Ready for a challenge? Hike to the top of Mt. Marcy!
The highest peak in New York state is Mt. Marcy, at 5,344 feet above sea level. As such, it's a very popular hiking destination, both for winter and summer hikers. Even being a popular hike, and one that's achievable in a day, it's still not a hike that you undertake with no preparation.
Of all the major Adirondack hikes, it's not technically the most challenging, but you'll spend the majority of the day on the trail, so give yourself plenty of time. There are several different ways to access the trail, but the shortest way (it can be accomplished up and back in one day) is by following the seven mile Van Hoevenberg Trail, which is found on the north side.
How to get there
From Lake Placid, you'll need to head south on Rt. 73 for five miles. Then turn right onto Adirondack Loj road and drive another 5 miles to the end. There you'll see the Loj parking lot, which is the start of the Van Hoevenberg Trailhead. From here, it's seven miles to the top of Mt. Marcy.
So what's the actual trail like?
The first 2 miles of it are pretty flat, with nice soft ground. A good start to get your wind up! At the end of the first two miles, you come to Marcy Dam, which is a gorgeous place for a rest. Marcy Dam is actually a small lake, surrounded by beautiful Adirondack peaks on all sides. This lake itself is a good hiking destination, as you can swim here and even camp out in any of the seven Adirondack lean-tos.
If you do want to go to the top of Marcy, though, you'll have to leave this tranquil spot and start sweating a lot. It's all uphill from here!! One note - by climbing the Van Hoevenberg Trail, you're not actually going to be climbing Mt. Marcy from bottom to top. What you'll be doing is climbing Phelps Mountain, which lies right next to Mt. Marcy, and then crossing over. If you have your heart set on scaling Marcy from the bottom up, you'll need to take a different trail. That also requires an overnight camp-out.
From here on, the trail definitely becomes more challenging. It becomes very jagged with sharp rocks and requires a bit of thought as to where to put your feet next. You'll cross a rushing brook and zig-zag back and forth on the trail.
For the next four miles the climb is uphill within the forest. At this point, you'll just want to keep going without stopping or you'll lose your momentum!
Now you're at the top of Phelps Mountain and look what's next door - the summit of Mt. Marcy! You're above the tree line now, and you have to climb the rock face up to the summit. It's in sight! Just one last bit of energy and ..... you're there, on top of the highest peak in New York!
From here, the views are stupendous. You can see the Green Mountains of Vermont, many of the other Adirondack peaks, and you can see the Olympic ski jumps, too.
Mt. Marcy is a great day hike if you're in decent shape and can walk and climb for 7 miles - or 14 if you're coming back down the same day. It's a great way to experience some of the beauty and wildness of the Adirondacks. It'll make you feel grateful to be alive!
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