Adirondack Hike: The Great Range
For our second hike of the season, my usual hiking pal Kory and I played hooky from work on Monday, June 11 because the weather was going to be clear and seventy for the high. Our plan was to tackle six mountains on the day - Sawteeth (35th-4,100 feet), Pyramid (4,555 feet), Gothics (10th-4,736 feet), Armstrong (22nd-4,400 feet), Upper Wolfjaw (29th-4,185 feet) and Lower Wolfjaw (30th-4,175 feet). The reason Pyramid is not ranked is that it is not a high peak because it is technically too close to Gothics to be considered a high peak.
We got an early start, staying over in Lake Placid on Sunday night and having our usual pasta dinner at Black Bear Restaurant and then getting up at 4:45 a.m. We packed the night before and were out of the hotel by 5:30 a.m.
Parking and Trailhead
From Lake Placid, it's a straight shot out 73 east until we got to the second Ausable Road. The parking area is right past the road. It took us twenty minutes to get to the parking area and there were five cars there when we arrived with plenty of parking spots available and a porta-potty on the far end of the lot. It was free to park in the lot and we talked about driving up Ausable road and dropping the majority of our gear off at the Signin area, but decided hiking guilt would make that unfair.
Directions: This is part of the St Huberts parking area/trailhead. Leave Lake Placid on Rte 73, follow Rte 73 through Keene and Keene Valley and into Saint Huberts. Parking is across the road from the Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead for Giant Mountain.
The hike starts along a dirt road, which becomes paved next to a golf course. At 0.5 miles from the parking area, turn left and down between two tennis courts on Lake Road Way.
It was through the gate and onto Lake Road. This was the same way we had taken to do our Nippletop and Dial hike three weeks ago, so we were pretty familiar with the route. The difference was that we were going a little bit further up the well-maintained dirt road.
We passed the signs for the H.G. Leach Trail, the Gill Brook Trail, then the Gill Brook Cutoff that we took up to Indian Head. The last trail was at the 3.25-mile mark and we made it to four miles before we found our turn down to the right and the dam and bridge we wanted. This initial leg took us an hour and fifteen minutes.
After you go across the bridge, there's another one off to the right. The trail up to Sawteeth goes straight ahead though and within five minutes there are signs for Rainbow Falls. It's only a few minutes up to the falls and well worth the photo opportunity. We hit the falls so early in the morning that we had a clear rainbow showing across the water.
After coming back down from the falls by 7:45 a.m., the trail heads up through the woods for a while. The terrain is pretty reasonable until you get higher up. Then it gets rockier as you get closer to the point where the trail branches. The trail is marked with blue trail markers on trees and is easy to follow.
For us, we reached that point at 8:45 a.m. and then turned left until we hit the summit at 9:13 a.m. The summit is marked by a sign with mileage on it, but not anything that specifically says. 'You are here!'
But the views up on this summit are pretty good and they open up over to the West.
We spent about fifteen minutes on Sawteeth snacking and resting before backtracking down to the trail sign and then up to Pyramid. There was some nice rock work and scrambling heading down Sawteeth and up to Pyramid.
After about twenty minutes of descent we started heading back up and scrambled our way up for forty minutes until we reached the summit of Pyramid. This is steep and rocky, but it wasn't the most technical section of the hike, that's for sure.
Coming off Pyramid, there's some quick descent followed by some very interesting climbing and scrambling up to Gothics. The trail gets a little thin and plan to get poked by some brush as it kind of reminded me of the ascent to Iriquois in this section.
The trip between the two only took about 23 minutes, so we were on the peak at 11:10 a.m. We spent another fifteen minutes there and then ran into our first other sign of humanity when a man and his son came up from the other direction. He was planning on doing the top-10 high peaks and it was his son's first.
Again there were no signs, but there was a survey marker on this peak. And the views are panoramic on all directions to views of many other peaks. This was peak number twenty-two for us.
We spent a good twenty minutes on the summit eating and talking with the duo before heading down towards the next mountain in the chain, Armstrong. The trail changed to gold trail markings. This is where things got tricky and very technical. A lot of steep rock walls on both the descent but it only took us fifteen minutes to get down and reach a sign pointing up towards Armstrong.
