4,000 Footers out Your Back Door: The Adirondack High Peaks
The High Peaks are a cherished and historic list of 46 Adirondack mountains defined by a magical number of 4,000 feet. Sure, that elevation might seem meager in comparison to West Coast mountains, but what they lack in feet, they more than make up for in vertical gain and trail toughness. In fact, 20 of the peaks don’t even have official routes – just boot-beaten paths weathered by peakbaggers seeking their summits in order to earn the right to be called an Adirondack 46er (a title awarded to hikers who summit all 46 peaks). It’s certainly no easy task: A rough calculation shows that it takes approximately 295 miles of hiking and a vertical gain of 70,000 feet to complete all 46. In short: Tackling just one High Peak is enough cause for celebration. Here’s how a handful of those with trails within 45 minutes of Saranac Lake stack up.
Cascade Mountain: 4,098 feet
This broad rocky summit is a favorite among first-timers for its easy-to-find trailhead close to Lake Placid and short ascent at just 2.4 miles one way.
Phelps Mountain: 4,161 feet
The four-mile trail up this mountain (named for legendary Adirondack guide Orson "Old Mountain" Phelps, who cut the first trail up Mount Marcy in the 1800s) is well trodden and well marked.
Whiteface Mountain: 4,867 feet
To reach this bald summit, famous for its sweeping views of Lake Placid and the other 44 High Peaks to the south, you’ll take one of three demanding steep and wooded routes varying in length from four to six miles.
Mount Marcy: 5,344 feet
Despite being the highest point in New York State, Marcy is not technically challenging – she just requires a lot of stamina to hoof the 15-mile out-and-back trail.
Allen Mountain: 4,340 feet
One of the most remote High Peaks, Allen does not have a well-marked or -maintained trail, which requires a keen eye for the duration of the 19-mile round-trip hike.
Mount Haystack: 4,960 feet
Perhaps the most challenging of the High Peaks, Haystack is a rugged, rocky ascent that travels 16 miles (out and back) over a mixture of demanding terrain, including an infamously steep stretch known as the “Devil’s Half Mile.”