to photos.) Use balance and caution; trekking poles are highly recommended. The trail is not too steep and the descent is mild.
Water: Water is not an issue on the this trip. You cross streams regularly. Also, there is a large, reliable stream right next to the Feldspar shelter.
Options: You can link up Skylight and Gray Peak in addition to Mt. Marcy, as the peaks are close together in distance. However, we did not do this due to the limited daylight conditions.
*Additional Notes: You are required to use bear canisters in the Adirondacks until November 30th. Also, the trails are impassable without the use of additional traction. I highly recommend Microspikes. Crampons are overkill and Yak Trax are not enough. Above treeline, you enter a fragile, high alpine area. Please be cautious about stepping on the fragile and rare high alpine flora. Also, the weather in the Adirondacks can be unpredictable and harsh. Be prepared for changing conditions, intense winds, ice, snow, etc. This trip is not ideal for beginners, but would be a good introductory cold-weather mountaineering trip.