Approachable Adventure: Hiking NY’s Highest Mountain- Mt Marcy

Since I began living in one of New York’s most mountainous regions my friends and I have steadily progressed through higher peaks. Starting at our town’s highest and progressing up the chain, county, state, region, etc… This is my guide for Mt. Marcy, our state’s highest peak, but first some background to the area.

At only 4-5 hours away from NYC, Mt Marcy and the surrounding Adirondacks make an excellent weekend trip for those seeking an inexpensive adventure. Of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, Marcy is the highest at 5,344 ft, but far from the most difficult / technical (Gothics, arguably takes the most difficult crown due to the steep ascent).

The region itself is stunning, with breathtaking views in almost every direction. The smell however was the sense that left the most acute impression. The air was and still is the freshest I have ever smelled as fresh pine permeates every breath and reinvigorates you to penetrate deeper into the pristine Adirondacks even before you get near the trail head.

The trail we chose was the well traveled Van Hoevenberg trail which leads through all the major sites and the eventual summit. This trail is of moderate difficulty but the length of the trail itself was the biggest issue I had. It clocks in at approximately 14.4 to 15 miles (range varies by source) round trip over some rough terrain (rocky crevasses, rock scrambles, alpine zone) and is not for the weak willed. As young naive hikers we didn’t pack nearly enough for this endeavor and although we made it, it turned out to be extremely tough (more on this later).

(I skip past the twists and turns and just list the sites, if you want a trail guide I recommend this one, as this is the exact one that got me there and back safely. )Anyways, a few miles in you’ll see Marcy Dam which is the first major site on the trail. Don’t be fooled by the tame trek so far, the trail starts to ascend a bit more around mile 3 and continues to do so steadily for a few more miles. The next site is the Adirondack Loj around mile 5 where hikers congregate to meet each other and swap stories. You can also stay overnight in the Loj if you reserve a spot and want to spend some more time in the Adirondacks. Past this you trek into the alpine zone where there are no more trees and sparse vegetation. The crevasses come into full swing here and in the winter become a real danger.

Continuing on you’ll find yourself at  Lake Tear of The Clouds, a serene beauty that provides a quaint place to regroup before you hit the top. This lake was originally (incorrectly) thought to be the source of the Hudson and as New Yorker’s born and raised we drank from it unfiltered, something you cannot do further down state. From there the peak is about one mile up through the rocky alpine zone and a small rock scramble. Luckily the weather stayed clear and we got a phenomenal view of Keene and the surrounding mountains.

Here are the tips I learned the hard way on Mt. Marcy:

-I drove four hours to the mountain, hiked for eight to ten hours, then tried to drive back four hours all in the same day.  We wanted to same day this since we were naive punks at the time. Get a hotel / campsite so you can rest properly and get more than the three hours of sleep I got before this trek.

-If the recommended round-trip time is 8-12 hours, ALWAYS plan for 12.  Bring enough food, water, and painkillers for the upper limit. We all ran out of these things around mile 11 of 14.8.

-That last .1 of a mile is the longest .1 ever hiked.

Use this trail guide.

That’s all folks, I wish I could remember more but this took place 5 years ago and we’ve climbed many more mountains since then. I’ll be writing about New Hampshire’s highest peak, the dangerous Mt. Washington next so stayed tuned.

4 Replies to “Approachable Adventure: Hiking NY’s Highest Mountain- Mt Marcy”

  1. I grew up in the White Mountains and during college worked on a heavy construction trail crew – based out of N. Conway, NH. We would build rock steps, bridges and clear the trails of blowdowns in the early spring. I did that for three summers. My fourth summer I decided to seek a new adventure. I applied and was hired to work on a trail crew in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. I lived for the whole summer in a cabin on the lake above Marcy Dam. . Every morning I would smoke a bowl and canoe up the lake before hiking into the wilderness and working all day. What an enjoyable adventure and time in my life.

  2. Yeah, NY does have some beautiful places! Those mountains and the region itself looks majestic!

    great post! As it makes me realize that the fun is not just in NYC but its outside as well!


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