Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
10,000.00 ft (3,048.00 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
23.00 mi (37.01 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Great Range is a chain of mountains containing seven of the Adirondack High Peaks all in a row, plus additional summits lower than 4,000 feet. Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York State, touches this chain but is not officially part of it. The Great Range Traverse crosses all the peaks of the range plus Mount Marcy to knock out eight of the state's 46 High Peaks, including the state high point, in one epic hike. It is more than 20 miles and roughly 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

The Traverse is often referred to as a day hike, but it can be a multi-day backpacking trip. Camping along the Traverse has drawbacks, though, like a shortage of campsites and reliable water supply along the crest, and the difficulty of lugging heavy packs up and down this terrain. A backpacking itinerary may involve hiking down to camp at night and returning uphill to the ridge the next day. Therefore, the light-and-fast approach of a day hike is more attractive to many, but it's quite an endurance feat. The trails are strenuous, rocky, often muddy, and in some places nearly vertical. The satisfaction of achievement and the views from these proud peaks make it all worth it, though, and the prestige of the Great Range makes it one of the most coveted traverses in the country.

The notable peaks in the traverse, from east to west, are:

  • Rooster Comb Mountain (2,788 ft)
  • Hedgehog Mountain (3,389 ft)
  • Lower Wolfjaw (4,175 ft)
  • Upper Wolfjaw (4,185 ft)
  • Armstrong Mountain (4,400 ft)
  • Gothics (4,736 ft)
  • Saddleback Mountain (4,515 ft)
  • Basin Mountain (4,827 ft)
  • Mount Haystack (4,960 ft)
  • Mount Marcy (5,344 ft)

The crest of the Great Range itself makes just over half of the route's total mileage; Mount Marcy's remoteness from any road means you must hike quite far, over more ups and downs, from any trailhead just to reach it. The western terminus of the route, as it's usually done, is the Adirondack Loj. An alternative that requires more trail mileage but a much shorter vehicle shuttle is the ADK Garden Trailhead. The eastern end is at Rooster Comb Trailhead in Keene Valley. Starting at Rooster Comb puts you on the Great Range right away, while starting at the Loj tackles the long approach to Mount Marcy first.

In between Rooster Comb and Marcy is the airy spine of the Great Range. Bald summits of weathered stone; deep, forested cols; and precipitous, treeless slides comprise the terrain. Views are nothing short of majestic—when the fog clears, that is. The Adirondacks are notorious for wet weather, and the High Peaks rise into the clouds on many days.

Highlights of the Traverse include: panoramas from ledges near Armstrong's summit, 360-degree views from the barren spine of Gothics, the steep and slippery west ridge of Gothics where cables are fixed for aid, the Saddleback Cliffs which are even steeper but have no cables, the bare-rock ridgeline of Haystack Mountain at the tip of the range, and of course the perch on the roof of the state atop Mount Marcy.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Eight High Peaks in one hike. State high point. Incredible views.

Cons

Car shuttle required. Views often shrouded in clouds.

Trailhead Elevation

1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)

Highest point

5,344.00 ft (1,628.85 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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