Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jay Mountain: 10/20/2014

Panorama from Jay Mountain's western summit, Monday 10/20/2014.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

I finally got the chance to tick Jay Mountain off my must-hike list on Monday. The 3,600’ peak has long been a favorite among experienced hikers for the panoramic views along its open summit ridge, but it remained relatively unknown because it lacked a marked and maintained trail. Until two years ago. That’s when the DEC opened a new 2.5 mile trail to the ridge. The new trail is certainly attracting more hikers, but Jay Mountain still remains a relatively uncrowded alternative to the more popular hikes elsewhere in the High Peaks.

As any Adirondacker knows, late fall weather can be dicey. On-and-off snow showers the day before left a coating of snow across the higher elevations of the High Peaks, but Beth and I had a narrow window of fair weather for our hike before the next system moved in.

Hiking up the new trail to Jay Mountain

A view of Whiteface through the trees

The new trail was established by the DEC (the ADK’s professional trails crew and the Student Conservation Association performed the actual trail construction work) in order to alleviate erosion problems with the old herd path route, which essentially went straight up the mountainside. As you would expect, the new trail climbs at a moderate grade, switchbacking its way up the 1800 vertical feet to the ridge. The old herd path route got to the top in about 1.5 miles, the new trail takes closer to 2.5 miles.

View of Whiteface from Jay's western summit

Looking south to the High Peaks

Beth looking at Jay's ridgeline and summit

The lower elevations still showed some late fall colors

The trail passes through a mixed forest of pines and hardwoods, including some impressively large oaks. At the lower elevations, a few rogue oaks and beeches held onto their leaves, but for the most part the trees were bare. Higher up, pockets of snow remained here and there from the squalls the day before. Occasional views of Whiteface appeared through the bare trees, tantalizing with its white coating.

R to L: Big Slide, Marcy and the Great Range

Whiteface, with Esther on the right

It was a pleasure hiking on the soft tread of the new trail, a contrast to the rocky and eroded trails that are often found in the High Peaks. If I can find anything to complain about, it could be that the 2.5 mile route is somewhat monotonous, but all in all the new trail represents some fine work by the DEC, ADK and SCA and should serve as a model for future re-routes and new trails.

View from Jay's open ridgeline

Beth hiking the ridgeline towards Jay's summit

The new trail ends at a spectacular outcropping at the western end of Jay Mountain’s ridgeline, with 360-degree views. You could turn around here, but then you’d miss much of what makes Jay Mountain special. The route continues, following the old herd path, for another 1.5 miles along the ridge to Jay’s summit, with open rock offering expansive views of Whiteface, the High Peaks, the Champlain valley and the Green Mountains of Vermont for much of that distance. We didn’t cover the entire 1.5 miles (we had to turn back to make it home in time for the kids), but hiked enough of it to get a flavor.

More open rock on the way to Jay's summit

It's hard to find a prettier hike than Jay Mountain

I’ve heard Jay described as one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks. I agree. I’ve also heard complaints that the new trail will open up Jay to hordes of hikers and tourists who will ruin one of the Adirondacks’ best kept secrets. I don’t agree with that sentiment. Instead, the new trail up Jay should help relieve pressure on other overcrowded trails. The way I see it, every hiker who is exposed to a place as special as Jay ends up as one more advocate for the Adirondacks.


  1. Great photos and post, Jeff. We hiked Jay a couple years ago. It was really nice!