Advice for Hiking the High Peaks in Keene
Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene
The Town of Keene is the home of the High Peaks, and some of the most popular trailheads are located along NY State Route 73. These great mountains attract lots of hikers. To make sure your hike goes as planned, make sure you know what to expect.
On weekends and nice summer days, parking at these trailheads fills up early, often before 7 am. Here are some of the areas where parking becomes a problem on a regular basis:
- Chapel Pond area, especially for the rock climbing access points.
- Roaring Brook parking lot for Giant.
- Au Sable Club parking lot for Indian Head, Noonmark, Gothics, Dial, Nipple Top, & Lower Wolf Jaw.
- Rooster Comb parking lot provides a long haul to the Great Range.
- The Garden parking lot for the Johns Brook Valley and beyond. This is also served by a shuttle: https://www.townofkeeneny.com/2019-garden-hiker-shuttle-information
- Owls Head (Keene); Access is restricted to week days only. The majority of this trail is on private property. Please respect the property owners and don’t wander off the trail or park blocking their driveways.
- Cascade Mountain; the parking is in North Elba, but the mountain is in Keene. Currently, roadside parking is allowed, but this is subject to change. Click for current conditions: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html
There are two effective strategies you can follow to have a smooth and enjoyable experience setting off into the woods.
- Arrive EARLY. Plan to be there by 6:30 at the latest.
- Plan Ahead! (see below)
If you are climbing the 46ers, try to plan your ascent of the most popular peaks for weekdays and shoulder seasons. Otherwise, get there early. Click for current conditions: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html
Some mountains have many routes to the top. Giant can be reached from a number of different trailheads. The Wolf Jaws, Gothics, and the rest of the Great Range can be reached via the Au Sable Club, Rooster Comb, and Garden parking lots. That gives you lots of options and the shuttle from Marcy Field: https://www.townofkeeneny.com/2019-garden-hiker-shuttle-information
Baxter Mountain: A shorter hike with excellent views. Park on Rt 9N.
Hurricane Mountain: A beautiful hike and a historic fire tower This trail is well designed and built, so you can hike it when it’s muddy and not contribute to trail erosion.
Blueberry Mountain: A rugged ascent to a great view. You can continue on to Porter & Cascade. You will see very few people on this hike. Trail leaves from rear of Marcy Field parking lot.
Mt. Van Hovenberg Trail: The new trail is well designed and parking is easy. Park at the bobsled run and follow the signs. Great views!
If you want solitude, go into the Sentinel Wilderness. You won’t knock off a 46er, but you will not see other hikers or any brown and yellow signs telling you where to go. You can hike through the South Notch from River Road in Lake Placid and exit at the end of the Old Mountain Road in Keene. The North Notch by Holcomb Pond on River Road also has through access to Keene or you can hike up Kilburn Mt. These hikes will test your navigation skills, so be prepared!
Here is a unique adventure that provides an alternative to hiking only the 46 High Peaks: http://transadk.com/
Be prepared; this guide is not a How-to-Hike manual.
Bring a map and know how to use it. If you can’t park at your first choice hike, a map can help you find a new goal and successfully climb it. It can also help you not get lost.
You can also stop at Marcy Field and get advice from a Town of Keene Front Country Steward. They can help you find a suitable hike and direct you to it.