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Giant In Clouds

Lower Wolf Jaw, an Adirondack Day Hike

A hike up Lower Wolf Jaw does not fall into the category of “classic” Adirondack hikes, since it’s really not much of a destination on its own. It’s usually combined with… wait for it… a hike up UPPER Wolf Jaw. But several years ago, when we did the Gothics, Armstrong, Upper Wolf Jaw loop, we neglected to bag Lower Wolf Jaw because we were tired and, at the time, had no intention to ever become 46’ers.

Things have obviously changed.

Once we set our sights on becoming 46’ers, a climb to the top of Lower Wolf Jaw became necessary. So out came the map. And we were pleased to discover that Lower Wolf Jaw can easily be bagged via a day hike from the Ausable Club.

The weather was pretty crappy last weekend (it always comes down to the weather, doesn’t it?), but there was a brief break in the rain on Saturday afternoon so we decided to go for it.

We arrived at the parking area on Ausable Road around 2:30 and immediately got down to business. We had 10.2 miles ahead of us and we wanted to try and get back before A) it got dark, and B) the rain moved back in.

The trail begins at the gatehouse on the Ausable Club property. It’s pretty weird to walk up past the golf course and then march between two tennis courts in order to get to the trailhead. But, luckily, not a soul was around – not even a random grounds keeper.

The sign for the W.A. White Trail that leads to the Wolf Jaws is not in the best shape, which tells you that this is not the most popular approach. But it’s readable… sorta… and kind of charming. But I also find dandelions charming, so I’m probably not the best judge of charm.

I’ll save you the blow by blow description of every nook and cranny of the trail. Instead, I’ll just say that it’s easy to follow and very forgiving – there are lots of short climbs followed by periods of relative flatness. I dug it.

And there are several places to catch a view. Please note the blue sky and puffy white clouds.

Here’s Noonmark:

And Giant:

The wildflowers were abundant. Too bad I can’t name a single one.

And the raspberry bushes were abundant, which means so were the bears.

Sorry, I should have warned you that it wasn’t an actual picture of a bear, just evidence of one.

Remember those puffy white clouds I showed you? Pretty soon they were spitting rain drops on us. And then Dave said it was sleet and I indignantly said, “That’s not SLEET, it’s RAIN, you dummy.” Except I left out the dummy part. But then 30 seconds later I had to admit that I was the dummy because, whaddyaknow, it was sleeting.

And then guess what happened? It started snowing. And then it stopped and the wind started howling.

We trudged on to the summit in this variable weather. At one point I peered through the trees and saw the most beautiful rainbow stretching down into the valley. Alas, it was nearly impossible to photograph so you’ll need to take my word for it.

Just before the summit the trail gets VERY steep. As in, fun, scrambly, if-you-fall-you-might-hurt-yourself steep. But it doesn’t last for long. This section was also still semi-snow covered, which actually made it easier to climb – and MUCH easier to get down because we just slid on our rear ends.

This pic doesn’t show the really steep part, but it gives you an idea of the lingering snow cover.

The summit was pretty anticlimactic. There are a couple of lookouts, but it’s mostly tree-covered. And by now the clouds were rolling in pretty steadily, compromising the views. But even on a bad weather day, it’s still beautiful.

It started snowing again almost immediately after we began to make our way down. We had a hard time capturing it in photos, so Dave took a video. Please ignore the weirdo waving at the camera.

It turned to rain soon after and when we reached the lookout we saw that the clouds were descending into the valley.

The rain continued in earnest. We picked up the pace so that we’d at least meet one of our goals and make it out before dark. And we did! With about 20 minutes to spare.

The view of Giant looming over the golf course and shrouded in clouds was pretty imposing.

Despite the dicey weather, this was really a great hike. Although the summit wasn’t much to write home about, the W.A. White Trail was really pleasant and beautiful. And it’s not a trail we would have ever experienced had we climbed Lower Wolf Jaw all those years ago from the usual approach. For once, I’m glad we pooped out.


Where: The Adirondack Park, near St. Huberts in the High Peaks

Directions from Lake Placid: Take Rt. 73 south. The parking area is a ways past the center of Keene Valley off of Ausable Road across from the Giant Mtn/Roaring Brook Falls parking area. To get to the start of the trail, head up the road towards the Ausable Club and hang a left onto Lake Road. You’ll have to pass between two tennis courts. Don’t make eye contact.

Difficulty: A semi-strenuous day hike. 10.2 miles up and back via the W.A. White Trail.

Summary: Lower Wolf Jaw via the W.A. White Trail is not a “classic” Adirondack day hike. Though it offers nice views along the way, it’s not a destination summit. This would be a great trail run, as it’s about 10 miles on the dot and the grades are pretty forgiving until just below the summit.


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1 Comment

  1. Willard & Raven
    Willard & Raven05-18-2010

    Isn’t it amazing who the weather can change so far when your hiking.

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