Great Range Traverse (#7 - #14)

Marcy - Haystack - Basin - Saddleback - Gothics - Armstrong
Upper Wolfjaw - Lower Wolfjaw - Hedgehog - Rooster Comb

Phelps / State Range Trail: 11.0 miles
Haystack Trail 1.2 miles
State Range Trail 2.9 miles
ADK Range Trail: 3.4
W.A.White Trail: 3.5
Rooster Comb Spur / Trail: 3.0
Total Miles: 25.0 (8,600 elevation gain)

Trip Report:
- So what do you do a day after hiking almost twenty miles in the MacIntryre Mountain Range??  You go and do a one day Great Range Traverse!
- Backpacker Magazine rates the Great Range Traverse as America's 3rd hardest day hike.  So after two days of hiking in the Adirondacks and with clear sunny skies and warm temperatures forecast I figured it was time to see how tough the Great Range was!
- I got an early start and was on the trail at 5:30am starting from the Garden parking lot, I decided to hike up to Marcy first because I wanted the best views as soon as possible and the hike up to Marcy via the Phelps Trail is a gradual 9.0 miles where I could warm up and not beat my legs up right away after yesterday's marathon hike.
- I didn't see a single person all the way up to Marcy.  The final half mile is above treeline and when I got to the summit I stood atop New York's highest peak for about twenty minutes all by myself taking in tremendous views of all the High Peaks.
- I finally ran into another hiker near treeline when descending but then I was alone for the hike all the way to Haystack Mountain, where once again I was rewarded with incredible views as Mount Marcy looms large across from the summit.
- After taking a break I descended down to the Haystack - Basin col and from here is where real hiking begins!  Over the next several miles I would be hiking basically steep inclines and declines.  I had heard of difficult rock scrambles, steep drop offs, a cable bolted into rock slabs for safety so I was looking forward to and nervous about what lay ahead.
- The ascent up to Basin was steep but there was nothing to difficult other than the rough and rugged footing. At the summit I ran into a ranger and talked with him about doing the traverse while I ate lunch and relaxed for a few minutes.
- Next it was another steep descent to the Basin - Saddleback col.  In the col there was a fifty foot section of flat grassy path, the only flat ground in the whole trek!  Now I started the steep climb up to Saddleback where the last 150 feet is rock scrambling, it was a little tricky but if you stay low and do your best spider-man impression it's nothing too difficult and is alot of fun!
- After another sharp descent from Saddleback it was time to head up the Adirondacks finest mountain - Gothics.  It's an incredibly short steep ascent up rock slabs, luckily for me they were dry.  To help you up these open slabs is a wire bolted into the side of the mountain.  There were some spots where I used the cable but if you're careful and don't lean back you don't need to use them.
- Views from the open rock slabs and the summit of Gothics were terrific!  From here I knew I would be able to complete this hike with the difficult parts behind me but what lay ahead was a true suffer-fest with more steep up and downs remaining and lack of views the rest of the way.
- The hike over to Armstrong was easy and quick, at Armstrong I was treated with my last great view of the upper great range. 
- Next up were the Wolfjaws (Upper and Lower) and back to hiking in the woods with temps becoming very warm so it was time to put my head down and just suck it up.  Luckily I had been warned about the steep ascents up the Wolfjaws so I was ready to deal with it.
- As I stood upon Lower Wolfjaw I was hoping for a smooth walk over to Hedgehog and Rooster Comb.  In spots the trail was still rugged until Hedgehog but improved to Rooster Comb, however there were some ups and downs that I didn't expect so I was starting to lose my marbles (Lincoln Woods/Wilderness Trail style).
- I also was running low on fluid, I had 100 ounces in my camel pack and 32 ounces of Gatorade.  I ran out of water at the Rooster Comb spur 0.5 below the summit, so I sucked it up and made it to the top and then chugged the last of my Gatorade.  From here it was 2.5 miles to the Rooster Comb Trailhead.
- The hike down to the trailhead was pretty brutal but I was in high spirits because unless I snapped my leg I had crushed the Great Range Traverse!
- Finally it was over, well actually no, I still had to road walk about 1.8 miles and 250 feet up to the Garden! Luckily enough after about a half mile a nice lady picked me up on Johns Brooks Lane and drove me the last 1.5 miles back to my car!
- It was an incredible day and one hell of an endurance hike.  It is a kick A$$ hike and tons of fun and worth doing for hikers who want to punish their bodies!

Times: On trail 5:30am, Johns Brooks Lodge 6:35am, Slant Rock 7:55am, Marcy 9:15am, Haystack 10:40am, Basin 11:55am, Saddleback 12:40pm, Gothics 1:20pm, Armstrong 1:45pm, Upper Wolfjaw 2:20pm, Lower Wolfjaw 3:15pm, Hedgehog 4:15pm, Rooster Comb 4:55pm, Finished 6pm.

