Adirondacks High Peaks: Mt. Marcy

A rewarding hike to the highest peak in New York State (5,343 feet or 1,629 metres). Some fitness is required to do this popular trail.

My classmate Jess wanted to do a trip together. I think she meant a short day hike, but when we saw that we both had a free weekend in June, our destination was clear to me: the Adirondacks. The High Peaks region in Lake Placid is only 3 hours away from Ottawa and offers 46 peaks over 4000′ (1219 m). It is budget-friendly and simple to plan: leave after work on Friday, set up camp, do a long day hike on Saturday, sleep, and hike or relax on Sunday before returning home.

However, I assumed she knew what hiking in the Adirondacks entailed, as trails are estimated to take 8-10 hours to complete. She confused the mountain range with the Laurentians, and invited our classmate Gab to join us for this ‘relaxing camping trip.’

My goal was to find a trail that would suit Gab’s beginner skill level, and still offer a challenge for Jess and me. I heard from members of the uOttawa Outdoors Club that Mount Marcy was a long hike, but suitable for beginners because the ascent is gradual. It is an out-and-back trail, and I checked with Gab that she would be comfortable waiting for us midway while we reached the peak if ever she had difficulty. It reassured me that it is one of the most popular hikes.

The hike. We started our hike at 8 am, and I would not recommend any later as the parking lot was nearly full. I read that a shuttle bus is offered from another parking lot but you must return in time for the last bus! The trail was wet, as spring conditions were ongoing, but it did not matter so much since most of the hike involves stepping or jumping from one rock to another. Gab made it over the tree line and we were so proud of her! This was her first big hike and she had been injured through the winter and spring. The final part of the hike is steep but so worth it. We filtered water at Indian Falls on our way back and returned to the trailhead a few minutes before 8 pm. I would recommend a lower peak for a beginner who is not in shape. Consider using hiking poles.

Camping. We camped at the South Meadow Trailhead, which is free! I was worried about being unable to find a spot but we had no trouble on a Friday around 6 pm. The site has an outhouse but no other amenities. Bring water, toilet paper, and camp chairs if desired. Campfires are not permitted. It is only a 5 min drive to the Mt Marcy trailhead, Adirondak Loj.

Food. We stopped at Price Chopper on Friday (930 Saranac Ave., Lake Placid, NY 12946) and again on Saturday. It is open 24/7, has reasonable prices, and carries an assortment of beer. Bring your reusable bags. On Sunday, we had lunch at Big Mountain Deli & Crêperie (2475 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY 12946), which offers a unique sandwich named after each of 46 High Peaks. Jess and I enjoyed the Mt Marcy Sandwich.

Costs. Budget for gas, groceries, 10 USD day parking fee at the Adirondack Loj (if you are hiking from this trailhead), and 3.50 CAD or 3 USD for the toll from Cornwall to the US border. There are no day use fees for the trails. It only cost us about 35 CAD each for the whole trip!

Photos taken by Jessica Honse

We are so fortunate that such a beautiful mountain range is close to home, and inexpensive to visit. There were so many Canadians on the trail!

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