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Are you looking for your next beautiful hiking trail with spectacular views, a little terrain variety, and a little workout? Hiking Mount Marcy, the tallest of the peaks in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, will certainly provide you with that experience!
There are a few things to know prior to setting out on your first Mount Marcy adventure, and we’re going to fill you in on all the details.
Read on to learn all you need to know about where to start, what to expect, and how to go about hiking Mount Marcy!
Mount Marcy At A Glance
Distance: 14.8 miles roundtrip
Duration (book time): 10-11 hours
Elevation: 5,344 feet
Elevation gain: 3,166 feet
First of all, where is Mount Marcy?
Mount Marcy is located in the state of New York, near Lake Placid. You can find this mountain and 45 other “high peaks” originally thought to be over 4,000 feet in the Adirondack Mountains.
From Lake Placid, heading south on Sentinal Road/Route 73 will have you at a trailhead in 15-20 minutes.
Side Note: The 46 high peaks are still considered the originals, even though after they were surveyed, it was found that there are 3 actually a little shorter than 4,000 feet, and one higher peak was left out!
How long does it take to hike Mount Marcy?
Typically, you should plan to do 7-8 hours of actual hiking on your approach and return from the Mount Marcy summit. This does not include time to stop for breaks, snacks, lunch, or take photos. Everyone would be a little different in that regard, and you know yourself best!
For reference, we were out on the trail for about 9.5 hours. We spend some time exploring Marcy Dam, Indian Falls, and the summit. We also stopped for both a lunch and snack break and would consider ourselves only moderately speedy hikers.
By the books, it is recommended to plan 10-11 hours for this hike. You’ll want to plan an early morning and get out on the trail.
Do I need a reservation to hike Mount Marcy?
No! This is one of the hikes in the Adirondacks that does not require a reservation to hike.
While the Adirondack Loj, one of the popular places to begin the hike, does fill early in the morning, there are no technical limits for the number of hikers per day on this mountain.
Parking at the Adirondack Loj lots does require you to pay a $15 fee. This fee must be paid in CASH. Come prepared. There are no ATMs.
Trail Options for Reaching the Summit
There are four separate routes to reach the Mount Marcy summit, but by far, the most popular is to begin at the Adirondack Loj & Heart Lake Program Center. That’s what we’re discussing here!
Other options could include beginning at the Johns Brook Lodge Garden trailhead for a 16.6-mile hike.
For more detailed approaches, take a look at the High Peaks maps to plan your trip.
The Adirondack Mountain Club High Peaks guidebook is also a great paper option.
Looking to explore more regions of the Adirondacks? Get the National Geographic Maps Bundle at a discount!
Hiking the Van Hoevenberg Trail
The shortest route for hiking Mount Marcy is via the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which departs from the Adirondack Loj, where the Adirondack Mountains High Peaks Information Center can be found.
Over the 14.6 miles, you’ll gain 3,166 feet of elevation.
To begin, stop at the trail register at the beginning under the shelter. It is important to leave your name, the number in your party, and destination, and the number of days you expect your hike to take. That way, if you get lost, rescue workers would have a general idea of where to start looking!
Then, begin your hike with the trail covering easy terrain from the Loj for about 2.3 miles, which includes packed dirt with just a few rocks and tree roots. There is a gentle elevation change on this part of the trail.
When you reach Marcy Dam 2.2 miles into the hike, stop and take in the views of some of the surrounding peaks including Mount Colden, Avalanche Mountain, and Wright Peak.
The dam no longer stands like it used to, as it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. You’ll still see the remnants of what was left behind.
Continue across the wooden bridge just down from the dam site and along the trail.
Pay attention just past the dam! You’ll need to take a separate trail in high water times because crossing the brook on the main trail can be dangerous. Then, after crossing the brook, that’s where things get a little more interesting!
The trail really begins to climb, and the rocks start to look more like small boulders! To distract you from the climb ahead, listen to the sounds of the water rushing down Phelps brook just below.
This climb can seem like it is going to go on forever, but just as you’re ready to give up, the trail flattens out and you’ll come across a small spur trail leading to Indian Falls, just over 4 miles into the hike. This is a really quick side stop, as Indian Falls is less than 50 yards off the trail.
The view of Indian Falls is from the top, where you’ll see an even better view out over the valley towards some of the other High Peaks. You’re looking at the MacIntyre Range! This could be a great spot to stop for a snack break before you continue on up the mountain, with about 3 miles remaining on your trek to the summit.
After Indian Falls, the rocks you must climb over seem to get bigger and bigger as you ascend.
With about 1.2 miles left in the hike, the trail flattens out again for a short distance and you’ll get a view of the Marcy summit.