Pictures: Click here for all pictures

 Johns Brook Lodge
 Mount Marcy from Haystack
 Basin, the top of Saddleback, and Gothics
 Mount Haystack, Starlight, and Marcy
 Mount Haystack
 Saddleback and Gothics
 Cables bolted into Gothics
Great Range from Armstrong


  1. Thanks for all the info! We plan on doing this next week and your trip report is helpful! Photobug65 ADK HP Forums.

  2. Amazing hike !
    How would you compare in difficulty with the Presidential Traverse or Pemi Loop?

  3. I found it more difficult than a Presi Traverse just because of the big elevation gains and drops in between Haystack, Basin, Saddleback, and Gothics, then towards the end you have to deal with the Wolfjaws to! I think if I did the Great Range in the opposite direction it'd be easier (last 7-9 miles all downhill) but it'd still be tougher than the Presi Traverse. However the Presi's I find more fun because of the consistant above treeline hiking and views! I would say it's almost as tough as a Pemi Loop but I'd give the edge to the Pemi because of the Garfield Ridge and the Twinway between Galehead Hut and South Twin.

    They're all awesome hikes and lots of fun!


  4. Nothing short of amazing. Can you share any details about what type of day pack you use and what type of nutrition (power bars?) you carry that fuels you on such a demanding hike? You must be packing light to move with such great speed i.e. nothing but the essentials.


    1. Hi Rich,

      Glad you like the report. For the GR traverse I did not pack too light because I was solo. I use an REI Lookout Pack 40L and I had 3L of water and 32 oz. of Gatorade, 2 PB&J sandwiches, 3 snickers bars, and a bunch of granola bars. It was early June so in my pack I had hat, light gloves, and windbreaker which I needed on Marcy but then stayed in my pack the rest of the day. I had two long sleeve t-shirts and two short sleeve t-shirts. I also carried a first aid trauma kit and a personal locator beacon in case of a real emergency. My pack usually weighs around 15lbs.

      However if I did the hike again I'd bring less water and just bring along a filter and refill near the site of the old snow bird lean-to.


    2. ...and the saddleback cliffs? If you read the literature regrading these cliffs you would think it wise to make out your last will and testament beforehand. Is there anything more to say here than what you touched upon in your trip notes above?

      I get intimidated by other various reports about these cliffs to the point I think it may be unwise to go them alone. But another part of me says they can't be that bad or I would read of more injuries etc encountered there. Not sure what to make of them at this point :-)


    3. Hi Rich,

      It depends on how comfortable you feel with scrambles, if you enjoy them you'll have no problems and find this fun ascending or descending (just use caution). I wouldn't do this if it is wet and windy, then it gets dangerous. I had no issues, if I remeber correctly there was only one slab where I had to search around for a decent handhold, the rest was a lot of fun. If you think you may freeze up you can see if on the side you can bypass the worst part in the vegetation.

      Have a great hike!

    4. I went from s'back to basin, i.e. down the cliffs and they are no joke in hiking boots. i inched down the top part on my ass and would have been better off without hiking boots, maybe approach shoes or something. unless you've rock climbed or bouldered before, take care; these are not the usual scrambles encountered on most trails. the guide books were accurate.

    5. It all depends on your level of comfortability. My husband and I had no issues descending with hiking boots and we have never rock climbed or bouldered. We just took it slow and used caution in a few spots like Chris mentioned. We had great weather and loved it, great hike!

  5. Here's a question: How does it compare to the Devil's Path??

    1. For me The Great Range is much more fun because of the views and above treeline hiking. The footing is more rugged for the Great Range Traverse as I found the western part of the Devil's Path to be quite tame once gaining the ridge up from the notch. The DP did have some very steep bursts back to back to back on the eastern side but I still found heading up to Basin, Saddleback, and Gothics tougher but again more fun!

  6. Any water sources, I plan on doing this in August and want to go as light as possible maybe only taking a race vest and 12 gels.

    1. Hey Tim,

      There is a water source in the Haystack - Basin Col. Other than that there is nothing reliable throughout the middle of the hike. Have a fun time in the Great Range, it's a lot of fun with some phenomenal views!


  7. Hello, I'm planning on doing this challenging day hike later this week, weather permitting. I'm curious about this "trip-ticket" I keep hearing about for the Eastern Zone peaks. Also, what are the bare necessities that you recommend bringing? Are there good trail maps available at the Garden Parking Lot or John Brooks Lodge? Thank you for any help :)

    1. Hi Greenburger,

      I don't know what you mean by 'trip ticker' unless you are referring to the $7 parking lot fee at the Garden. As for a map, there aren't any at the Garden parking lot. I don't know about the lodge but I would not count on it. You could definitely pick one up in Keene Valley at the mountain climbing store. The bare necessities for the hike is you should have water and a filter so you can refill during your hike. There is water down low you can filter from as you hike along Johns Brook but then there is not much along the ridge. You can fill up with the filter in the Haystack - Basin Col. You should have enough food to keep you energized over a whole day of hiking.

      Hope this helps!


    2. So if you could do it all over again, would you take the same path or switch it up? I'm hearing mixed opinions on which side to start from.
      What type of filter do you use?

    3. As far as where to start from, that depends on each hiker. Everyone hikes differently. If you like a warm up into the Great Range Traverse you head to Marcy first, if you like a long gradual trail back to the car you save Marcy for last. If you like heading up the tougher steep parts (Saddleback Cliffs, Gothics cables) rather than descending you hit up Marcy first.

      I may do it again so I'd probably do the same route, up Phelps out the Rooster. If I was taking my friends I'd go from Van Hoe and Out Rooster Comb.

      Have a great hike

      I have an MSR auto-flow filter which works really well.