“An alternative route up the tallest peak in New York State that is less crowded than from the Adirondack Loj.”
— Karl W
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife
There is a private resort on the banks of Elk Lake, please be respectful of their private property near the trailhead.
Though running would be tough in certain portions, other portions would make for a very pleasant run!
This long trail is a great alternate route for those looking to enjoy more of the High Peaks on the way to Mount Marcy. At the trailhead, there is a moderate parking area that has room for between 10-20 cars.
As you start out on your journey, the going will be fairly easy. In this first section, the trail follows an old road trace so there is often room to run two abreast. The trail is still rocky, so do watch your ankles! You'll pass through a mixed forest of birch, beech, and other Adirondack natives that will shade your way. Especially in the summer months, the shade is much appreciated.
You'll cross over both Nellie and Guideboard Brook. It's worth noting that stopping to fill up water at Guideboard Brook is recommended. There are bridges over both bodies of water, and you won't have to worry about getting your boots wet... Yet.
As you continue on, the track will narrow. You'll have to work your way up and over a ridge, and while not overly steep, this initial climb makes a noticeable change from the flat running that you've been enjoying. After reaching a brief peak, you'll enjoy a brief descent into the most notable part of this trail. At the bottom of the slope, you'll need to make your way through the infamous Marcy Swamp.
While the segment leading through Marcy Swamp is short, it is time-consuming, and aside from the novelty of negotiating a swamp, mostly Type 2 fun. There are blazes and many log bridges spanning the wettest sections, but you'll likely still leave with muddy boots. The vegetation is mostly lower growing here, and the sun can be fierce in the summer months. Combined with the humidity of this section, you'll be happy to see the other side.
Once you reach the other side of the swamp, you'll begin a slow and steady ascent towards Panther Gorge and Mount Marcy. The vegetation transitions sharply, and the willows of the swamp will transition to a mixed forest of both deciduous and evergreen trees. Though you'll be making your way up, the path is quite pleasant as most of the tread is softened by needle-fall. As you continue to gain elevation, the deciduous trees will thin, and the forest will become predominantly evergreen.
About 2.5 miles from the swamp, the trail will begin a steep uptick, and you'll really notice the elevation gain. This is the final push towards Panther Gorge. Commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful locations in the High Peaks (though those partial to Avalanche Lake may disagree) Panther Gorge makes for an excellent place to stop. With a thundering fall located near the trail and sweeping views to the south and west, the effort will be well worthwhile. Continue past a lean-to reach the Four Corners intersection and continue on your way.