The ascent is only four-tenths of a mile and it took us twenty-three minutes. But it was a tricky and hard ascent with lots of steep rock navigation.
On the summit, there are no markings saying you are there, but there is a great lookout towards Marcy and back towards Gothics. We were on the summit at 12:07 p.m. with great weather and clear skies to get good views.
We left the peak at 12:25 p.m. and had some incredibly steep rock wall drop offs. With the technicality of the hike, my buddy was really enjoying it, but it was definitely a dangerous descent.
And then we came to one of the more talked-about elements in the Adirondack high peaks. A steep rock wall with a ladder to complete the last section near the bottom.
After the ladder, it's a bunch more steep rock on the ascent back up to Upper Wolfjaw. There was a nice sign letting us know that we had arrived to the summit with only 20 yards to go. Between the descent and ascent back up, it took us fifty-five minutes with an arrival time of 1:20 p.m. on the summit of Upper Wolfjaw for peak number twenty-four.
The route down from Upper Wolfjaw is a mile of continued steep rock and switchback trails. From the summit, there are two mountains in the background of the direction in which you need to head. The furthest of the two is Lower Wolfjaw, not the smaller, closer one.
On the map we carry, it says the descent is only four-tenths of a mile down to the trail merge for Johns Brook Lodge, but in actuality it's much further. We started doubting the distance based on the map mileage and backtracked a few times to see if we missed a turnoff before deciding just to push on. When we finally ran into another hiker, he confirmed we were heading in the right direction.
The last half mile is more rocky ascent with a pair of bigger walls where you need to plan your steps out safely. We likely added forty-five minutes with our backtracking, and after leaving Upper Wolfjaw around 1:30 p.m., we hit the Lower Wolfjaw summit at 3:30 p.m. where there were some signs for the trails leading down. We spent about five minutes snacking and taking photos, but were ready to be back in the car heading home.
We backtracked down Lower Wolfjaw and made it down in only twelve minutes at 3:54 p.m. and then jumped on the blue-marked trail heading back towards St. Hubert's. It was rocky for the first mile to mile and half, but then turns into a pretty clear trail. We were making excellent time on the descent and finally ran into a bridge just after the Wedge Brook Cascades off to the left just fifty minutes later.
It had been all downhill until this point, but the trail goes slightly upwards and then runs parallel to the stream that you can hear off in the distance to the right. It veers up and down as you move closer to the parking lot and you spend another twenty minutes on the path until you come to a sign for Lake Road and one last bridge crossing.
Once across the bridge, it another ten minutes of a road until you actually get to Lake Road, then another fifteen minutes until the sign-in book. Another fifteen minutes on Ausable Road and we were back at the car at 5:48 p.m.
All-in-all, just under twelve hours on the trail, but realistically, it would have been around eleven had we not backtracked so much.
Changes for this Hike
On this hike, I upgraded to a new pack and I also read about a way to fight off some blistering I had gotten on the previous hike. I added sock liners under my wool hiking socks and they helped tremendously. I also carried some Cliff energy bars to help from tiring out too soon.
Ranking the Peaks
These were number twenty to twenty-five of the high peaks we've done and there were some great views and very challenging areas to the climb. With the mileage, you definitely feel accomplished after having completed the hike. So my updated rankings of the high peaks are:
2. Big Slide
12. Rocky Ridge
14. Upper Wolfjaw
16. South Dix (Carson)
20. East Dix (Grace)
25. Lower Wolfjaw
Other Adirondack High Peak Trip Recaps
- Adirondack Hike: Street and Nye
Hiking Street Mountain and Nye Mountain in the Adirondack Mountain range of New York.
- Adirondack Hike: Nippletop and Dial
A trip summary from the hike on Nippletop and Dial Mountains in the Adirondacks. Nippletop and Dial are two of the forty-six high peaks in the mountainous region of New York State.
- Adirondack Hike: Tabletop and Phelps
A summary of the hike of Tabletop and Phelps in the Adirondack Mountain range of New York.