Although this hike is commonly referred to as the MacIntyre Range, it only includes three of the four mountains in the range. Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois sit clumped together right in the middle of the High Peaks bordered by the Marcy group and Avalanche Pass in the east and Indian Pass on the west. The fourth, Mount Marshall, sits a few miles south, and it is often only climbed by those attempting to join the ADK 46er club due to its wooded summit and lack of official trail.
Unlike Marshall, Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois have open, rocky summits with long ridges and great views connecting them. They can be done as a there-and-back trip or as a loop through Avalanche Pass back to the trailhead.
The trail begins at Heart Lake, where visitors will find the High Peaks information center. There are many services here, including gear rental, showers, souvenirs, and snacks. It's staffed year round, though the hours are limited in the off season. The Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake is also at the trailhead, and it offers accommodations ranging from tent sites to cabins and even private rooms at the Adirondack Lodge.
Many people hike only Algonquin, an 8-mile there-and-back trip that gains just over 2,900 feet of elevation. Any one of the peaks makes for an excellent trip on its own, but to reach Iroquois you'll need to summit Algonquin as well. Also, passing the summit of Wright means missing the wreckage of the B-47 bomber that crashed on the peak in 1962.
Covering 14 miles and 3,753 feet of elevation gain, the loop trail is long, strenuous, and requires a full day. It's well worth the effort, especially for those hoping to become ADK 46ers, since all three peaks are over 4,000 feet. Even better, camp out at the primitive campsites at Lake Colden or near the Marcy Dam, and make it an overnighter. There are also lean-to structures along the way, but they are first-come, first-served and fill up quickly.
From the trailhead, follow the blue blazed Van Hoevenburg Trail for 1 mile. At the trail intersection the yellow Algonquin Peak Trail branches to right. Follow this until you reach the intersection for the Wright Peak spur trail at roughly 2.2 miles. Turning left, it's a steep 0.4 miles to the summit of Wright, where great views of the surrounding peaks and prominent slides abound.
Wright is the 16th tallest peak in New York, at 4,587 feet. On January 16, 1962, a B-47 Bomber on a training flight crashed in the col between Wright and Algonquin. All four of the crew members were killed, and wreckage of the plane still remains at the peak. The tragic flight is commemorated by a plaque near the summit.
To continue on toward Algonquin and Iroquois, backtrack to the Algonquin Trail and continue up another 0.8 miles to the summit of Algonquin, New York's second tallest peak at 5,114 feet. Excellent views of Mount Marcy, the slides on Mount Colden, and Lake Colden to the east, the Flowed Lands in the south, and glimpses into Indian Pass in the southwest surround the summit. While there are often several large groups at the summit, its wide rolling terrain leaves plenty of room, and continuing 0.7 miles to Iroquois leaves the crowds behind.
Follow the large cairns down the south slope of Algonquin to the saddle below Iroquois being careful not to distrurb the fragile alpine foliage. When you reach the trail sign with the yellow blaze and arrow pointing east, continue south on the now much narrower path to Iroquois. Many people are prematurely directed down the mountain by this sign, so don't be one of them! If you're taking the loop through Lake Colden and Avalanche Pass, this sign will direct you along that route, but you still have Iroquois to summit first.
The trail beyond the sign is very narrow, meandering through thick spruce thickets before opening to a marshy meadow with wooden planks. The final push to the summit is very steep and may require some scrambling here and there. The top is marked by a large cairn, and what it lacks in the sensationalism of its neighbors it makes up for in solitude. Iroquois is the eighth highest peak in New York at 4,843 feet.
From here you'll either return up and over Algonquin back to the trailhead or return to the yellow trail sign in the saddle toward Lake Colden and Avalanche Pass. This trail is steeper and less well traveled than the one on the north side of Algonquin, but it is still very manageable for hikers in good physical condition. It is 1.7 miles to the bottom.
For most of the trail you will parallel a steep brook, but at times you will actually walk down the bedrock of the streambed. For this reason, this trail is best reserved for dry days or approached with solid winter traction devices like microspikes. Beautiful waterfalls can be found along the way.
At the bottom of the steep descent hikers will meet the Avalanche Pass Trail at the northwest shore of Lake Colden. It is 0.4 miles to the north end of the lake, and from there, 2.1 miles to the end of Avalanche Pass. Along the way, you will traverse boardwalks that run along the vertical cliff walls on either side of Avalanche Lake. The return to the trailhead is 3.1 miles from the north end of Avalanche Pass.
Camping Options in the Valley
A handful of lean-to structures can be found at the south end of Lake Colden, 0.6 miles south of the intersection of the trail leading down from Iroquois/Algonquin and the Avalanche Pass Trail. There are also three in the mile of trail between Avalanche Pass and the Marcy Dam. Five more surround the now nearly dry reservoir bed (the dam is being removed) at the Marcy Dam. There are also primitive tent sites available.