5 Family Friendly Fall Hikes in the High Peaks

Guest Blogger: John DiGiacomo of Placid Times Photography

Over the last couple of years trails leading to the popular peaks above 4,000 feet in the high peaks section of the Adirondacks have seen record numbers of hikers. On a typical fall weekend trailheads for mountains such as Giant, Cascade and Pitchoff will have at least a hundred vehicles lining the road. If you are like me, sharing the trail with a continuous stream of other hikers is not what you would call fun. As an alternative consider exploring a few of the dozens of alternative hikes the high peaks region region has to offer. While not being able to boast about summiting a peak above 4,000 feet, these peaks offer some great hiking alternatives and expansive vistas. Additionally, many of these hikes can be combined into a single day outing.
Below is a short description of five of these alternative hikes that will not be as congested, but offer some big payoffs upon reaching their summits. There have been days when my wife and I have done two or three of these hikes while breaking them up with a lunch stop in Keene or Keene Valley at such places like Cedar Run, ADK Café, Noonmark Diner or Sub-Alpine Coffee House.

Owls Head MOUNTAIN

Located in Keene, this 1.2 mile round trip hike (460 feet of elevation gain) is one of the shortest hikes in the area but offers some spectacular views from the top. The trail is starting to show signs of over use, but is still suitable for families with young children. While steep in sections, the trail has plenty of overlooks along the way. These overlooks afford families a place to stop and rest while enjoying some great view. On many days, hikers will be treated to an eye level view of rock climbers in action on the rock walls just below the summit. The trailhead is located on Owls Head Lane, off of Route 73. Owls Head Lane is approximately 3.2 miles from Keene and approximately 3.6 miles from the Cascade trailhead.

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Baxter MOUNTAIN

From 9N– Located in Keene Valley, this 3-mile round trip hike (770 feet of elevation gain) rewards visitors with a 270-degree view from its top, where you can see Hurricane Mtn, Giant Mtn, Noonmark, the Great Range and views of Keene Valley. The first section of trail starts off at a moderate grade and then turns into a series of comfortable switchbacks, with the last portion of the trail being a little steeper. For those wondering about whether they can do this hike or not, the Lake Placid Elementary School has taken kids on hikes here. Many hikers, upon reaching the top, make the mistake of dropping their pack and not going any further. Continue to explore its summit, as the trail ducks back in the woods for a short distance and opens again to more views. Continuing down hill for about two hundred yards there are more openings and additional views of the High Peaks. This peak is also known for its abundance of blueberries during late summer. The trailhead is located on 9N approximately 2 miles from the intersection of 9N and Route 73 between Keene and Keene Valley. The trailhead will be located on your right. On the other side of the road you will see painter Bruce Mitchell’s studio. If you have never seen his work you are in for a real treat should you decide to visit his studio.

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Hurricane Mountain

From Keene– Located in Keene off Hurricane Mountain Road, this is a 6 mile round trip hike (1,600 feet of elevation gain). The first 1.1 miles is relatively flat, with the remainder being a moderate climb to the summit. The fire tower is in the process of being restored, but was recently opened to the public. From the towers cabin, you can see Lake Champlain and Burlington to the east and the High Peaks to the west. There is no better reward in reaching a summit than experiencing the view from a fire tower. The trailhead is located at the end of O”Toole Lane off Hurricane Mountain Road. Hurricane Mountain Road is located just south of the center of the Hamlet of Keene. Proceed on Hurricane Mountain Road for approximately 2.3 miles. Just as the road starts to make a sharp right, O’Toole Lane will be on your left. Continue on O’Toole Lane as the trailhead will be at the end.

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Nun-da-ga-o Ridge Ridge Circuit

(AKA “The Soda Range”)

Located in Keene, off Hurricane Mountain Road, this 6.2 mile round trip hike should only be attempted by families with older children. Families with younger children may want to consider making the Crow’s their destination for the day. The trail starts out on the Crow’s trail for approximately .5 miles and then slabs across a sidehill to the notch between Big Crow and the Ridge. You will come to the first ledge in another .4 miles. You then have a series of ups and downs before starting a series of steep switchbacks that lead you onto the Ridge. The descent off the Ridge will put you at the base of Weston MTN. The steady climb up Weston will lead to nice views, from its summit, of the High Peaks and Lost Pond. The descent down Weston will take you to the shore of Lost Pond before you continue the two-mile hike back to the parking area.This circuit is the least used of the five listed here. The trailhead is located at the end of O”Toole Lane off Hurricane Mountain Road sharing the parking area with the Hurricane MTN. trailhead (See Above).

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Jay Mountain Range

The trailhead is located at the intersection of Jay Mountain Road and Upland Meadows Road in the Hamlet of Jay. The first 2.5 miles of this trail leading to the ridge was constructed in 2012 and provides hikers with a moderate climb on solid trail. Once on the ridge it is approximately another 1.5 miles to the 3600-foot summit of Jay Mountain. Once reaching the ridge trail there is a short spur trail on your left that leads to a scenic 360-degree view that encompasses the high peaks, Whiteface MTN, Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. Additionally, the ridge which is mostly open also provides some spectacular views.

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The Adirondacks put on their “Sunday best” in the Fall. Come explore the High Peaks region and stay at your perfect home base, Hotel North Woods.

Hike and Stay with our Fall Colors Hiking Package today!

Tracy Smith