Monday, July 12, 2021

Allen Mountain

4,340'Allen Mountain is somewhat of an outlier among the Adirondack 46er summits. It stands near the southern end of the High Peaks Wilderness, just south of more impressive peaks like Marcy, Haystack, and Skylight. Unlike most of the other 45 peaks on the list, Allen cannot be conveniently climbed with another peak. According to the measurements on the most recent ADK High Peaks Trail Map and Trail Guide, the standard route up Allen requires a roundtrip hike approaching 19 miles. That's 9.5 miles each way to visit one summit. Because of this, Allen has a reputation as a trudge and often ranks low on most people's list of summits on the 46er list. I never climbed Allen and wanted to find out for myself if it lived up to its undesirable reputation.  With a period of wet weather planned, I headed out the only good looking day of the week on Monday, July 5th.

I arrived at the Allen Trailhead near Upper Works early to hopefully beat any lingering Independence Day Weekend crowds. Fortunately, the lot wasn't even half full when I arrived before 6AM. My dog Choya was more than happy to tag along. We set out in some morning fog right around 6AM.

Looking at maps beforehand, the hike doesn't look too intimidating despite its distance. The route follows the East River Trail for the first 5.5 miles with minimal elevation change. The route description indicates the trail follows former logging roads at times. This certainly was the case at the start of the hike. Within a few minutes, the trail crosses the upper reaches of the Hudson River on a slippery metal bridge. The trail certainly didn't change much in elevation and it frequently followed old logging roads.


Bridge over the Hudson

Morning fog over the Hudson

The trail passes near some bodies of water and other landmarks along the way. Lakes Jimmy and Sally offered little in the way of views as they were covered in thick fog. Any views of the surrounding area were also limited due to the fog. The old warden's cabin for Mt. Adams sits along the trail. The turn off for Mt. Adams isn't marked, but the trail is easy to see with red discs for anyone seeking its summit. I traveled quickly on the easy terrain. My only real obstacle was stretches of mud. The muddy sections were pretty common after recent rains.

Fire warden's cabin for Mt Adams

Trail following an old logging road

Plenty of mud

As I approached the three mile mark, the Opalescent River comes into view. The trail follows near the river until it eventually crosses it. At one time a bridge spanned the river. It washed away and has never been replaced. At lower water levels, the river is said to be easily hopped across on rocks. Recent rains left the river somewhere slightly deeper than low water. A short distance downstream, a few convenient rocks make the river passable while keeping your feet dry. It wasn't a simple crossing. The rocks were somewhat far spaced and the water level didn't leave much room for error. The rocks were wet, which didn't make it any easier. I'm glad I had poles to help with the crossing. Choya made the rock hop look easy.

Opalescent River

Fog lingering over the Opalescent

Crossing the Opalescent

The only mountain view I saw through the fog

After crossing the river, I continued on the relatively flat East River Trail. Although the trail became a little brushy and muddy, the hiking remained pretty easy until the turnoff for Allen Mountain. The Allen Mountain herd path didn't have any signs or even a cairn to mark it. The trail is pretty obvious however and a sign for Mt. Marcy stands at at the junction for a landmark. I was surprised I reached the turnoff in one hour and 45 minutes.

The herd path seemed pretty muddy. Even though its a herd path, it followed old logging roads at times, which were also rather wet and muddy. The herd path begins a slow climb with gradual elevation gain not long after it begins. I was surprised that the path began losing a fair amount of elevation as it descended to Skylight Brook.

Fog hanging over the trail

I believe this is a branch of Skylight Brook

Crossing a Skylight Brook

After crossing Skylight Brook, the path climbs gradually before reaching Allen Brook. The trail follows Allen Brook and becomes less trail like. Allen Brook is a beautiful stream that descends steeply down the west side of Allen Mountain with a continuous drop of slides, flumes, and waterfalls. Braided herd paths generally follow the banks of the brook or travel directly on the slides. At times, the herd path seemed to travel through the water.

Along the Allen herd path

Starting to follow Allen Brook

The pool under the falls looks inviting

The fast and easy hiking came to an end. Allen has a reputation for its slippery algae along the slides and slabs on the route, the notorious red slime. Some people will even wear traction devices such as Microspikes, to compensate for the slippery rock. Where the water slid over the rock, it certainly was slippery and almost ice like. With careful foot placement, I managed most of the time to not slide. Choya faired better than me with his extra two legs with built in traction devices. Only once did I slide backwards. 

