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Adirondack Hike: Ampersand Mountain

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Recreational hiker, novice trip report writer, nature lover.

The Basics

Elevation: 3,353 feet

Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet

Distance: 2.7 miles to the summit

Weather: 63 and partly cloudy to start, low 70s to finish

Water Consumed: 1.5 liters

Time: On trail at 9:50 a.m., signed out at 12:30 p.m. (2 hours, 40 minutes on trail)

Directions and Parking

Ampersand Mountain sits on the west side of the town of Saranac Lake and is part of the Saranac Lake 6'er Hiking Challenge and the Adirondack 29er Challenge. To get to the trailhead you take Route 3 west out of Saranac Lake for about eight miles and the parking lot will be on the right.

Video of the parking area is below and I arrived there around 9:45 a.m., and there were a few spots that opened up as people were likely moving off of Ampersand to another of the Saranac Lake 6 peaks. Many do this challenge as an Ultra, which means they complete all six peaks in 24 hours. When I got back from the hike, there were no spots and multiple cars were parked along the edge of Route 3 on both sides of the road.

It was pretty buggy as soon as I stepped out of the car, so get the bug spray ready right away.

As seen in the video, the trailhead for Ampersand is across the street from the parking area. The sign-in book is immediately in and on the left (see below). Once in the woods, the bugs were a little better and I began the hike with a nice family of four from around my area.


As seen from the map below, the trail heads away from and to the left from the parking area. This section of the trail is relatively flat, with some light ups and downs.

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There are a few small stream crossings in the first mile (as seen below) and at the .8 mile mark, you come to a boardwalk bridge that crosses the widest water area. Right after that, the trail begins to ascend lightly. It took about 30 minutes to get to that last bridge.


After some light ascension and about 10 minutes, the trail turns to the right a bit and starts to get very steep. Just after it turns right, you'll see a huge boulder right in the middle of the trail (see below), that's how you know you're at the steep section.


While the grade is steeper here, the trail has some well-placed stones that turn it into some easy-to-navigate steps. It takes another 10 minutes of climbing until you come to a reprieve, as we call it, in the trail. That's when the trail gets a little flatter and gives you a chance to recover.


The stone on the left side of the trail signifies a chance to catch your breath after the initial 10-minute steep section. I hit this point 50 minutes into the hike.


The reprieve doesn't last long and there's another section of steep climbing that took me just under 20 minutes with frequent rest stops built in. The bugs were moderate and I kept hoping for some more breeze, but the mountain shields the wind when it's coming from the west.

It eventually comes to a big rock on the left after a stone staircase where the trail levels off a bit. According to the official Saranac Lake 6'er site, this is 2.4 miles into the hike and it took me an hour and 10 minutes to get to this point.

As you move forward, there's a great big rock wall on your left that's impressive. It looked like it would be fun to climb if you had that skill set.


The trail keeps heading back and between some other nice sized rocks, with a little cavern off to the right that appears.


Right after this section, I came upon a pair of hikers. I recognized one from her latest post to our local Facebook group as she just finished her 45th of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks, so we stopped to chat for a minute. I ran into another group of three as the trail went down a little descent.


As you continue along, you come to a cool tree growing on a rock ledge. It's a pretty steep ledge and I went to the left to climb up this section. It's a little tricky, so be sure to be careful here.


Once past the tree, you make a turn and come out of the woods and start to see the open summit above.


The rock face leads you to the right, then back across to the left before you climb up to a small ledge where some water had gathered. The views start to appear and I took a moment to take them in.


A little way further, I reached the survey marker and the top of the mountain. It took me an hour and 35 minutes to ascend and the winds were about 40 miles an hour up there.

The views are great in the whole 360-degree spectrum and I would have remained longer had it been easier to stand up there without getting blown around. When I turned, it was hard to hold onto my iPad because it was so windy, so I took a couple of photos and moved down to the area where the woods met the rock scramble to grab a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich and prepare for the descent.

Right as I was coming down, the family of four I had started the hike with were beginning their final ascent. Right after them was another great family of three that was making their way to the summit.


With the terrain containing so many flat stones and staircases, I made some great time coming down the mountain. I began it at 11:35 a.m., was able to play Frogger and hop from stone to stone, and even let momentum take me a bit into a light jog, as the terrain was steep but much more clear than some of the higher peaks.

As I got to the boardwalk bridge with 30 minutes left, I ran into the 45'er and her friend and we started chatting more. It was flat ground at this point and we ended up walking the rest of the way together, discovering her friend was beginning her 46'er journey with two peaks completed. I signed both of our groups out at 12:30 p.m. and we snapped a selfie before heading back to the parking lot.

My Preferred Pack for Shorter Hikes

Other Saranac Lake 6'er Peaks

  • Adirondack Hike: Scarface Mountain
    A detailed trip report from an October 9, 2020 hike to the summit of Scarface Mountain in the Adirondack Park in New York.
  • Adirondack Hike: St. Regis Mountain
    A trip report from a hike to the summit of St. Regis Mountain on June 15, 2019. St. Regis is part of the Saranac Lake 6'er Hiking Challenge and the mountain resides just to the north of the town of Saranac Lake, N.Y. in the Adirondack Park.
  • Adirondack Hike: McKenzie and Haystack
    A trip report from a hike up to McKenzie and Haystack Mountains in the Adirondacks of Upstate, N.Y. Both mountains are part of the Saranac 6 Challenge.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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