The traverse between Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge ranks among the nicest hikes in the Adirondacks. It’s also a grueling one because the elevation gain is substantial compared to its relatively short mileage; the total elevation gain for this hike checks in at a healthy 5,300 feet. You'll have superb scenery to motivate you, however, and while Giant Mountain offers great views, the Rocky Peak Ridge might steal the show. You'll want to wear or carry snowshoes for this hike; microspikes may suffice if there isn't much snow on the trail, but snow depths can vary greatly over this route, and snowshoes are much better suited to new or deep snow.
As this hike is a traverse, two cars are required. Park the first car at the trailhead in New Russia on Route 9. Go back on Route 73 and park the second car along the road in front of the trailhead located just south of Chapel Pond. Starting on Route 73 will save a lot of elevation gain.
The Ridge Trail climbs quickly and steadily to Giant Mountain (4,626 feet) via the Washbowl, a small pond less than a mile from the trailhead. A few hundred feet from the summit you'll notice an intersection that leads to Rocky Peak Ridge. This is the next destination. The summit of Giant Mountain is just around the corner, and the views are fantastic. This peak offers one of the best view-to-distance ratio of all the Adirondack 46ers.
From Giant Mountain the fun really begins. Backtrack to the intersection mentioned above and head to Rocky Peak Ridge. The trail descends steeply for a bit only to start climbing again. Bring plenty of water in hot temperatures; there are practically no water sources along the way.
From the 4,390-foot summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, which is identified by a big cairn, 39 other Adirondack 46ers can be seen on a clear day. The ridge is mostly treeless and offers 360-degree views for long distances. Rocky Peak is the easternmost of the Adirondack’s highest peaks.
After enjoying in the views, keep going toward Bald Peak. The 2.2-mile ridge along the way often allows fantastic views in all directions, especially around photogenic Mary Louise Pond. Bald Peak also offers 360-degree views, as its name would suggest.
The trail slowly enters the forest again and descends steadily. Blueberry Cobbles can be reached by a slight detour along the way to the trailhead in New Russia. That trailhead is said to have the highest elevation gain of all regular trailheads leading to a single Adirondack 46er peak.
No extra car? No problem. Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak can be hiked by the trails mentioned above. This becomes an out-and-back, and you simply retrace your steps when you’ve reached the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge.
Only have one car and looking for a workout? Park at New Russia and bag both Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain. This hike is 16 miles and the elevation gain is intimidating for a two-summit hike in the Adirondacks. The trail from New Russia is rarely broken in winter, so this is not the best option once snow falls.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.