A quintessential spring hike
By Cal Seeley
Sitting at the lowest end of the Great Range, Snow Mountain is an often overlooked hiking objective within the heart of the High Peaks. With dozens of amazing mountains nearby, it’s no surprise that Snow sees little traffic. But this mountain, when approached via Deer Brook, is the quintessential mud season hike.
Each spring, with snow melting and the ground thawing, trails weaken with the influx of new moisture. Oftentimes the most sustainable form of recreation during mud season is to avoid certain trails, particularly those at a high elevation. The DEC advocates for hikers to stay below elevations of 2,500 feet until warm temperatures harden high elevation trail beds.
Snow Mountain, with a summit at 2,370 feet, is not only an appropriate mud season hike, but it also stands as one of the most approachable summits in Keene Valley. The trail is not demanding, and bypassing difficult sections is possible by taking alternative routes. Snow is family and dog friendly, and well within the range of those who are limited on time.
Given its location, linking other mountains into this hike is simple to plan, the most popular additional summit being Rooster Comb.
The trailhead for Deer Brook is easy to miss, the only demarcation being a small, green AMR-style sign standing next to a guardrail on Route 73 near St. Huberts. Park along the widened eastern shoulder of Route 73 directly across from the green sign.
Choosing a route
Here, hikers can choose either the high-water route, or the low-water route. The latter sticks to the edge, and sometimes the middle, of Deer Brook, and it is thought to be more challenging. The path winds through a shaded hemlock and cedar forest and offers intimate views of the many beautiful cascades along Deer Brook. Brief sections of steep scrambling are necessary to tackle. After about three-quarters of a mile, the low-water route meets the high-water route.
Alternatively, the high-water route follows Deer Brook Way, a dirt road that avoids all water crossings and scrambly sections within the tight-walled Deer Brook. Be advised that no hikers are allowed to drive up Deer Brook Way and park their car higher up to avoid walking this section.
Having done this hike many times, I would encourage taking the low-water route on the way up, then the road on the way down, conditions allowing. Avoid the low-water when the water is high, and also during winter when the trail can easily be lost.
Once the two routes reconvene, the trail follows an old logging road at a moderate grade until it reaches a spur trail to Deer Brook Falls just above a footbridge spanning the brook.
The trail continues beyond the bridge and the waterfall up and away from Deer Brook towards the col between Snow and Lower Wolfjaw. The hemlocks and cedars give way to beeches, maples and oaks once in the col. Soon, the trail levels out and an intersection pointing towards the summit of Snow mountain is reached.
The section up to the summit is brief, but can be steep in places. Luckily, a few open slabs offer amazing views towards the craggy summit of Rooster Comb and the long ridge of Porter. The trail continues up and over the summit and descends slightly to a sloping ledge with views of Chapel Pond Pass, Giant Mountain, the Dix Range and the golf course of the Ausable Club just below.
Vital stats: Snow Mountain via Deer Brook.
- Summit Elevation: 2,370 feet
- Elevation gain: ~1,300 feet
- Mileage (roundtrip): 3.5 miles