Report on Avalanche Pass Trail

Irene stripped the Trap Dike of much of its vegetation. Photo by Phil Brown.
Irene stripped the Trap Dike of much of its vegetation. Photo by Phil Brown.

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.

After we reached Avalanche Lake, I took the above photo of the Trap Dike on Mount Colden. Comparing it with the photo on the right, taken in 2009, you’ll see that the dike—at least as much of it as we can see—has been stripped of vegetation. Note the chocolate color of lake.

The Trap Dike in 2009. Photo by Josh Wilson.
The Trap Dike in 2009. Photo by Josh Wilson.

While comparing the photos, bear in mind than an avalanche ripped through the dike a few winters ago, and some trees were taken out then.

Because Irene created a slide near the summit of Colden that washed into the dike, I wondered I the upper part of the dike would be clogged with debris. Apparently that’s not the case, judging by this account from a Canadian hiker who climbed the dike this weekend. Click here to read my article on climbing the Trap Dike in 2009.

The most notable damage to the Avalanche Pass trail occurred along Marcy Brook, which undercut the trail in two sections, and in the pass itself, where a slide buried the trail in mud.

Hikers familiar with the trail know that it came close to Marcy Brook a short way from Marcy Dam. During Irene, the brook eroded the bank along the trail. To replace these sections, the state Department of Environmental Conservation cut reroutes of 130 yards and 30 yards. Piles of boulders in the streambed attest to power of raging water.

After reaching the height of land in Avalanche Pass, and passing the slide created by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, hikers beginning the descent to Avalanche Lake will notice a new slide on the left. Unlike, the Floyd slide, this slide did not push a wall of trees onto the trail. It did, however, deposit a thick layer of soft mud for fifty yards or so. This part of the trail will remain sloppy until the mud gets packed down and/or dries out.

Hikers also will find that a few planks on the Hitch-Up Matilda bridges along Avalanche Lake are missing. Thus, sections of the bridges are one plank wide instead of two. One short section has lost both planks, but since it’s at the end of the bridge, hikers can lower themselves to the shore and continue on the trail.

We saw little other evidence of damage on the trail. DEC cut through a few trees and put down some new planking in the pass.

On our hike out, Josh and I explored the new slide in the pass. Most of the slide is clean white anorthosite, the durable rock that makes up most of the High Peaks. As you can see from the photo, it has a double fall line. It could prove to be a difficult ski in winter—if DEC allows snowshoers and skiers on the slide. The Floyd slide is closed in winter to avoid the risk of avalanche.

Incidentally, we ran into Bill Ingersoll, the guidebook author, at Marcy Dam, who spent the weekend in the High Peaks. Starting at Adirondak Loj, he hiked through the pass to Lake Colden and camped near Feldspar Brook. The next day he climbed over Marcy and returned via the Van Hoevenberg Trail. He reported minimal damage on most trails. The worst damage he saw was on the Avalanche Pass trail.

This slide buried part of the Avalanche Pass Trail in mud. Photo by Phil Brown.
This slide buried part of the Avalanche Pass Trail in mud. Photo by Phil Brown.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Dave says

    Hiked this yesterday and did not think the trail was in bad shape at all.

    Couple of reroutes and some mud.

    Guess I was expecting more given the closures and initial reports.

    If this is the worst you’ve seen out there, that would seem to be good news for the rest of the backcountry.

  2. Bill Ingersoll says

    Hi Phil,

    It was good to run into you and Josh yesterday. ‘Twas a good weekend to be in the woods.

    Incidentally, the singlemost prevailing issue I encountered on my route was washed out/ relocated / damaged bog bridges, or puncheons. These were around Lake Colden and up the Opalescent River toward Feldspar and Lake Tear, where flood waters picked these log structures up and dropped them out of position. In a few spots they were deposited at odd angles or even in jumbles on top of each other.

    One above the flume on the Opalescent, between Lake Colden and Uphill Brook, was dropped across the trail at about thigh level, like a blown over tree.

    Many were still usable, but because of the queer angles many others should be approached with caution if wet.

  3. Bob says

    Thanks for these great reports on trail conditions. We’re planning a trip in late October with a group of Boy Scouts and wondered if we should reconsider given all the trail closures and reports of damage. Your updates give us more comfort that we can go ahead with our original plan. Thanks again.

  4. Phil says

    Bob, the hike you’re planning is doable. Unless the Marcy Dam is replaced, you will have to rock-hop across Marcy Brook. This could be problematic in high water. If so, one option is to start at South Meadow Road and go up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail. By October, the mud in Avy Pass may have been compacted.


  1. […] I hiked to Avalanche Pass last weekend, I passed a few parties who had missed the reroute. If you’re going to Marcy […]

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