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Giant’s Washbowl, an Adirondack Spring Hike

Winter decided to pay us another visit on Friday, so we took advantage of the crisp, clear weather and went for a hike. With only a few hours to spare we decided to head up to Giant’s Washbowl, a small pond that sits at 2300′ on the south slope of Giant Mountain.

We started out from the Roaring Brook Falls trail head on Route 73 just outside of Keene Valley, the scene of many past adventures. Giant’s Washbowl is a 2.8 mile hike from the parking area.

We were prepared for icy trail conditions since we’d had relatively warm, spring-like weather followed by a couple of days of below freezing temperatures. Since the base of the trail was still thickly covered in snow and ice, I strapped on my crampons right away. But less that a quarter mile in, the snow cover dwindled significantly and my crampons became more of an annoyance than a necessity. Off they came.

The trail starts out with an easy climb that takes you to the top of Roaring Brook Falls. It then briefly follows a ridge line that allows for some nice views. Here’s Dave trying to show me something in the distance – I think he was pointing out the trail he took to climb Round Mountain a couple of months ago. You can see there’s not a lick of snow or ice on this section of the trail.

A short while later we encountered a section of trail with significant blow down and debris.

And then we came to a stream crossing. By this time, I had strapped my crampons back on since the snow and ice was becoming more consistent. Better safe than sorry.

The trail soon reaches a junction that allows you to continue on to the summit of Giant Mountain, or splinter off to the Washbowl and Nubble. We gladly chose the latter option. The Washbowl is just under 1 mile from this junction. The trail becomes steep for about .5 miles, but then levels out again just before you reach the pond.

It was during this last, flat section that Dave and I almost encountered our first moose. I saw Dave stop abruptly ahead of me, turn around, and motion for me to slow down and be quiet. It was obvious he had heard something. Once I caught up to him, we stood in silence for a few minutes, listening for the intermittent rustling and crashing that was coming from one section of the woods. We squinted our eyes, trying to detect motion through the trees, but saw nothing… So we kept walking. About a minute later we heard it again. We both turned just in time to see what was making the ruckus.

Yup. The noise we kept hearing was ice fall from the cliffs. Moose. Ice fall. Same difference, right?

We put the near-moose encounter behind us and pressed on to the Washbowl, which was peeking through the trees ahead of us.

After taking in the view and refueling on Gu and string cheese, we began our descent. We opted to take a different way down via the Zander Scott trail, which took us to the parking area near Chapel Pond. We then hoofed it back to our car for about a mile along Route 73.

Road walking isn’t for everyone, but we took it as an opportunity to do a bit of spring clean up. The number of beer cans that show up this time of year always amazes me.

And it allowed us to enjoy the view of Roaring Brook Falls, which is now flowing freely after a winter spent in suspended animation.

When we arrived back at our car, we noticed a sign that hadn’t been there just a few hours before.

A nice woman from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry was conducting a survey on visitor recreation in the Adirondacks. We happily answered her questions. It had nothing to do with the hot chocolate she offered us. Or the cute little carabiner key chain she handed over after I agreed to put my name on yet another mailing list. Good research begins with incentives. Don’t ever forget it.

Since by now it was nearly dinner time and we were high on life after another great afternoon outside, we headed to our favorite watering hole, the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, for a couple of beers.

Two days later we’re still recovering. There’s a lesson we’ll never learn.

Where: The Adirondack Park, Giant Mountain Wilderness Area, 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 Mt, Roaring Brook”

Difficulty: An easy to moderate day hike. Took us only a few hours.

Summary: Giant’s Washbowl is an accessible Adirondack day hike that offers a nice climb to a peaceful and secluded body of water. The trail offers several views back out over the valley and quick side trip opportunities to Giant’s Nubble and Roaring Brook Falls. At the Washbowl you will also find some tent sites, and views of surrounding cliffs. If you can spot cars, or don’t mind a bit of a road walk, you can also turn this hike into a short loop with the Chapel Pond trailhead. But be careful if you do opt to road walk, the shoulder is tight in places and drivers are often distracted by views!

Gear Used

Related Reading

Additional Photos

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Valley View

View on the way down to Chapel Pond

Chapel Pond and RT73

Chapel Pond and Route 73

ESF Survey

Hot Chocolate!


  1. From Big Slide | andtwohardboiledeggs
    From Big Slide | andtwohardboiledeggs07-20-2013

    […] sits in the clouds, mist tumbles down her westerly curves, dipping only slightly when passing the Washbowl – before reaching the valley and rising again, dissipating over the ridge to Lower […]

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