The High Peak of the North
By Phil Brown
Think of Lyon Mountain as the High Peak of the North. It stands alone in the northeastern corner of the Adirondack Park, offering superb views of Chazy Lake, the Champlain Valley, the Green Mountains and, due south, Whiteface and many more of the Park’s tallest summits.
Some might quibble that, at 3,830 feet, Lyon falls short of 4,000 feet—the usual criterion for High Peaks status. That’s true, but it is still 10 feet taller than Couchsachraga, the smallest of the traditional 46 High Peaks. (Couchie was once thought to be 4,000 feet.)
All of this is just a way of saying that Lyon is a substantial climb with a big payoff.
The trail follows an old jeep road, ascending 1,920 feet over 2.5 miles. In both distance and elevation gain, the hike is virtually identical to climbing Cascade Mountain, the Park’s 36th-highest peak, from Route 73.
Usually, the hike begins at a small parking area at the end of a gravel road. The gravel road is not plowed, so in winter you may have to begin at Chazy Lake Road. This will add a mile and 340 feet of elevation gain to the climb. If this is the case, you may want to bring skis, because the gravel road and more than a mile of the trail are skiable.
At the start, the old jeep road passes through a young forest of pole-size hardwoods. At 1.3 miles, it reaches the remains of a fire observer’s cabin. This is probably as far as most people would want to ski. From here, the trail narrows and steepens. The forest becomes more attractive as you gain elevation, giving way to mature white birch and balsam fir. Nearing the summit, the grade eases as you pass through an evergreen forest.
The trail emerges out of the woods at the foot of the abandoned fire tower. The tower is missing a few steps, but people continue to climb it for the marvelous panorama of the northern Adirondacks. The Nature Conservancy plans to repair the tower this spring. But you don’t have to go up the tower to enjoy good views. Rocky ledges offer vistas to the north, east and south.
From the village of Dannemora, drive about 9 miles west on NY 374 to Chazy Lake Road. Turn left and go 1.8 miles south to the gravel road on the right. If coming from Saranac, turn north on Chazy Lake Road from NY 3 and follow it 8.2 miles to the gravel road on the left. (At a four-way stop 2.4 miles from NY 3, Chazy Lake Road takes a 90-degree right turn.)