When Adirondacks enthusiasts discuss which summit offers the best views, Gothics (4,736 feet) is usually in the top two or three. Of all three trails that make it to the summit, not a single one is a bad option, and all feature an additional incentive: metal cables as aids on an exposed ridge, another peak with outstanding views, or a beautiful waterfall. And when the ascent is complete, the reward is a large and flat summit of rocks and alpine vegetation that offers views in all directions. This outing takes you to the top of Gothics via the Beaver Meadow Falls and features options for Armstrong Mountain and Pyramid Peak.
Start at the Ausable Club parking, the trailhead for a dozen trailed peaks. Walk past the golf course and to the large wooden gate of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). From there, sign in and follow Lake Road until you reach a sign that reads “Gothics via Beaver Meadow Falls.” The trail quickly leads to the beautiful falls. They are often frozen in winter, but the ice usually melts in March when the temperatures start to rise.
The Beaver Meadow Falls Trail climbs gradually for the first half, and then the grade steepens a little as the broadleaf trees are replaced by conifers. The Beaver Meadow Falls Trail eventually reaches the ridge, which practically spans the entire Great Range, an 11-mile chain of mountains in the High Peaks region. Backpacker Magazine considered the Great Range dayhike one of the hardest in the country!
On the range, Armstrong is a quick 0.8-mile out-and-back hike with less than 200 feet of ascent via the ADK Range Trail. The views of Gothics, Saddleback and the valley north of the Great Range are excellent. This summit is underrated, likely due to its proximity to Gothics. Back at the junction, Gothics lies 0.4 miles and 500 feet of ascent to the west. On the way, a few ladders have been placed to ease the climbing. However, they usually become completely covered by ice and snow.
Once on Gothics, walk around to see everything from all angles and take all the time possible to soak in the views. New York’s highest peaks stand around you, only a few miles away. This is New York’s tenth highest mountain.
Going to Pyramid Peak is optional, but it offers another viewpoint of Gothics and especially of Saddleback, Basin and Haystack as well as Marcy and the valley north of the Upper Ausable Lake. There is close to 450 feet of ascent, and it’s a 1 mile out-and-back.
Return to the trailhead by using the same trails. An alternative would be to continue over Pyramid Peak and descend via the Weld Trail, with an option to ascend Sawteeth. However, the descent from Pyramid is very steep, as is the ascent to Sawteeth. This will add a few miles and several hundred feet of elevation.
Note: Always carry snowshoes in winter. Even though there might not be much snow at the trailhead, the snow can be deep and unconsolidated in the mountains. Remember that winter conditions can linger well into the spring at higher elevations. Wearing snowshoes also prevents postholing and makes the trails more enjoyable for all.
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.