Hiking: Giant Mountain via the Ridge Trail | Adirondacks, NY | October 11, 2008

Giant Mountain is located to the east of the Adirondack High Peak region and offers one of the best views of the higher peaks of the Adirondacks.  The Ridge Trail hike is also very accessible with its trailhead located directly on Route 73, just south of St. Huberts.  The Ridge Trail from this trailhead is only three miles in length to the summit, making this a very popular trailhead for visitors to the Adirondacks.  It is best to arrive early to make sure parking will be available, especially on holiday weekends.

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I’m not sure if I’ve hiked anywhere on a trail as crowded as the Ridge Trail up Giant Mountain was. I’ll admit it was the Saturday of a perfect Columbus Day Weekend weather wise, but still, it was like following a herd up and down the mountain.

Thankfully though even with the crowds this hike is well worth the effort. It is one of the most accessible trails in the Keene Valley area and it offers some of the best views of the High Peaks. Not only that, it’s quite a climb, especially as you make your way up the pretty much open rock ridge to the summit.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Now the guidebook and the trail sign claim that the hike is only 3 miles to the summit. My guess is that they haven’t remeasured it since they added a significant number of switchbacks to the trail that probably add about a half a mile or so.

Three miles is no big deal you say? But consider the 3,050 vertical feet you’re also climbing. This trail is relentless with few gently sloping sections and even fewer level sections. The trail starts up and doesn’t really stop until it gets to the summit of Giant Mountain.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
The first views really come into focus just before you reach the Washbowl (a small pond) along a cliff line that lets you look across the valley to the High Peaks beyond.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
The trip to the Washbowl takes up almost a mile so in the remaining 2.3 (or so) miles left, you really just go right up the side of Giant. The lower portion consists of a series of switchbacks and at the end of those, you break out onto a fairly open rock ridge that travels to the summit of Giant. Once on the ridge there aren’t any switchbacks and you just make your way up, up and up.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
The views from here on out just get better and better the further up you get on the ridge. On a clear day like we had, you can see just about everything around you and it’s amazing. No wonder it was so crowded!

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
The ridge consists of a series of bumps that you climb up and over before the ridge narrows and then climbs to the summit of Giant itself. At this point, it’s really kind of cool because the ridge is maybe 40 or 50 feet wide and it drops off steeply. The trees kid of hide it, but without them, it would probably be quite harrowing.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
There’s some scrambling up through the woods where it gets fairly steep and then you come to the intersection with the Rocky Peak Trail. From here it’s just a short climb to the summit, which is expansive and features an open rock cliff face to the west giving you amazing views of the High Peaks just across the valley.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
We probably spent an hour up on the summit just taking in the views and enjoying our lunches. The weather was as perfect as you can probably get with stunning views all around. The only real distraction was the 50+ people milling around. Groups large and small continually came up to the summit and then headed back down. It wasn’t quite the Adirondack hiking experience I had planned for Moe, but considering the popularity of the trail, its ease of access and the weather conditions, I really couldn’t complain.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
When it was time to start down you realize just how much you had climbed up and just how steep it was. The benefit though is that as you are going down, you can enjoy all the views that you had missed because you were looking the other way going up.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
The trip back down does by pretty fast. Quite soon we were almost down off the ridge and back to the Washbowl, then passing that line of cliffs before dropping down and heading back to the parking near Chapel Pond.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
We signed out and then headed to the car.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
I was shocked at just how many cars were parked along the road, but it would explain the number of people we passed going up and coming down. Even more amazing was the fact that it was about 4:30 in the afternoon when we came out and people were still just starting up the trail and that’s without a backpack or anything else. Good luck with that.

Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
Adirondack Vacation  - 10/08 - Giant Mountain Hike
After all that climbing up and down during the day, it was nice to get the hiking boots off and the sneakers on.

All of the photos for the hike are located in the Giant Mountain Hike set on Flickr.


For Adirondack Guidebooks and Maps

Trail descriptions and maps can be found in ADK's Adirondack Trails - High Peaks Guidebook.  National Geographic also publishes the Trails Illustrated Adirondack Maps.

Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region (Forest Preserve, Vol. 1) (Forest Preserve Series, V. 1)

Comments

  1. Great report. I'm doing Giant next, and your story helps. Recently did Cascade & Porter, and hope to do Giant next. Thanks for your story. Looks like you get around to some great places. Best of luck. Ted

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  2. I'm planning on making a weekend out of the trip. I am bringing my 10 year old, and we plan on camping on the mountain. Do you have any cautions or suggestions?

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  3. Stephen - there aren't too many decent places to camp along the Giant Mountain Trail. Plus the regulations for the state land require you to be at least 150 feet from trail, road or water, which makes it more difficult and you cannot camp above 4000 feet. There are several campgrounds nearby or you may want to consider hiking into the Copperas Pond Leanto in Wilmington Notch. It's a short walk and a nice place to camp.

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  4. According to the DEC's website and map, there are designated camp areas near the washbowl. My main concern is if the hike is appropriate for a 10 year old boy to do in three sections over 3 days?

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  5. If you're doing the hike over 3 days, I think he'd be able to make it. There are no technical sections, it's just a steady, steep climb after the washbowl. The upper portion is on an open rock ridge, which isn't that narrow, but it may be a bit scary for someone that young.

    There is some camping around the Washbowl, but it may fill quickly, depending on when you are there since it's first come, first serve.

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  6. Thanks so much for your advice! Awesome pictures! Can't wait to take my boy to the top!

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