Heading upstream, the herd paths weren't much better than dealing with the slime. The paths were extremely wet and rooty with lots of mud complicating progress. If the herd path disappeared, chances were that the path followed the rock directly. At times you could find bare rock. Other times you walked directly in the water.

Following the slabs up Allen Brook

The water features are continuous

Choya enjoying a brief rest

The sound of the water was enjoyable

The trail often travels through the water

Despite added challenge its quite pretty

The path climbed steeply along Allen Brook. The path gains over 2,000 vertical feet in the last 1.6 miles with more than 1,600 feet in the last mile. With the elevation gain came some partial views to the west at the higher reaches of Allen Brook. The path finally breaks away from the brook within a half-mile or so from the summit.

A view near the upper reaches of Allen Brook

As I approached the summit, I passed one viewpoint, only to find the summit was socked in with clouds. This seemed like a long way to hike to not get any views. Within a couple minutes I reached the tree covered summit. A short distance north of the summit is a viewpoint to the north. Although initially socked in with clouds, the clouds quickly lifted and I was rewarded with pretty good views. 

The summit

Immediately to the north stands three of the four highest Adirondack summits; Marcy, Haystack, and Skylight. Between Marcy and Haystack, you get a nice look at Panther Gorge. The scarred sides of Gothics and Pyramid peak out beyond Haystack. Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge rise in the distance. Redfield stands predominantly to the west of Skylight. Many other High Peaks can be seen from the north side of Allen.

Clouds lifting to the north

The clouds still lingering on the summits

Choya waiting for his lunch

Clouds lifting off Giant after
a few minutes at the summit

Gothics and Pyramid's bare sides, Sawteeth,
and Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge in the distance

Skylight with Marcy in the background

Haystack with Gothics and Pyramid in the background

Panther Gorge between Marcy and Haystack

Skylight and Marcy

Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge in the distance

Choya and I both had some lunch while enjoying the views. Only one other hiker was at the summit when we arrived. After chatting a few minutes, he moved on and I enjoyed having the summit to myself. After I ate, I returned over the summit proper and passed another pair. The clouded over view to the west cleared since I first passed it. From the clearing I could see the Santanoni and Seward Ranges.

The Santanonis

The Santanonis in the distance on the left
and Sewards on the right

I worried about my footing on the way back down. On the descent, I could see more herd paths from above that seemed to avoid most of the travel on the slippery slabs. I managed to travel down the brook pretty quickly with no real issues. I passed quite a few groups on the descent. Once we turned away from Allen Brook we made good time, slowed down only in muddier sections.

Headed back down through the brook

Easy rock hop

Back on the East River Trail, my pace picked up quite a bit. The crossing of the Opalescent seemed much easier than the morning. The rocks were slippery when I first crossed it from the morning fog. In the afternoon the rocks offered much more grip. I took a short break at the Opalescent to splash myself and Choya to stay cool.

Interesting boggy area

Looking upstream in the Opalescent

The rest of the hike went by quickly. With the morning fog long burned off, I even had some views of the surrounding mountains at times. Lakes Sally and Jimmy looked prettier now that I could actually see them not shrouded in fog. The day warmed up quite a bit and I began to see countless toads along the trail as well as a garter snake. I made one final stop just before the trailhead to cool off by the Hudson. We reached the trailhead about 215PM.

After the morning fog lifted I had some views

More views along the East River Trail

Lake Sally

A large toad

Lake Jimmy at old trail crossing

Trail passing the north end of Lake Jimmy

After hiking Allen Mountain, I don't necessarily think it lives up to its reputation. Yes it's a long hike, but its not the worst hike I've done in the Adirondacks. Despite its distance at close to 19 miles, majority of the hike is flat. At most four miles of the hike travels over rough terrain. While that rough section of trail is pretty steep and challenging, it's also short lived. Sections of the hike are quite pretty. While the steepest part of the hike is fairly brutal, at least you have the constant tumble of a waterfall along most of the tough section to make up for the slog. A couple lakes and views help make the long flat stretch pass by. I was also impressed with the Opalescent. It's a pretty mountain river. I was told that the route was a little more challenging at the time I hiked it due to the recent wet weather. So maybe it would be a little less rough if you wait for a dry stretch.  I certainly wouldn't rank Allen as one of my favorite hikes among the 46er peaks. I wouldn't rank it as the worst hike either. At 19 miles this was one of Choya's longer hikes. Because we only climbed on peak and so much of the trail was flat, he didn't have any trouble with the hike.

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