Cascade and Porter are two of the most accessible (and therefore most popular) of the Adirondack High Peaks. With spectacular views, close proximity to Lake Placid, and a total distance of less than 6 miles, these two peaks are undeniable classics. Unfortunately, word has gotten out about the 360-degree views at the summit, and solitude has become a rare commodity. Despite the crowds, both of these summits are worth the trip.
Hikers will find the trailhead overlooking Upper Cascade Lake about 6 miles east of Lake Placid. Several small pullouts on both sides of the road provide parking, and they are often very full. Near the westernmost pullout near the top of the hill there is a sign marking the beginning of the hike. Follow the wooden steps down into the woods before immediately beginning to climb again. The trail maintains a moderate pitch throughout most of the climb, though it becomes steep in some places. Approximately 1.8 miles into the hike the trail opens to sweeping views of the surrounding High Peaks. After a short section of open views the trail returns to the woods, again climbing until the fork between Cascade and Porter.
Following the trail to the right will lead to Porter, dropping steadily into a saddle before arcing left and upward. After passing a large outcropping of rock the trail climbs slowly to a mostly open ridge: the summit of Porter at 4,059 feet. Two alternative trails descend to the Marcy Airport and the Garden Trailhead, respectively. To return to Cascade and the trailhead, hikers will go back the way they came.
Following the trail to the left (or if returning from Porter, to the right) will lead hikers to a steep and exposed final push to the summit of Cascade. The trail devolves into open bedrock, with yellow painted dashes marking the preferred route. The vegetation here is part of the very fragile Alpine Zone, and all efforts should be taken to avoid stepping on it. The summit of Cascade is very exposed to wind and weather, but on a warm sunny day there are few places to match the 360-degree views from this open summit.
Winter and early spring hikers will want to bring snowshoes and/or traction devices like microspikes because the trail becomes hardened snow and ice.
If you're truly dedicated to experiencing these peaks without the crowds, consider a sunrise or sunset hike.