Adventurous Rock Scrambling and Borderline Slab Climbing in the Adirondacks

In the summer, consider this hike for sunset, because what better way to hike one of the most beautiful trails in the Adirondack Mountains than by summiting at sunset and hiking back to your car under the stars? If you've rock climbed before or are simply comfortable with heights and high exposure, this is the hike for you! 

Start at the Adirondack Loj at the end of Loj Road in Lake Placid. Hike the relatively easy 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam. Continue toward Avalanche Lake on rocky terrain at a gradual increase in elevation .8 miles to the official start of Avalanche Pass. Continue through the pass for 2.1 miles, passing hanging bridges until you arrive at the other end of the lake. Rather than continue on the traditional trail, keep circling the lake by following a herd path to the base of the Trap Dike. When crossing the lake on the bridges, you'll pass by the mouth of the Trap Dike which will give you a pretty solid visual of the route and the herd path to the base. Most people become pretty intimidated when seeing the Dike across the lake, but the scrambling looks much more difficult and scary than it looks! 

I've done this trail three times and always wore hiking boots, but wearing approach shoes or even climbing shoes for the slide section might make this a bit less nerve-racking. Press on through the Dike on the pass of least resistance (there is no official trail - just watch out for loose rock!). You'll soon approach a few 3rd and 4th class moves, but a rope and trad gear isn't necessary. (But a helmet is recommended!). Soon you'll top out onto easier and less-vertical rock-scrambling terrain until you hit the base of the Irene Slide. (Named as such because the slide was formed after Hurricane Irene bursted through the Adirondacks). In total the rock scrambling and slide is 1.3 miles. 

In my opinion, transitioning onto the slide from the Dike is the trickiest section of the hike. Follow the cracks for the easiest route or climb the slab for a more challenging transition. Continue up the slide on the golf-ball textured slab until being spit out about 20 yards below the true summit. While hiking up the slide, do your best to follow best LNT practices if you decide to use the tree line for support. And please be careful while climbing all sections of the Trap Dike and Irene Slide as a few hikers in the past have died. The hands and feet are all present but a slip can result in serious injury or death! 

Top out at sunset for a truly incredible view from New York's eleventh-tallest mountain. There are two main trails for descent - I definitely would not recommend descending the slide and Trap Dike in the dark, or in general! One trail heads south toward Colden's false summit and will take you past Lake Arnold and eventually back down to Marcy Dam and the Loj. This trail is about 6 miles from the summit to the Loj. This trail makes the round trip length about 13 miles. 

The other trail starts off by heading north down the backside of Colden. It's a bit more treacherous and you'll pass over off-camber bedrock with tricky footing. But, you'll end back at Avalanche Lake and if the moon is new and clouds are gone, you'll be treated with a view of the Milky Way over the lake. Follow the path you took in back to your car at the Adirondack Loj.  Doing this loop is makes the round trip length about 14 miles. Although it's about one mile longer than the alternate, keep in mind that the hiking is much steeper and more rocky, so be prepared for a potential slower pace.  

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Ample water (3-4 liters)
  • Extra layers (sweatshirt, rain jacket, extra t-shirt, extra pair of socks)
  • Hiking boots
  • Approach shoes (not necessary but recommended)
  • Rock climbing helmet (not necessary but recommended)
  • Food (granola, GORP, granola bars, sandwiches, fruit, etc.)
  • Flashlight/headlamp with extra batteries
  • Camera
  • Map and compass 
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • First-aid supplies
  • Trekking poles
Show More
RT Distance 14.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 2700 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Swimming Hole


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