Adirondack Hike: Mount Colden
Mount Colden Viewed From Algonquin Mountain
My hiking buddy Kory and I took on Mount Colden on June 16th of this year. Colden is the eleventh highest of the forty-six high peaks in the Adirondacks with an elevation of 4,715 feet.
The weather was unseasonably cool that day with a high just reaching sixty. We planned to drive up and do the hike on the same day, so we met at five in the morning and then drove up. We arrived at Adirondack Loj Road around seven and parked shortly after.
For this hike, there are two options for where you can begin. Many people will park at the Adirondack Loj where there is a $10 fee to park. Prior to that lot, there is a left turn to the South Meadow parking area where you can park off on the side of the road. We decided to save the money and park at South Meadow because the distances were pretty similar either way.
On the map below, our initial hike in was marked in the blue while those who choose to park at the Loj would have taken the purple pathway in. Both will lead you to the Marcy Dam. We were on the trail by nine in the morning.
Once at Marcy Dam, there are a bunch of options on hikes you can take and different pathways. The photo below shows all the different options here. For us, there were two main options for Mount Colden.
The first option was the shorter one, hiking up to Lake Arnold and a twelve mile distance. The second option was to go to Avalanche Pass and then by Lake Colden before heading up. This distance was a little longer at around fourteen miles.
We decided to combine the two options though and do the hike as a loop, to hike through Avalanche Pass, by Lake Colden, and then to the summit. From there, we would come down by Lake Arnold and descend that way.
The Signage with Options
Up to Avalanche Pass
The hike from Marcy Dam to Avalanche Pass is just under a mile, but it is pretty steep and you gain some good elevation. For us, since it was a Friday and the weather was pretty cool, we didn't run into many people. A few workers working on the trail and one other group of hikers was about it.
We got up to Avalanche Lake in about an hour and could feel the cool breeze coming down across the water. It was a good day for layers and we couldn't linger long without feeling the cold air.
The Colden Loop
Once at the lake, it was scramble city. Kory was looking forward to this part of the hike because it was a lot of climbing, scrambling, and maneuvering across big rocks. The terrain was tricky and if you're not careful, there is some serious potential for injury.
It was pretty fun though hopping up and across a bunch of the rocks while being next to a big body of water. Across the water was a huge rock wall too and we could see up that towards the top of Colden, so that was ominous in what we had left.
It took us about an hour to hour and a half to make our way around the lake. We reached a bridge that headed towards Lake Colden around noon.
We stayed along the left side of Lake Colden after the bridge and it was pretty light terrain with some slight ups and downs through here. Eventually though, we started bearing left and the trail began to increase in steepness. For the next 1.6 miles, there would be a 2,000 foot elevation gain.
The Trail Got Steep
Steep, Steep, Steep
We started to clear the heavy woods and there were some more views. There was some light trickling of water coming down the rock face we were hiking on, and thankfully, there were some sections with wooden stairs.
The upper section of that 1.6 mile portion was rough. It was steep, wet, and cool. We took our time and eventually made it up to where the terrain began to open up. At this point, the top of the mountain was pretty cloud covered. I was fairly thankful because I do have some slight height issues and the steepness of the previous area kind of got me nervous.
We made our way up and through some light scrambles and eventually found the mark for the top of the summit. There were literally zero views and we decided to grab a quick snack. We made the summit around two and were looping around and heading down by 2:30p.m.
Kory and I Approaching the Summit
The Marker for the Summit!
Coming down the opposite side was not nearly as steep as the way we had come up. It was the hardest coming off the summit, but got into the woods pretty quickly. It was rocky at the top though and eventually thinned out a bit the closer we got to the signage for all the trails. We were able to make it down in about an hour and a half.
There was another forty minutes to Marcy Dam and about another hour and a half back to South Meadow. Our total time on trail was around six and a half hours as we made pretty good time on the day. With the early start though, I was pretty wiped out from this one.
Ranking the Peaks
This was only our fourth high peak and second weekend of hiking in the Adirondacks. It was, by far, our longest hike yet though. Mount Colden had some very interesting terrain changes, from a long, easy hike in, to scrambles, to steep inclinations. It was challenging, but fun, so with that in mind, I would rank the peaks as follows:
1.) Big Slide