You’ll wonder how you’re going to get up there, and how you’ll reach the top in only about one mile.
The trail turns to more flat bedrock-type terrain, and it’s very open. You’ll be glad that you packed that jacket, even though you were fine with a tank top at the bottom. Sturdy hiking shoes with excellent grip will most certainly help on this part of the trek.
There are a few very steep sections, but soon, you’ll reach the summit.
Once at the top, there is plenty of room for people to move around, snap some photos and relax for a little bit before the descent back down the mountain.
Pro Tip: Be sure to watch your step on the summit, which is home to very fragile alpine vegetation. These plants have a very short window for growth and can be easily trampled. Limit your steps to open rock faces. Avoid stepping on any plants or even the loose dirt and gravel—something may be trying to sprout there for the years to come!
After spending some time at the summit, you’ll have to turn around and head back the way you came. You’ll probably wonder how you scrambled up over some of those ledges and flat rocks. I know I did!
When is the Best Time to Conquer this Trail?
Summertime is best for this one unless you are very experienced. May through October is considered the high season.
In Spring, expect to come across more wet conditions and plan to take the high-water route around Phelps Brook.
Crowds will be largest during summer, so do not expect deserted trails and solitude.
Fall brings beautiful colors, but wet fallen leaves on the trail bring an extra challenge.
Winter can be quite dangerous due to wind chills and ice. Be sure to have the appropriate gear, including snowshoes, microspikes, crampons, etc.
Mount Marcy Camping
In the Adirondacks, there is no summit camping permitted and also no camping above 3,500 feet.
Because of this, the only location where you can camp along the most popular trail to summit Mount Marcy is at the Marcy Dam.
This is a popular base camp for both Mount Marcy and the other summit over 5,000 feet in New York, Algonquin Peak.
There are four Adirondack-style shelters around Marcy Dam, and around 20 open campsites scattered around the dam area, all marked with round discs. The shelters can accommodate 8 hikers which is the overnight group limit, anyway.
If you’re looking to make this hike a part of a longer backcountry trip, pick up one of the High Peaks guidebooks. There are so many options, it is difficult to choose!
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to camp in the backcountry, make sure to bring your bear canister or rent one locally, like at the High Peaks Information Center. The bears in the area have outsmarted hanging food, so any type of container they can pick up, they will walk off with. Don’t find yourself hungry at the beginning of your trip!
Top Tips for Hiking Mount Marcy
- Arrive early. You’ll have an easier time securing parking and the temperatures will be much cooler in the summer
- Check the weather before you go. This hike could get dangerous with rain and wet surfaces on some of the smooth rocks. This is definitely one that is much more enjoyable on a dry day.
- Wear waterproof hiking shoes/boots. The trail can be wet, even in the summer. A 14+ mile hike in wet socks and boots is a recipe for disaster!
- Bring cash for parking if beginning at the Adirondack Loj. You don’t want to loose your parking spot or delay beginning your hike because you forgot parking money! There is no ATM!
- Pack a windbreaker for the summit. The temperatures are easily 20 degrees different there than at the base. At the High Peaks Information Center, the board informed us that the summit temperature was 48 degrees with a 45-degree wind chill, 6-13 mph winds. This was in mid-August when the high temperature for the day in Lake Placid was 73!
- If you typically hike with trekking or hiking poles, you’ll want to have them on this trip. They can be helpful, especially on the descent. We found ourselves carrying them, though, during the last mile to the top over the smooth rocks.
Are you looking for a real challenge? Or looking for a multi-day high peaks adventure?
Hiking Mount Marcy can be combined with a number of other High Peaks in the area for even more epic adventures. Mount Skylight (4,905′) and Gray Peak (4,800′) are very popular additions but be warned. You’ll cover over 17 miles on this loop, also beginning at the Adirondack Loj. It is doable in one day, but only for those with appropriate fitness levels.
There are plenty of peaks within about a mile of the trail, including Table Top Mountain (4,304′) and Phelps Mountain (4,140′). The trails split from the Van Hoevenberg Trail, and are well marked and easily found.
Looking for other things to do around Lake Placid after your Mount Marcy hike? There are plenty of things to do, and if you’re visiting during the summer months, things to do around Lake Placid include swimming, kayaking, more hiking, and exploring. Check out our guide!
Wrapping-up: Why Hike Mount Marcy?
If you are a summit hiker, this is one sure to be on your list, as it is the tallest peak in the state of New York! If you’re native to the state of New York, you’ve got to see these views of your home state. And for anyone else… well, the views are pretty spectacular.
If you are looking for a little bit of a challenge or a climbing workout, this is one hike that should not be missed in upstate New York.