Giant Mountain Ridge Trail – Autumn in the Adirondacks

When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived. The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

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When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived.
The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

Amazing views in the morning along the early section of the ridge trail.

Eventually after hiking through a mixed forest, there were some beautiful views to be enjoyed.  There were even some early-bird hikers who had set up camp along the trail in order to photograph the early morning light.  They looked pretty cold though!

Just after hiking along part of the ridge trail, I came across a small lake.  It’s pretty stunning to see the colourful reflections and was surprising to encounter this small lake so close to the ridge of the mountain.  I wonder if there were any fish in the lake at this elevation.

Enjoying the colourful reflections.The trail looks a lot like this (and in some cases even more challenging) during the steep ascent.

The trail gradually takes us up a pretty rough and rocky terrain.  Slippery at times and bouldering-like at others.  Definitely helpful if one has trekking poles but I did see many people hiking without.  Some parts are really tough — requiring some level of tactical approach to climbing up and over boulders — and I was surprised at how many inexperienced hikers were tackling the mountain without proper footwear and water.

Whenever I hike a mountain, it always feels as if we just keep going up and up and up until we get past the alpine tree line.  Then the views are just spectacular.  I encountered a fork in the trail where one could either opt to go around “The Bump” or go over it.  I chose to go over it, although if you are feeling tired, definitely choose to go around it because you wouldn’t be close to the summit just yet!  I did have the opportunity to take a good photosphere though.

The summit of Giant Mountain.  A beautiful vista including snow!

When I finally arrived on to the summit — it was busy and cold.  There was even snow and ice!  There were a handful of people chatting and quietly enjoying the view but the summit wasn’t big enough to accommodate the amount of traffic that Giant Mountain experiences.  I found a spot to sit myself down and took in the views until I eventually found that the summit was getting a bit too busy for my liking.  Unfortunately, no photosphere because there were just too many people.

A closer look at the ice and snow on the summit.The descent from Giant Mountain's summit.

Along the way down, it was fascinating to watch how others tackled the descent.  Many people tried to slide down certain surfaces on their bum while others attempted to find ways around the actual trail — in some cases stepping off the trail and then resuming once they had found secure footing.  In most cases I found that my trekking poles were always helpful but there were one or two situations where there was no other way to step down from one boulder to another — or at least none that I felt safe doing so — so I just shuffled my way down on my behind.

One guy I encountered along the way down was jumping from rock to rock and boulder to boulder but I can’t imagine that being sustainable and good for his knees.  His balance and endurance was definitely impressive!  The thing that often makes me a little anxious is often the amount of traffic on the trail, particularly on more precarious sections of the trail.

The sun-lit forest along the way down from the mountain.

I was definitely tired after the long descent but it was a beautiful hike down Giant Mountain and was happily satisfied with the achievement.  Unfortunately during the descent, I happened to hit my knee against a boulder.  Nothing major but it definitely didn’t permit me to continue hiking for an extended period of the long weekend.  I only wish I had more time to spend in the Adirondacks during the autumn time.  Perhaps next year!

Author: Ehren Cheung

An explorer of life and data. Reluctantly philosophical. A seeker of the ultimate cookie. Another tree-friendly soul with an affinity for hiking and sketching.

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