I’ve driven by the trailhead more times than I can count, yet never stopped to actually climb Giant Mountain. With such an accessible trail, and mileage that fits nicely into a day hike, I was saving it for a time when I was feeling less ambitious, or when my schedule was less flexible.
That day finally arrived on our most recent Lake Placid vacation. Feeling motivated enough to get out for a hike, but somewhat drained from a long day of paddling the day before, Giant seemed to fit right into our plans.
View Giant Mountain in a larger map
At an elevation of 4,626 feet, Giant Mountain sits at number 12 on the Adirondack 46er Peak List – right behind Colden and just ahead of Nippletop. There are three major trails that lead to its summit, two from the East – along Rt. 73 – and one from the West starting in New Russia. The western approach is a longer hike but is a good option for those looking to become an Adirondack 46er since it climbs over Rocky Peak Ridge (#20 on the list).
We chose to start our hike from the Roaring Brook parking area, arriving right around noon. There were only a few other cars in the lot, which surprised us somewhat given the popularity of the Roaring Brook Falls, and we were the only ones who signed the register on this day. So looking forward to a crowd free hike, we laced up our boots and set off.
The trail follows red markers for 3.6 miles over a 3375 foot ascent. It is very well marked and maintained and is really a rather pleasant hike… but can be surprisingly strenuous in parts, with some sections of sustained climbing.
Signs for Roaring Brook Falls are found soon after leaving the parking lot. These trails offer quick side trips to either the base of the falls, or the top. We checked out the base on our way back down and were not overly impressed. It is hard to take in the full magnitude of them from that vantage point (see photo below), and you don’t have access to any views. Its a nice place for a lunch, but I imagine the top of the falls would be a better bet. Or you could come back in winter and climb the falls after they’ve frozen over!
Around the 2.8 mile mark you will approach another side trip possibility, with a trail leading off to Giant’s Washbowl – a high elevation pond and the only reliable water source on the hike. From there the trail continues upward, with occasional lookouts out over the other high peaks…
… and a few fun rock scrambles.
Around the Ridge Trail junction (which leads to the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge) Jess and I noticed a cross with the name “Eric Engler” engraved on it. We tried to find additional information about this and learned about a terribly sad story. Back in 1990 Eric collapsed and died on the mountain while climbing it with friends – he was 14 years old. The memorial was placed by his parents.
The trail leading up from that junction is the ‘homestretch’ to the summit, and soon we were standing on the top of Giant. It was a gorgeous day and our efforts were rewarded with some amazing views.
Where: The Adirondack Park, near Keene Valley
Directions from Lake Placid: Take Rt. 73 south. The trailhead is a ways past the center of Keene Valley and is on the left side of the road before you hit the Roaring Brook lookout – if you pass views of the falls from the road (on your left), you have gone too far. It is a quick turn off, and kind of narrow, so watch for a sign that says “Giant Mnt, Roaring Brook”
Difficulty: A strenuous day hike. Took us about 6 hours.
Summary: Giant Mountain is an accessible Adirondack day hike that offers outstanding views back over many of the High Peaks, including Mt. Marcy and the Great Range as well as Dix and Cascade. There are several nice side trip opportunities, including trails that lead to a water fall (Roaring Brook Falls), a high elevation pond (Giant’s Washbowl), and another Adirondack 46 (Rocky Peak Ridge). It is a nice compromise between more popular/overcrowded hikes like to the summit of Cascade, and more involved and ambitious hikes such as those into the Marcy and Mt. Colden area.
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Runners – My new favorite shoe
- Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – Jess has put some serious miles on these boots
- Black Diamond Bullet Day Pack – I bought this with trad climbing in mind, but find it to be a nice multi use day pack as well
- REI Peak UL Women’s Trekking Poles – Jess’ hiking poles
- EMS Hiking Poles – As best as I can tell EMS no longer makes (or brands) hiking poles. The ones I use are over 10 years old and held together with duct tape… but still seem to get the job done
- Adirondack High Peaks Trail Guide – Amazon.com
- Trails Illustrated, High Peaks Trail Map – Amazon.com
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