The Adirondacks 46ers list is becoming increasingly popular. The list was created several decades ago and includes the 46 mountains of the Adirondacks that were believed to have an elevation of 4,000 feet or more. With time, it was actually determined that 4 of those mountains should not have been added to the list, but it remained unchanged for historical reasons.
For some time, MacNaughton Mountain, which is not on the list, was believed to have an elevation of over 4,000 feet. We now know that it is 3,983 feet, but it still ranks as the 43rd highest mountain in the Adirondacks. As such, the climb is often considered a rite of passage for anyone wanting to become a “proper” 46er. This adventure takes you on a 16-mile journey to its remote summit.
The outing starts at the popular High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) Trailhead. However, crowds will not be an issue for this one as you will hike on the seldom-used Indian Pass Trail. You will first take the trail that goes to Mount Jo, an excellent and easy side-trip if you have energy left in the tank at the end of the day. After the intersection for that small gem, keep going on Indian Pass Trail.
There are two lean-tos on this trail that make excellent options to turn this dayhike into an overnighter: The first one is the Rocky Falls lean-to (2 miles from the trailhead), and the other is Scott Clearing (3.7 miles from the trailhead). Both lean-tos are free and first-come, first-served. Shortly after passing the Scott Clearing lean-to, leave the Indian Pass Trail, heading off to the right toward Scott Pond and the Wallface Ponds. This trail is even less used than the Indian Pass Trail and is likely to have excellent powder conditions. Be ready for breaking trail!
The marked trail ends at the Wallface Ponds, that sit between MacNaughton and Wallface mountains. Turning around here would still make for an excellent 13.6-mile outing, but MacNaughton is a short bushwhack away, directly southwest. Before continuing, take some time to enjoy the excellent views of MacNaughton and Wallface mountains from the ponds.
The Wallface Ponds are a fun crossing in winter as they are frozen and have good snow conditions; in the warmer months, they are a muddy nightmare! The bushwhack starts after the ponds, as does the steep ascent through mostly open woods. You will gain about 650 feet of vertical elevation in 0.6 miles. The true summit is located in the middle of the mountain, contrary to what one might think by looking at the mountain while crossing the ponds. A sign marks the summit, and nice views of the Street Range and northern part of the MacIntrye Range reward adventurers that made it all the way up. The return to the trailhead is via the same trails.
Note: The last 1.5 miles (out-and-back) of this outing are a bushwhack. Be sure to know off-trail navigation before attempting it. GPS tracklogs are easy to find on the internet and GPS applications for smartphones can also help. This is a nice place to get introduced to off-trail hiking. Hike safe!
Also, keep in mind that snowshoes are mandatory in the High Peaks Wilderness Area when there are 8 inches of snow or more on the ground. Snow conditions at the trailhead are not an indication of what they will be 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.