The first two weeks living in the Adirondacks have been
quite hectic. Our new home requires a
lot of work and has been ongoing and nearly nonstop. The weather has been typical of spring, which
means lots of rain. I was ready for a
The J Man, my occasional partner in adventuring while in
Maine, had vacation time to use by the end of May. He made the trip to New York to visit, help
with a few projects, and some time outdoors.
I was ready for my first Adirondack adventure. It just so happened to be my birthday, and I
wanted to make my first trip in the Adirondacks worthwhile. I set my sites on the MacIntyre Range.
While I had never explored the Adirondacks, I am fairly
familiar with them. I especially started
to look into the area when we bought our home here. The MacIntyre Range is an
area I’ve heard about long before I knew I was moving to the area. The MacIntyre Range is the second highest
subrange in the Adirondacks. The second
highest peak in New York, 5,114-foot Algonquin Peak, anchors the range. The range sits in the heart of the High Peaks
Wilderness, surrounded by the highest peaks in the Adirondacks. I first heard
of Algonquin Peak nearly 20 years ago, and ever since wanted to climb it.
We started our hike mid- morning on Wednesday, May 29th
. As with many of the hikes in the High Peaks,
we began our hike at the Adirondack Loj/ Heart Lake Trailhead. Despite a decent weather forecast, the rainy
weather from the day prior was slow to leave.
While not actively raining, the skies featured a heavy overcast and
clouds obscured the higher peaks.
While an out and back hike to Algonquin isn’t too strenuous
by itself, we had more ambitious goals.
We put together a loop that covered the three main peaks of the
MacIntyre Range, then planned to drop down toward Lake Colden, Avalanche Dam,
Avalanche Pass, and Marcy Dam to form a loop.
The High Peaks Information Center at the trailhead advised against this
loop due to lingering snow and wet trail, but we forged ahead.
|Entering the High Peaks Wilderness|
Despite modest temperatures, I immediately noticed the
humidity in the air. Having spent the
last five years in Colorado, my body was slow to acclimate to the 100% humidity
of the morning. I soon removed the legs
from my pants and continued in shorts.
The trail was wet from the heavy rain the previous day, but not as bad
as mud season conditions. Several
streams flowed near the trail as well as a nice waterfall.
|Nice trail work|
|First of many waterfalls|
After 3.4 miles, we reached a junction to our first
objective, Wright Peak. The climb to
Wright is fairly short and to the point.
At times the trail follows slabby rock, which made for some interesting
footing in the wet conditions. During
the climb, a few breaks in the clouds allowed for some views of Algonquin Peak,
but not much else. Soon the trail climbed
At 4,580 feet, Wright Peak stands as the 16th
highest peak in New York. Despite its
alpine summit, dense clouds limited the views.
A short distance away, Algonquin popped in and out of the clouds. The tops of other nearby peaks briefly came
into view. To the north, a higher peak
–possibly Whiteface, poked out above the clouds intermittently. A nearby plaque marks the spot of an Air
Force crash in the 60s. We didn’t linger
to long in the obscured conditions.
|Algonquin peeking out from the clouds|
|Not too many views from Wright|
|I believe Whiteface poking out above sea of clouds|
|Just a few summits occasionally poked out|
We headed onward to Algonquin. Despite the clouds, we could see our
goal. We passed a few patches of
lingering snow along the ridge. We
climbed above treeline fairly quickly and soon reached the open summit.
|The trail to Algonquin can be seen in the trees on the right|
|Rocky route to Algonquin|
|A rough spot of trail|
|The first small patch of snow of the day|
|Above treeline on Algonquin|
We took a break on the summit. Our view didn’t reach much beyond the
MacIntyre Range. Wright stayed out of
the clouds for the most part. To the
south, Iroquois was generally visible as clouds passed by. The ski jumps in Lake Placid could be seen to
the north as well as Whiteface as it occasionally poked out above the
clouds. Majority of the High Peaks
|A brief ridge visible above the clouds|
|Looking toward Iroquois|
|Whiteface poking out again|
|A break of clouds in the valley|
|Iroquois making a brief appearance|
|Tomcat assessing the terrain ahead|
|Only the MacIntyre Range is visible|
|Dropping off Algonquin|
We dropped off Algonquin, heading toward Boundary and
Iroquois Peaks. As we descended, we
started head east and lose excessive elevation.
With the clouds, Iroquois was now hidden. I suspected we missed a turn toward Boundary
and Iroquois. Looking at the map
confirmed my hunch. We decided to
backtrack and saw the unmarked junction that we missed. I don’t think it was much more than a ¼ mile
that we needed to backtrack.
