Gothics and Armstrong are a popular pairing of two of the Adirondack's 46 High Peaks, since it is more difficult to summit one without the other than it is to do both in the same trip. Gothics is the 10th-tallest peak in New York, standing at 4,736 feet. Armstrong rises just to the northeast at 4,400 feet. Both feature spectacular views and require a steep ascent from the valley floor no matter which way you approach them.
Most people start from the parking area off Route 73 near St. Huberts, following the Ausable Club road to the trail register near the start of the Lake Road. From here, turn right into the woods to follow the East River Trail along the Ausable River and begin climbing the Gothic Trail near Beaver Meadow Falls. The river provides a beautiful backdrop as you warm up your legs for the climb ahead. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed along this route.
The climb up the Gothic Trail is brutally steep, with a false summit about three-quarters of the way to the top. The views from the summit are well worth it, with up-close views of the slides on Gothics and Saddleback. Distant views of the rest of the Great Range, including Mount Marcy, Basin, and the Wolfjaws, are sure to make your jaw drop.
After the grueling climb, it’s hard to descend back the way you came when you know you’ll only have to climb again, but it’s the only way to reach Gothics. Return 0.4 mile to the trail intersection and turn right to follow the Range Trail down into the col between Armstrong and Gothics. The ascent to Gothics is tough, but not as bad as the initial approach. After about half a mile of climbing, the trail breaks out into the alpine zone, where the dense evergreens are stunted by the harsh climate. The views become truly incredible. Several high peaks can be seen in the distance, and the world appears to unfold behind you in rolling waves of green. As you reach the top, Upper Ausable Lake can be seen in the distance to the southwest, and the slides of Saddleback and Basin seem larger than life. Enjoy the relative seclusion at the top of Gothics—you’ve earned it.
Continuing southwest along the trail, it begins to descend steeply on the way to Pyramid Peak. The climb back up to this lesser summit is just as steep. If it were further away, Pyramid Peak would be considered one of the High Peaks because it stands over 4,000 feet, but its proximity to Gothics disqualifies it. High Peak or not, the up close views of Gothics’ wide-open southern slide are awe-inspiring. Finally, begin the descent from Pyramid and enjoy the long downhill on the way to the Rainbow Falls Overlook.
Visitors in the heat of summer shouldn’t expect much here. The stream feeding the falls has a tiny watershed and is often barely more than a trickle. Still, it makes an excellent diversion along the otherwise viewless descent to Lower Ausable Lake. When you reach the bridge over the Ausable River, cross it and continue to the Lake Road, where you will turn left to follow it out and back to the trail register.