Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baxter Mountain: 07/08/2012

View of the Dix range, Nippletop and Colvin (L to R) from Baxter Mountain.

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Baxter Mountain seems to be near the top of everyone’s list of best short hikes in the Adirondacks, yet somehow I had always passed it by. On Sunday, while Beth climbed Nippletop (#44 towards her 46), I finally decided I should hike it with the kids.

It’s easy to see why Baxter is so popular. A well-maintained trail switchbacks up the mountain at a moderate grade, leading to a series of summit ledges with stunning views of the High Peaks. At 1.1 miles each way and a vertical climb of 770 feet, the round trip can easily be completed in 2 to 3 hours with plenty of time to linger at the summit ledges to enjoy the views. It's easy enough that Sylvie did the entire hike on her own - no carrying. Just don’t expect to have the trail to yourself: we saw 8 or 10 other parties on Sunday, with hikers ranging from around Sylvie’s age (4 and a half) to senior citizen.

Approaching Baxter's summit ledges

The trail was rebuilt several years ago, with switchbacks replacing several steep sections that had eroded. In some spots sections of the old trail are still visible if you look carefully, brushed in and closed off. Daniel was fascinated by the idea of the trail reconstruction, and took it upon himself to construct several cairns to guide hikers lest anyone mistake the old trail for the correct route. Who knows, maybe he has a future on the Adirondack Mountain Club's trail crew?

The trail winds between several overlooks below Baxter's summit

The view towards Marcy (on the right) and the Great Range

The best views are found on the expansive ledges a short distance below the 2,440 foot summit. Here, Giant Mountain and the Dix Range dominate the view. Hurricane Mountain is prominent to the extreme left, and to the right views extend up the peaks of the Great Range to Marcy, whose summit is nearly 3 thousand feet higher than Baxter’s. Once again I was stuck with just my crappy cell phone for photos, my pictures hardly do the views justice. The actual summit lies about 0.2 miles further up the trail, where more views open up towards Cascade and Porter, Marcy and the Great Range. There are plenty of blueberry bushes around the open summit ledges, but it’s still early in the season so the kids found little more than just a few small ripe berries.

Enjoying lunch...

...and the view

Baxter's views also provide an example of the ongoing debate regarding upland development in the Adirondack Park. The view from Baxter towards Giant Mountain is broken by a large home built in 2001 on a prominent ridge. Even though the home was properly permitted and legally constructed, it seems out of place in the otherwise unbroken forest. Daniel and Sylvie summed it up when they asked me "Dad, what's that train station doing there?" When I looked back at my photos from the hike, I realized that I had subconsciously framed the house out of my pictures, wishing that it wasn't there, but if you'd like to take a look and decide for yourself, there is a photograph that accompanies a thorough article on the topic in Adirondack Explorer here.

Despite the detraction of the ridgetop home, Baxter is a great hike that's well worth doing.


  1. Nice story and pictures about a great little mountain. Having the Baxter Mountain Tavern nearby doesn't hurt either. One of these years I want to do a through hike, one side to the other.

  2. Once liked Baxter Mt Tavern as well. Last two visits we had rude snobish reception by the owner. Detour to the Auable Inn in Keene Valley.