A short y-shaped hike with a healthy amount of elevation gain.
The hiking trail to Cascade and Porter is one of the most popular and busy routes in the Adirondack Park. It’s regarded as one of the easiest 46er hikes — but the trail is rated moderate and, in spots, is a little challenging.
The views, however, more than pay back your efforts. This hike has one of the highest scenery-to-effort paybacks I’ve ever experienced.
This a really rewarding hike.
Cascade & Porter Trailhead & Parking
In the warmer months, Route 73 gets crazy. To snag a spot, you may need to arrive before dawn.
On this hike, which I did in November — well after the leaf-peeping crowds had died down — I arrived at 10:45 on a Saturday morning and snagged the last open spot. But I think I just got lucky.
Cascade & Porter Hiking Trail
Make your way down from the roadside to the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area trail register. Sign in. Truly, it might save your life.
On this day, I didn’t need microspikes to hike up to Cascade’s amazing summit. However, as soon as I stepped on the trail to Porter, I had to put on a pair. From October to June in the Adirondacks, you should always hike with mountain-worthy traction for when it’s needed. (It will be needed.)
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Follow the red blazes. There aren’t too many so keep an eye out for then. The trail is mostly pretty obvious.
Lower down on this trail, there was a lot of dramatic blowdown to work around…
The trail alternates between mud and helpful stone staircases like this one…
Higher up, the rock bed is exposed in spots along the trail and some sections take a minute to figure out how to climb safely…
At 3800’ (1150m) you’ll come to this open rocky area…
Climb to the top and turn around. This is the first grand view of the day, looking southwest to Algonquin and Mount Colden, apx 8 miles away.
Cascade & Porter Junction
At 3920’ (1195m) you’ll reach the main junction for Cascade and Porter mountains. Below, on the right, you can see some hikers heading out to Porter.
The trail to Cascade continues on the left, also marked privy. (Trail signage in the Adirondacks is not wonderful.)
This spot is a little tricky to spot again on the descent, as the signposts only face downhill. So when you’re coming back down, keep an eagle eye for this large flat rocky outcrop.
By this point, most of your hard work is done. Continue gently uphill.
Before entering the woods again, the trail passes briefly over some fun boardwalks…
Here’s a short video…
In a minute, you are standing at the base of Cascade’s massive open rocky summit.
Keep climbing. Keep stopping to look behind you.
In the distance is an array of amazing looking mountain peaks: Big Slide, Gothics, Saddleback, Marcy, Colden, Algonquin and Wright all stand out clearly.
The higher you climb, the better the view. You can use this ladder on the right as you’re heading up…
There are several cairns, which may be helpful in winter months…
There are a ridiculous number of fantastic lookout spots from Cascade’s sprawling summit…
Keep an eye out for yellow paint markings on the rock bed, which will guide you to the upper summit.
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There are a few tricky sections, especially if the rock is wet or there is any ice. Be extremely careful and do not push on unless you are totally comfortable — remembering that descents are always trickier than ascents.
I made my way up, said hello to the summit marker embedded in the rock, and then dropped down onto a much-needed windbreak ledge on the east side of the summit.
This was the view…
Here is a direct view of Porter’s summit as seen from Cascade’s. (Soon, you’ll be over there, looking back this way at all the tiny hikers milling about here.)
This is a great spot to eat lunch, well-protected from the wind.
Leave No Trace
Please be mindful on all Adirondack summits. Walk only on exposed rock to protect the delicate alpine plants from being crushed underfoot. And make sure to practice leave no trace.
When you’re ready, climb up to the upper summit once again and then head back down to the main trail.
But take in one last epic view on the way…
In November, I was able to bare-boot this far, and then back down again to the junction. There were a few icy spots, but I was able to work around them easily.
However, the second I got back to the junction I knew I’d have to put on my spikes.
Porter Mountain Hiking Trail
Most people seem content to summit Cascade and don’t bother with Porter, which is a shame because the hike out to Porter is lovely, and there are some great views to be had.
The trail out to Porter also looks very different. It’s much quieter and just feels so calm and natural.
It was also immediately, and totally, iced-up. Maybe this is what was keeping people away from Porter on this day…
You’ll lose about 100’ of elevation getting down from the junction to the col between the two mountains. From there, you’ll climb about 300’ to reach the summit of Porter. It does’t take long. With stops at scenic spots, I did it in about 35 minutes.
About ¾ of the way out, just below 4000’, you’ll have to work around this large boulder that sits right on the trail…
Shortly after it, look for a short spur trail on the right that terminates with another large boulder…
I climbed up on this second boulder. The views from it were pretty great…
Return to the main trail, and turn right to continue to Porter’s summit, which is now only about 700 ft to the east.
Porter’s summit is much smaller than Cascade’s, and is mostly treed-in. However, you can climb up on this rocky nub and get some decent views of the surrounding peaks…
Here’s some video…
3000 ft to the northwest, the hikers on Cascade’s summit look like ants…
I found zero trash on Cascade, which was so fantastic to see. But here, on Porter, I picked up someone’s dropped pistachio shells and a tiny rubber seal thing. In nature, pistachio shells last a surprisingly long time. They can take up to four years to fully break down. (Even a small apple core can take two months to fully break down.) Read How Long Does Trash Last on the Trail?
Sometimes, these things are dropped accidentally; at some point, we all leave something behind. If you see trash like this, pack it out. There’s really no-one else to do it, and it helps the wilderness stay wilderness. Thank you!
From here, make your way back to the junction once more via the beautiful Porter Mountain trail…
At the junction, turn left and head downhill to the trailhead on Route 73.
One Last Wilderness Tip
Ben Lawhon is the education director for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and he says, “Hikers can spread nonnative species, which is a huge cause of habitat destruction. By not taking plants or animals, and cleaning your hiking boots before you leave the trailhead, you can make a difference.”
Right before I drove away from this trailhead on Route 73, I brushed off all the dirt from my hiking boots and gaiters.
It’s a trick I came across online, and it means I’m not transporting any non-native seeds, or tiny hitchhikers, from one area to another.
To learn more, you can read PSA: Leave No Trace at the Trailhead.
Close by, and using the same trailhead, you can do a more difficult but equally stunning hike by hiking Balanced Rocks and Pitchoff Mountain.
The parent mountain for this hike is Cascade.
If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below. Your feedback makes this site better.
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Small roadside lot for an incredibly popular. In summer, you may have to get there before dawn to grab a spot.
Google Maps Location: 44.219149, -73.887257
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
Service at trailhead and up high. In between, service comes and goes. My network is Verizon. YMMV.