Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Big Slide Mountain

After casually climbing the peaks of the Adirondack 46 the last twenty or so months, I've come down to the last eight. The easiest remaining peak on the list was Big Slide Mountain. The only real trailhead to access the peak is the Garden in Keene Valley. The Garden stands as one of the busiest parking areas in the Adirondacks. I planned on hiking Big Slide in winter to avoid the summer crowds and hopefully ensure a spot to park at this overused trailhead.

On Friday, February 26th, the forecast looked promising. Adirondack winters aren't known for sunshine.  The rare sunny days tend to be excessively cold. This day forecasted sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures. Best of all it was a weekday, so I could avoid some of the crowds of the weekend. Big Slide offers good views and I didn't want to hike another peak socked in with clouds.

When I left my house, I was a little concerned that the weather wouldn't pan out. Steady light snow was falling. As I drove closer to the trailhead, the snow let up and I could see breaks in the clouds. I began hiking around 720AM. Since this hike travels entirely withing the High Peaks Wilderness I wore my snowshoes as they are required when the ground is covered in at least eight inches of snow within the Wilderness (skis are also allowed if terrain permits).

I began my hike on the Brothers Trail. This trail traverses three lower peaks called The Brothers. The trail travels over several ledges with frequent vistas along the way. The first ledge came quickly with views toward Giant Mountain and over Keene Valley. The view was a little hazy from cloud cover, but still pretty good. 

Trailhead sign

Hiking through hardwoods

Early view of Giant Mountain before clouds lifted

Lower Great Range obscured by clouds

Trail following close to a drop

The first half of the Brothers Trail offers the best views as it travels close to ledges and snowy outcroppings. The views improve with elevation, stretching over most of the Great Range. The lingering morning clouds lifted quickly and I soon had bright blue skies. As the trail climbs, it travels into the forest away from the views. The snow covered branches in the forest make quite the pretty scene.   

Saddleback with Basin in distance

Most of the Great Range

Basin in the distance

Hiking along a snowy outcropping

Hiking through open terrain

Hurricane Mountain is the highest peak in the frame

Shoulder of Gothics, Saddleback and Basin

The trail goes into the clearing ahead

Since Big Slide features excellent views and a relatively short approach, Several others were enjoying the day. I passed a couple hikers during the climb and played hopscotch with a couple others. A few early risers packed out the trail ahead of me. The trail was well packed out in the lower elevations. With less traffic higher up, the snow was fluffier but still tracked.

Hiking into dense, snow-covered balsams

Brilliant blue skies

Working my way through the dense forest

Around 3.5 miles, the trail reaches a junction, .3 miles before the summit Big Slide. The last .3 miles of the trail become significantly steeper. Soon after the climb starts, a short side-trail stops at the edge of Big Slide's namesake slide. From the slide, nice views extend over the John Brooks Valley to most of the Great Range.

Looking up steep section of Big Slide

Looking across the slide of Big Slide

Beyond the slide, the steep climb continues to the summit. Big Slide's 4,240' summit provides excellent views. The entire Great Range dominates the view. Haystack and Marcy, the first and third highest Adirondack summits, come into view at the summit as well. The Dix Range can be seen beyond the Great Range. Giant dominates the view to the east with the ridge of Vermont's Green Mountains in the distance. Lake Champlain can be seen beyond Giant as well.

Wolfjaws, Armstrong, Gothics, and Dix in distance

Algonquin

Colden

Giant with the Green Mountains
 in Vermont in the background

Colden and Algonquin

I shared Big Slide with two other solo hikers and a family of three. All the groups were quite respectful and I enjoyed chatting with all of them. I think everyone was in awe of how beautiful the day turned out and in extra good spirits. The forecast predicted a windy summit. Not only was the sky clear, but the wind was almost perfectly calm, which is very rare any time of year on a open summit. With the calm and clear conditions, I spent about 40 minutes on the summit.

Zoomed in view of Colden and Algonquin

Although the shortest route to the trailhead is returning over the Brothers, I always appreciate a loop. I descended via the Slide Brook Trail. This route adds nearly two miles, but avoids some elevation gain when reclimbing the Brothers. Joe, one of the others on Big Slide was ahead of me on this trail. I caught up to him and hiked with him part of the way.

Descending Slide Brook Trail

After Joe stopped for a quick break, I continued hiking. The Slide Brook Trail descends gradually. On the snow covered trail with all the rocks and routes hidden, I made quick time to the Phelps Trail.

A few open pockets on Slide Brook

Junction of Slide Brook and Phelps Trails

The last three miles to the Garden travel along the Phelps Trail. Since the Phelps Trail serves as a major thoroughfare into John Brooks Lodge and most of the Great Range peaks, the trail was packed pretty solid. It was almost like walking on a sidewalk. The trail takes on a much prettier scene in the winter compared to summer, especially with the bright blue skies contrasting the snowy landscape and bare hardwoods. I passed quite a few groups my final miles to the Garden, mostly skiers.

Open water on Johns Brook

Thin hardwoods along Phelps Trail

Shed sized glacial erratic along the trail

I reached the trailhead just before 1230PM. With my 40 minutes on the summit of Big Slide, my 9.5 mile loop took about 5 hours.With the broken and packed trails, the miles flew by. If hiking out and back over the Brothers, the hike can be completed in 7.6 miles.

Colden and Algonquin from the summit

The weather failed to cooperate my last several outings that I sought a peak with a view. This hike was much needed. It's rare to have a day as nice as this in the summer or winter in the Adirondacks. Big Slide was my 39th of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.

Giant and slides on Lower Wolfjaw

Whether or not you are trying to climb all of the Adirondack 46 High Peaks, Big Slide is a worthwhile mountain to climb. It's open summits provide excellent views. Just don't expect to have it to yourself. It ranks as one of the easier and shorter hikes of the Adirondack 46. It's not exactly a secret. In summer, this means an early start. The Garden trailhead is one of the busiest in the Adirondacks and fills very early in the morning since it accesses the Great Range and John Brooks Lodge. As of this writing, parking at the Garden cost $10.

Gothics, Saddleback,  Basin, and Haystack

Elevation profile of the loop

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3 comments:

  1. The trail from the Garden via the Brothers is the more scenic trail... But, it isn't "really the only" way to access Big Slide. South Meadow>Klondike Notch>Yard>Big Slide is awesome.

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  2. Glad you had a nice and successful trip!

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  3. I thought about going from South Meadow in Summer. In winter I didn’t know if Klondike would be broken and didn't look forward to the extra mileage for a single peak . I was looking for an easy hike on this day and it fit the bill In the end with the clear day, I’m glad I went via the Brothers.

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