By Audrey Andrews | May 5th, 2020
Keene Valley, New York
Out & Back:
3,097 feet elevation gain
Keene Valley in the Adirondacks of New York is home to some of the best hiking of the northeast. Many Saturday mornings, I’ve awakened camping in the valley and headed to Noon Mark Diner on Route 73. Their American breakfasts are unmatched fuel for a day of mountain romping.
East of Keene, towards the New York State Thruway, Giant Mountain is accessible from multiple trailheads. I chose the Zander Scott Trail, parked, wrote my name in the trail register and headed up.
Giant Mountain is imposing among the surrounding landscape. As the twelfth-highest peak in the Adirondacks at 4,627 feet, it is one of the famed 46ers. The surrounding Giant Mountain Wilderness enhances its grandeur. A consequence of its beauty and scale is the over 3,000 feet of vertical gain required to summit. Of course, the views, animals and people along the way make the journey joyous.
The Giant Washbowl is a hiker’s first destination. In the winter, it is a popular ice skating location. As the ground surrounding the small lake is one of two small flat-ish areas along the route, it mandates a few deep breaths before ascending again.
After the washbowl, views dance through the trees from virtually all angles. While wondering over rock and dirt, each step upwards reveals more of the lush landscape. If easily distracted by stunning scenes, one may fail to scale the summit.
Over the final rocky ascent, I decided to use my hands; I’d have been disappointed to tip backwards after so much skyward success. There were also hikers chatting, and I’d hate to look like a fool amongst my fellow outdoors-people. But do not fear: rock grappling is an unnecessary segment of the experience.
Atop Giant Mountain, the Keene Valley stretched before me and a friendly woman snapped my photograph. I look sweatier than I remember feeling.
I planned to run the descent, but found many segments too steep for my liking. During my walk down, I spotted two glamorous caterpillars. Although I learn more about the ecosystems, ecologies and beings of the Adirondacks daily, I do not know what kind of crawler I saw. After sufficient adoration, I moved along.
Back in my car, I head west on a good day: back to Keene Valley, and perhaps The Mountaineer. If things are not so splendid, I head east to the New York State Thruway and then south, south, south to New York City. The heights of stunning steel skyscrapers perpetually disappoint after discerning an Adirondack peak.