With a 3-day holiday weekend, we knew the popular trails in the Adirondacks would be crowded. Indeed, the Giant Mountain, Roaring Brook Falls and AMR trailheads were packed as we pulled in to the Mossy Cascade pullout along Rt. 73 in Keene Valley. Three or four other vehicles were already parked there, a relatively busy day for this lightly traveled trail that leads to one of the best views in the High Peaks.
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But great views and light hiker traffic aren't the only reasons you'll want to put the Mossy Cascade trail up Hopkins Mountain on your must-hike list. The route also passes through impressive stands of old growth pine and hemlock and leads to Mossy Cascade, a beautiful 50-foot waterfall tucked away in a shady glen.
Mossy Cascade is described as delicate and veil-like in mid-summer, but June's abundant rainfall elevated the flow to a steady roar. The falls are reached in less than a mile from the trailhead, and we were captivated by the sound and the sight of the moving water. I took dozens of photos:
The mile-long hike to the falls is easy, gaining a few hundred feet from the trailhead at a moderate grade. Above the falls the grade steepens at times, alternating between hardwoods and pine / hemlock forest. A few ledges offer a glimpse or two of nearby peaks. Hopkins' summit is eventually reached at 3.2 miles from the trailhead after a climb of about 2200 vertical feet.
Views open up in all directions as the trail crosses Hopkins' broad summit ledges. The summit is just under 3200' in elevation, but the view rivals any of the 4000-footers. The summit panorama stretches from Giant Mountain, through the Dix Range, up the Ausable Valley, across the Great Range, Big Slide, the MacIntyres, Cascade and Porter to Whiteface. My ADK guidebook says 22 of the High Peaks are visible from the summit. Of course I counted - I came up with 21.
We couldn't have picked a better day for our hike: blue skies and crisp visibility have been something of a rarity so far this summer. Despite the beautiful weather, we had the summit to ourselves (one other hiker was on the summit when we arrived, he departed a minute or two later. Beth says I have that effect on people).
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This is one of those hikes that some people would prefer to keep quiet about, keeping a gem for themselves. I don't subscribe to that view at all. The Adirondack Park belongs to all the people of the State of New York, and with all of the overuse of the trails leading to the 4000-footers, we need to direct hikers to other destinations.
Our round-trip time was about 5 hours for the hike, including plenty of time at the summit and the waterfall. We didn't have our kids along today, and the 2200' of vertical might have been a bit much for our 7-year old (the 11-year old would have done fine). Maybe we'll bring the kids back to falls sometime. In any case this is a hike well worth repeating.