While trails exist, many of the summits in the High Peaks do
not have official trails. These paths
are often well defined but have no markings or maintenance. The trail to Boundary and Iroquois falls into
this unofficial designation.
The route, despite no maintenance, is fairly
straightforward. After traveling through
scraggly trees and bog, Boundary Peak’s open summit is quickly reached in .2
miles. Boundary is considered a subpeak
of Iroquois and not ranked. From
Boundary, the trail dips back into the trees before reaching rough stretches of
rock above treeline. After .7 miles we
reached 4,840-foot Iroquois Peak, the 8th
highest summit in New
|Bog bridge enroute to Boundary|
|A closer look at Iroquois|
|Clouds engulfing Iroquois|
Iroquois featured the densest cloud cover of the day with no
views. We retraced our steps over to
Boundary. In this short distance, the
sky quickly began clearing. To the west
and north, the views really opened up.
|Clearing as we retrace our steps toward Boundary|
|A cloudless Algonquin|
As we descended toward Lake Colden, the clouds started to
disperse all around us. We were given a
solid view of Mt Colden and its impressive slides as well as Mt Marcy just
From Algonquin’s summit to Lake Colden, the trail drops
2,350 feet in 2.1 miles. Despite
traveling downhill, the travel was incredibly slow. Water flowed in much of the trail. Patches of lingering snow slowed progress a
few places. At times, the trail seemed
to follow a creek bed that required rock hopping to traverse.
|Snowy section of trail|
|That's the trail|
|Is it the creek or the trail?|
|Pleasant section of creek|
Travel was much slower than I expected. With all the water came a lot of mud as
well. Despite the treacherous travel,
the trail follows next to, and often in the creek, which features numerous
waterfalls along its course. We were
happy to finally see Lake Colden and the end of the wet and muddy descent.
|Yet another waterfall|
|As far as I could tell, none of these falls are named on the map|
|A long slide|
|Pretty multi-tiered falls|
The trail climbed gradually from Lake Colden. This is a key junction in the High
Peaks. Algonquin, Mt Marcy, Mt Colden,
and Avalanche Pass are accessible from this junction.
Soon the trail reached Avalanche Lake. This area is often regarded as one the finest
spots in the Adirondacks. From the
outlet of Avalanche Lake, Mt Colden and Avalanche Mountain frame the lake. Mt Colden features solid rock dropping to the
lake and its well-known cleft, the Trap Dyke. Avalanche Mountain’s sheer cliffs
frame the west side of the lake.
|The trail follows the catwalk along the cliffs|
|Cliffs off of Colden|
The hike around the lake is quite scenic. The trail is a jumble of rock that makes for
slow progress. Where cliffs make a trail
impossible, bridges hang from the cliffs and travel over the lake. The water is
surprising deep just a few feet from the cliffs. Frequent small ladders negotiate gaps in the
rock and steep boulders. An impressive
waterfall flowed the length of the Trap Dyke.
|A look up the lake toward Avalanche Pass|
|Closeup of the cliffs|
|Another look at the cliffs|
|JMan ascending a ladder in a rocky section|
Once past the lake, the trail finally climbs to the height
of land in Avalanche Pass. Once on the
north side of Avalanche Pass, the trail substantially mellowed. We made much better time as we descended to
Marcy Dam. We picked up the pace below
the dam on much easier terrain and we were happy to finally reach the
According to the mileage on the map, the total distance for
the loop was around 13.5 miles. I figure
our total to be around 14.0 miles with our backtracking at the missed turn to
Boundary and Iroquois. Our time to
complete the loop was about 9 hours, which is somewhat slow for us. The travel between Algonquin and Avalanche
Pass was particularly slow on the jumble of rocks, rough downhill, mud, and
water flowing on the trail. I wouldn’t
recommend this route to someone new to hiking, even in better conditions. This was a pretty rugged hike. More experience hikers would enjoy the
scenery and challenge, but perhaps a little later in the season.
We made this hike early in the season. Mud season had not yet ended at certain
sections of this route. Although
limited, rotten snow further complicated matters. High water and run off, particularly above
Lake Colden, hampered travel. At least
the bugs were nonexistent until we reached the trailhead at the end of the
While I would have liked the skies to clear sooner on
this hike, I did enjoy the area. I would
have liked more views of the surrounding mountains while we above treeline. The clouds that obscured our visibility made
for interesting views nonetheless. The
route seemed to be a good introduction for my first hike in the Adirondacks.
|Tomcat on Algonquin with Iroquois in the distance|
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