Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big Crow Mtn and Roaring Brook Falls: 07/31/2010

The High Peaks, from Big Crow Mtn

Looking to capitalize on our hiking success with our two young kids at Castle Rock two weeks ago, we combined an exploration of Roaring Brook Falls with a short hike up Big Crow Mountain.

Base of Falls

Roaring Brook Falls is the prominent waterfall located on the east side of Route 73, just below Chapel Pond. It is a three-tier waterfall almost 300 feet high. A level trail leads from the parking area approximately three quarters of a mile to the base of the falls.

Lower Tier of the Falls

Some rock hopping and boulder scrambling leads from the end of the maintained trail to the bottom of the falls. From the base, only the lower tier of the falls is visible, but the rush of water down the steep chasm-like fissure in the rock is impressive, even at the relatively low water level of mid-summer.

The cool, moist environment at the base and the interesting mini-falls provide fun exploration for kids and parents alike. I knew it would be tough tearing our kids away from the water, but after a short streamside lunch break we headed back to the car for the short drive to the trailhead for Big Crow Mountain, just outside of Keene.

Bunchberry Carpet

Big Crow Mountain is a small, 3,000 foot peak with impressive views of the High Peaks. The trailhead is located about three miles and 500 vertical feet up East Hill Road above the town of Keene. The trail climbs another 600 vertical feet in just under a mile to the rocky, open summit.

A glimpse of the Dix Range

As the trail nears the summit, views open up towards the High Peaks through the trees. The final couple hundred yards cross rock slabs and blueberry meadows and expansive views open up quickly. The summit area has several open areas that are worth exploring.

High Peaks Panorama

From the summit, it's said that 28 of the High Peaks are visible. I didn't count, but we had fun pointing out and naming many of the peaks. The views wrap around from Hurricane and Giant in the east to the Dix Range, Great Range and Marcy to the south, Big Slide, Cascade and Porter and eventually Whiteface to the north. If you're familiar with the High Peaks, it should be easy to pick out Marcy in the photo above.

The Dix Range, Dial and Nippletop, Colvin and Blake

Our descent back to the car was quick and easy, but enough to tire the kids out so that they slept in the car the entire way back to Saratoga Springs, almost a 1.5 hour drive.

It is possible to combine the hike up Big Crow with a loop that includes Little Crow, Nundagao Ridge and Weston and Hurricane Mountains. This is a lightly used area with beautiful views of the High Peaks, unknown to many but a favorite of those who know.


  1. 10 Archived Comments:November 3, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    Jamesdeluxe said...
    Nice! Love the shots of Roaring Brook Falls. You don't realize how well endowed we are in the northeast with waterfalls until you move elsewhere.
    August 2, 2010 7:34 AM

    Jason said...
    RBF is one of my favorite ice climbs in the dacks..It is a moderate fun 2-3 pitch climb.On the final pitch you can hear and sometimes see the waterfall under the ice..That gets your attention real fast...
    August 2, 2010 8:12 AM

    P.MAC said...
    Jeff - Another great combo to do with my kids once my neck brace comes off in October! In the mean time I can't even drive so your great pics and post are "cruel and unusual punishment!" Hope you had a great time with your family! As my Australian wife would say "good on ya!"
    August 2, 2010 11:05 AM

    Highpeaksdrifter said...
    Nice report, I need to do that hike.
    August 2, 2010 4:17 PM

    Harvey44 said...
    Jeff ... that seems like a low elevation to have so much exposed bedrock. Was the summit of Big Crow burned in the last couple of centuries?

    I think some variation of this thought every time Jeff posts ... to be able to get up to 3000 feet, in the High Peaks, with small children, on a day trip ... I dream of that kind of access. Nice photos, great report.
    August 2, 2010 9:09 PM

    Jeff said...
    James is right about there being a lot of interesting water features in the Northeast. This is even more of a draw for our 2 kids than the summits, so we'll probably be looking for more hikes to combine flowing water with peaks.

    Jason, in our family it's my wife Beth who wears the crampons and carries the ice tools. She has ice climbed RBF as well (quite a few yrs ago) and was talking about how much fun that climb was during our hike on Sat. She's going to look through some old non-digital photos for a pic of her on RBF.

    PMac, get well so you can get out hiking (and skiing) soon.

    HPD, do the longer hike that loops you from the Crows across Nundagao Ridge. I know that Barbara McMartin's Discover the Adks guidebook covers that route although the Adk Mtn Club guides may omit it (I could be wrong on that) because the Nundagao Ridge route is considered trailless. It does have an excellent herd path however that is easy to follow and you won't have any trouble. I don't know the exact mileage off the top of my head but I recall it to be around 7-8 miles total. Lots of great views and a beautiful setting.

