Mount Marcy Summit

Mount Macy is the highest point in New York State with an elevation of 5,343 feet. It is located in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks Region and its expansive panoramic views make it a beloved hiking destination in New York. The hike up the mountain can done in one day using the same trail to the summit and then back down, but where is the fun in that? Using some of the nearby trails to create a loop makes this trail a couple of miles longer, but also adds to the sights. For those that feel they cannot make this trek in a full day, there is a beautiful campground and a few lean-to's along the trail that are excellent for staying the night in.

Quick Stats:

Trail Length: 18 miles City/State:   Lake Placid, New York Bikes Allowed: No
Elevation: 2,223 Feet (lowest)
5,344 Feet (highest)
County:   Essex Dogs Allowed: Yes


Getting There

Mount Marcy NYWiki

Mount Macy is easily gotten to from Lake Placid, New York. Off Exit 30 on I-87, look for signs to Keene Valley off of Route 73. This will lead visitors into the High Peaks Wilderness Area and to the Garden Parking Lot. This parking lot is right next to the trailhead that marks the ascent up Mount Macy and also near the Johns Brooke Lodge and campground. Visitors should note that there is a $7 per day parking fee.

The Hike

Upon locating the trail marked Phelp's Trail, the hike begins. This leads right past the Johns Brook Lodge Area where those planning the long climb often choose to stay the night. It is a highly recommended stop for campers. However, for those that choose not to stay, the area has some great swimming holes for a refreshing post-hike cool down.

While it is smooth hiking through the campground, that soon changes. Nearly right outside the campground's boundaries the climb begins. The alpine forest grows taller and older, looking even more massive as the terrain begins to rise. The trail is well-maintained here, so there should be few loose rocks on the path, though some roots and larger rocks may jut out at times. After about two miles of hiking, visitors will come across the Marcy Dam. This trail used to cross right over it, but the dam was badly damaged by Hurricane Irene and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has decided to have it removed as it no longer serves its original purpose and would be too expensive to repair. Currently the trail has been rerouted downstream a bit to cross before rejoining the trail again.

Right after rejoining Phelp's Trail, it is time to leave it. Continuing onwards would lead up Phelp's Mountain, but is not nearly impressive as the final destination of Mount Marcy. Hikers need to veer left on the Van Hoevenberg Trail which flattens out at first on a pleasantly grassy plateau. The trail crosses over the peaceful babbling Phelp's Brook over a high-water bridge or visitors can rock-hop their way across if the water is low. If the water is low, it is a fine place to roll up the pants and strip off those socks for a cool foot soaking. After Phelp's Brook, the trail begins its moderate climb towards the summit anew. After passing countless smaller mountains that are in plain view for hikers on the trail as well as a few side trails that lead up these smaller peaks, hikers finally get their first solid view of Mount Marcy itself.

At the trailhead marked 'Mount Marcy,' hikers should keep right which marks the final ascent up the mountain. There is where the trail gets a bit difficult. There is a lot of climbing involved to get to the summit, with numerous bare rocks and cairns that must be climbed over. There are yellow blazes to help hikers remain on the trail since there is not a lot of structure. However, after the trail flattens out, hikers know they have arrived.

Hikers now stand atop Mount Marcy, the highest point in the state, at 5,344 feet. The mountain itself was named after former governor William Learned Marcy, but it is famous for a different man. It was here when President Theodore Roosevelt, then Vice President, was climbing the area when he found out that President McKinley was shot and lay dying in the world below. After Roosevelt made it off the mountain and out of the woods below, he found out that he was the new President of the United States. There is a lovely little plaque on top of the summit commemorating this event. History aside, the summit is a marvel in and of itself. On a clear day, visitors can easily see all the other smaller peaks around them. It took a bit of work to get up there and see the summit, so mind as well take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

While hikers can just retrace the previous trail to get back down, those who have a couple of extra miles left in them should instead opt to take the Hopkins Trail on the right. The descent down Mount Marcy via that Hopkins Trail is just as rocky as the way up on the other trail, but it is shorter and steeper. After finally descending, the landscape takes a bit of a full turn and instead of large rocks, becomes a bit swampy. Visitors should keep on the Hopkins Trail when it splits off from the summit trail, though the other way does lead to the lovely Indian Falls. After passing through the swampy area, visitors will get marvelous views of the Tabletop Mountains, which could be seen from the other trail, but are much clearer along the Hopkins. Eventually, the Hopkins Trail will rejoin the Phelp's Trail and head back through the Johns Brook Lodge and campground before finally getting back to the parking lot. It was a weary 18-mile hike, but well worth it and there are plenty of other trails in the surrounding area that explore the Adirondacks for those that want to stay the night and explore a little more the next day.

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