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This route is arguably the most epic traverse in the Adirondacks, if not the entire state of New York.
This route encompasses the official "Great Range," offering the option to summit Mount Marcy at the end.
Though the summit of the New York's highest peak is typically added to a Great Range hike, the peak lies on a different ridge and is not recognized by traditional hikers or trail organizations. This route's versatility is one of its strong suits.
While a single day trek is feasible for an experienced day hiker or trail runner, it is typically split into a multi-day trip.
In addition to countless spur trails leading to other official peaks, the extensive network of trail gives plenty of options to form shorter or longer loops. This route would typically begin at the Roostercomb Trailhead along NY-73 in Keene Valley.
If you have multiple vehicles and intend to return via the Phelps Trail, stage one at the ADK Garden Trailhead to avoid a couple of miles of road at the end of the route.
Currently, there is no other way to connect the two trailheads. Make your way up the Rooster Comb Trail to begin your hike.
A long, picturesque boardwalk leads over a bog as it transitions into a dark, almost ominous forest.
Rooster Comb Mountain is the first landmark of the day, with many choosing it as a destination for a shorter hike.
Accessible via a spur trail, most hikers bound for the "Great Range" pass up the views, knowing they only get better along the ridge. Ahead, the trail passes over Hedgehog Mountain, just short of 3,400'.
From here, the path intensifies as you traverse the ridge to the first official High Peak of the day—Lower Wolfjaw.
Partial views tease you with what's to come.
A steep descent and equally steep climb to Upper Wolfjaw bags the next High Peak of the day.
You'll find increasingly better views, offering an option to give your legs a break. As the path intensifies, the route takes you over Armstrong Mountain before traversing to one of the true gems on this route—Gothics.
From here, panoramic views start to unfurl as you gain a surreal viewpoint of the state's highest peaks.
Soak in the landscape and snag some photos before continuing onto even rougher trail.
A steep, exposed slope defines the opposing side of the mountain and ropes are placed in intervals to assist with the most challenging portions.
Mind your footing and take it slowly as you make your way into another notch.
Here, you will find the Orebed Brook Trail.
While you would miss out on the remainder of the high peaks, this serves as the last major cut-off offering the easiest option to leave the High Peaks.
Continuing up the spine, Saddleback and Basin Mountain lie ahead, separated by one of the most challenging portions along the trail.
Steep, jagged cliffs make up a portion of trail referred to as the "Saddleback Cliffs" and extra caution should be taken as you work your way to Basin.
Its summit offers equally astonishing views as the last.
An incredibly steep descent into a dark col leaves you with a grueling climb to Haystack and Little Haystack.
Their summits are acclaimed to have the best views in the Adirondacks, though the exposed rocky spine between them can prove a challenging traverse.
Take in the views and relax before making the return trip to the trailhead.
Though the Great Range can be completed as an out-and-back, several other options exists.
The two most popular options are the Phelps Trails to return to the trailhead you began at, or the Van Hoevenberg Trail to complete a thru-hike to Heart Lake. For an added bonus, leave the official "Great Range," and take the spur trail to New York's highest peak, Mount Marcy around 5,300'.
Named after a 19th-century New York Governor, this grandstand offers more astonishing views of the Adirondacks as its summit lies above the treeline.
Enjoy the views and take a picture of the placard denoting your accomplishment. Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Marcy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Range https://www.lakeplacid.com/blog/2014/07/great-range-trail-adirondacks-most-sought-after-traverse