    Harv, I'm not sure about Big Crow specifically, but in general the entire region suffered through some terrible forest fires around the late 1800s through the turn of the century that burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the Adirondacks. Those terrible forest fires where in part responsible for the movement at that time to protect the Adirondacks with the Forever Wild clause in the NYS constitution... protection that remains today and is considered to be among the most important and progressive in our nation's history.
    August 3, 2010 1:42 PM

  2. 10 Archived Comments:November 3, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    Snowballs said...
    Great water + hike....Two bridges past malfunction junction off exit 30. Park on right, short two track road leads to an excellent emerald pool on branch of Bouquet. Deep enough to launch off side rocks. Fun. Fun. Fun. Sparkling Emerald water. The herd paths continue up mtn and it is said to have many more such pools. These are absolutely beautiful.

    Turn right at malfunction junction (towards E-town)and go about 2 miles till you cross a bridge, paved pullover spot on right. Descend down to the lower pool below Split Rock Falls. Gorgeous water. Tame water. Shallow on downstream, deep on upstream side where it gently cascades down a rock face. Pool very wide. You can swim underwater on deep end on see the rockwall, it's like lookin at a display at Seaworld. Crystal clear water. Fantastic swim spot after a hike. If you want, ascend the stream 300ft and view the 40ft? falls - BUT STAY THE HELL OUT OF IT! Falls very dangerous!!! Waters below falls in lower pool very safe. You'll see other families swimming there and the gentle cascades are fun to sit/lounge in and jump from. The water is beautiful!!! Enjoy!!!
    August 3, 2010 2:15 PM

    Jeff said...
    Snowballs, it sounds like the first destination you are describing is the approach to East Dix. Those are some beautiful flumes and pools along the Boquet there. I've never been to Split Rock Falls but have heard that it's a great swimming hole... thanks for the suggestion.

    When I wrote this report, I assumed that everyone is familiar with Roaring Brook Falls. If you're not, here's a link to some photos of the well known view from Route 73. In those photos you can clearly see the 3 steps or tiers to the Falls. It is only the lowest tier that is visible from the base of the Falls.

    There's an interesting back story to Roaring Brook Falls. In late June of 1963, an estimated 6 inches of rain fell in a single torrential downpour event over the southwestern cirque of Giant Mountain, which drains into Roaring Brook. The soil on the steep slopes became saturated and slid, creating the prominent slides (the Bottle, Eagle, Tulip and other slides) that are visible from Saint Huberts and the surrounding area. The avalanche debris was swept down the Roaring Brook valley, and deposited in areas where the mass of rock, soil and vegetation slowed. Parts of Route 73 were buried in debris which forced closure of the road for several days. The debris from the slide event also altered the course of Roaring Brook such that the water course was re-directed into a completely different drainage basin, Putnam Brook, effectively drying up the falls. NYS DEC rangers constructed a series of diversions to correct the flow back into the original course and restoring the falls. Even though the Adirondacks are among the oldest mountains on Earth it doesn't mean that they aren't capable of some pretty dramatic alterations to the landscape.
    August 5, 2010 11:35 PM

  3. 10 Archived Comments:November 3, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    hudsonhiker said...
    Hiking the Crows funny story. During vacation last summer about this time of year, my wife and I hiked Big Crow. We found some blueberries here and there on the way up I picked at few but they weren’t as big and tasty as the ones I had in my pack for lunch snack. The ones I carried came from our family’s patch they are the size of marbles and real tasty. We got to the open rock area and met a nice couple also on vacation for the week from Upper Darby PA just outside Philadelphia. So my wife asked if we could join them for lunch and the nice views. They said sure so we found a couple nice comfy rocks and got out our lunch. The lady asked if we had seen and picked berries on the way up. I said yeah I got a nice baggy full and proceeded to show her my giant homegrown ones. I was a cool joke for a couple seconds as the folks were amazed at the berries they thought I’d picked on the trail. We wife spoke up and said don’t believe him he always tells storys. So anyway we had a good laugh and nice quiet lunch. So they had finished their lunches we said good byes and they were off.
    So 2 days later we came to the top of the ladders on Crane wandered out on the open rock for lunch and met them again. That was the cool part of the story. We had another nice lunch and visit with them too. So both mountains are nice hikes.
    August 8, 2010 9:31 PM

    Powderqueen said...
    I have two stories kinda related...

    First, my dogs climbed the ladders at Crane Mtn.

    Second, one time we met a couple at the summit of Crane and also lunched with them. A year later we went to the blues festival at SPAC and right next to us were the same people.
    August 8, 2010 10:07 PM