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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mount Marcy trail in good condition

The summit of Mount Marcy. Photo by Phil Brown.

The summit of Mount Marcy. Photo by Phil Brown.

I hiked the Van Hoevenberg Trail to Mount Marcy today (Saturday) and found it fine shape, despite a few changes wrought by Hurricane Irene.

It was just two days after the state Department of Environmental Conservation reopened the eastern High Peaks, and many hikers were out enjoying the sunshine.

Starting at Adirondak Loj, the Van Hoevenberg Trail is the shortest and most popular route to the state’s highest summit. It ascends 3,166 feet over 7.4 miles.

As we reported earlier, the floods caused by Irene washed away at the bridge at Marcy Dam, located 2.3 miles from the Loj. Consequently, hikers must rock-hop across Marcy Brook below the dam.

About 1.8 miles from the Loj, DEC has put up a board with an arrow indicating a short path to the brook. You cross on boulders to an island, then rock-hop again to the opposite shore. The boulders are numerous and big, so as rock hops go, this isn’t too bad, but DEC warns that the brook might be impassable in high water.

Once on the opposite shore, you turn right onto a narrow footpath that soon leads to the Marcy Dam Truck Trail. Marcy Dam is less than a quarter-mile up the truck trail.

The pond at Marcy Dam has lost quite a bit more water since I visited the day after Irene. The shores and the middle of the pond are now mudflats.

Eroded trail above Marcy Dam. Photo by Phil Brown.

Eroded trail above Marcy Dam. Photo by Phil Brown.

Just beyond Marcy Dam, DEC has rerouted the trail for about a quarter-mile to avoid a stretch of the old trail that was eroded during Irene. The old trail is now a rock-filled gully. The rerouted trail ends near the high-water bridge over Phelps Brook. Although the bridge still stands, DEC has closed it.

Over the next five miles to the summit, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Above Indian Falls, there were a few trees across the trail that were easily stepped over and a few that appeared to have been recently cut through. That was it.

From Indian Falls you can get a good view of a long narrow slide on Algonquin Peak that was created by Irene’s torrential rains. At Marcy Dam you can see the new slide on Wright Peak.

When I got to Marcy’s summit, the only person there was Seth Jones, the summit steward. Before I left, several other parties arrived, and on the descent to the Loj, I encountered several more on their way up. It was fairly busy, given all the uncertainty about trail conditions in the aftermath of the storm.

I talked with others who had hiked to Table Top Mountain, Wright Peak, and Avalanche Lake, and all told me the same thing: the trails were not bad at all.

Algonquin Peak from Indian Falls. Photo by Phil Brown.

Algonquin Peak from Indian Falls. Photo by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

10 Responses

  1. Jeff says:

    Good to hear, thanks Phil.

  2. Raymond says:

    If the pond at Marcy Dam is so low, it isn’t possible to just cross at the dam?

  3. Phil Brown says:

    The part of the pond that drained is now deep soft mud. Wouldn’t want to cross there.

  4. Mark Ayers says:

    It was a pleasure meeting you on top of Marcy Saturday. I was up right behind you after taking the same “narrow trail”. Thanks again for putting up so much information after the storm. Very informative when information was difficult to get.

  5. […] Yesterday I hiked with Josh Wilson to Avalanche Pass to check out the condition of the trail in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. The short story is that the trail sustained quite a bit more damage than the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which I hiked on Saturday. […]

  6. Edward says:

    Thanks for writing this. The DEC web site almost scared us off… but thanks to your update which I found Saturday night, my son and I climbed Marcy on Sunday 9/11. It was a perfect day – and the trail conditions were pretty awesome considering. Even the Rock Hop across Marcy Brook was a breeze…

  7. Phil Brown says:

    Edward, glad you found the post in time and that you enjoyed your hike.

    Mark, it was a pleasure chatting with you. I trust you had a safe hike down.

  8. Linda G says:

    My husband and I just did this hike on Monday 9/19 in perfect weather, no rain had fallen for many days. However, being rookie hikers we failed to check on trail conditions, and must have had our heads down and missed the sign to cross the brook and continued on to the dam, knowing that was our next rest stop. What a surprise to not have a bridge to cross!

    If you can believe there was only 1 more hiker around at 7 AM that day, and he also missed the detour across the brook! He attempted a crossing in the mud behind the dam and almost got stuck. NOT a good idea.

    However we did manage to trek around the edge of lake bed to the other side of the dam. Once over there we did meet up with another hiker who informed us about the re-route over the brook (described clearly in Phil’s post here), which encouraged us for the way down.

    We did have a wonderful and successful hike to the summit and back, after that adventure without a dam bridge!

    It’s good idea to check with the High Points information center the day before to see if the brook crossing is possible. If not, they will likely recommend you start at South Meadow and follow the truck trail the entire way to the mountain/trail register side of the dam.

  9. chris says:

    is it safe to go alone

  10. Phil Brown says:

    People do hike it solo, but it’s always safer to have a partner–especially in winter.

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