This route is not for the faint of heart. With an elevation gain of 10,000 ft over the course of 25 miles, hiking the Great Range is not an easy undertaking. That being said, the effort that you put into the trail pays off in incredible views, excellent stories for later, and gives you permission to eat as much Noonmark Diner pie as you'd like.
You can either leave a shuttle car at the Garden Trailhead for when you finish, or you can leave your car at the Roostercomb Trailhead, and upon reaching the Garden, hike the few short miles downhill to town and your car.
As you'll most likely need to start early in the morning in order to finish in the daylight, the Keene Valley Hostel
is a great place to prep the night before, eat a tasty meal, and get good sleep before you tackle the trail. Best of all, the hostel is located no more than 200 yards from the Roostercomb Trailhead.
Most tackle the Great Range clockwise, as you'll start with some major elevation gain, and end with a gentle 8-mile descent. You'll be tired either way, but ending on the more mellow trail might save you the strain of having to be mentally sharp at the end of a long day.
Starting from Keene Valley, jump right into your ascent by taking the Rooster Comb Trail
past Roostercomb and continue on the Hedgehog Trail
to bag your second peak, Hedgehog. You'll be getting into the swing of things on the WA White Trail
past Lower Wolfjaw, and on the Adirondack Range Trail
past Upper Wolfjaw. Enjoy the relative ease of travel once you've gained the ridge from the valley floor. As you cruise comfortably along, you'll pass Armstrong with minimal effort.
The trickiest part of the trail occurs once you reach the western side of Gothics. You'll start the descent on the State Range Trail
, and it's a doozy! The bald nature of Adirondack peaks makes all of the summits on this trail spicy, but Gothics is especially adrenaline inducing. There is a permanently fixed cable system that leads you down the granite face, and you'll be thankful that someone with some foresight covered the sharp cable with (of all things!) garden hose. Both the rock and the hose can become slick in the rain, so it's best to move slowly over this section.
After your harrowing journey down Gothics, the jaunt to Basin, Saddleback and Little and Big Haystack peaks will seem like a cakewalk, so catch your breath and let the jitters settle on this relatively relaxed portion of trail. To get the Haystacks, make a left onto the Haystack Trail. Likewise technical, follow the yellow painted blazes to reach the peak. You'll end up heading back the way you came to complete the trail.
After Haystack, prep for your final summit push, and take the Phelps Trail
to the top of Marcy. The famous high point in New York State, you'll have expansive views of the rest of the Adirondack Park, and on clear days, destinations as far off as Vermont are visible as well. Head down the Phelps Trail
to make an exit past John's Brook Lodge, ultimately reaching the Garden Trailhead.