Dix Range from Elk Lake

Demanding and spectacular, this is one of the most rugged, scenic Adirondack hikes.

Hike Length: 20.0 miles (32.19 km)

Total Ascent: 5,500ft (1,676m)

Intensity: Hardest Adirondacks Hike

Route Type: Lollipop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Unmarked Trail, Herd Path, Easy Bushwhack, Rock Scrambles, Road Walk, Stream Crossing

Parent Dix Mountain

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hiker in yellow jacket on Grace Peak in the Adirondacks

Hiker on Grace Peak

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 A very long, very tough route.

At 16-20 miles, and with 5500 ft of elevation gain, hiking the Dix Range is one of the longest and most challenging day hikes you can do in the Adirondacks — but the rewards are absolutely insane.

To date, this is by far the most amazing and memorable hike I’ve done. Dix Range terrain is grueling but the views are astonishing. This hike is crazy crazy crazy good.

I’m awestruck by anyone who can complete the Dix Range in a day. The first time I tried to complete this Range, I failed. I had to break this hike into two separate trips!

I completed the first half of the Dix Range (Macomb, South Dix and Grace Peak) in 2019. By the time I made it half way to Hough, I knew my legs were shot. Wisely, I bailed down the Lilian Brook trail. I made it back to my car on fumes, truly, shuffling like the walking dead.

I completed the second half of the Dix Range (Hough, The Beckhorn, and Dix Mountain) in 2021. I fared much better the second time, on stronger legs — but I also had a cute strategy to shave off some effort, which you can read more about at the bottom of this post.

Make no mistake: this is a long, tough and rugged, but intensely breathtaking hike.

Here’s the elevation profile from my GaiaGPS route.dix range elevation profile

Note: The Dix Range is often described as a five mountain range but, really, it includes six summits. The Beckhorn, between Hough and Dix, is a tidy little summit but it’s a substantial obstacle. It’s best to think of the Dix Range as a six summit range.

Technically, you have to hike South Dix twice, so pack enough snacks and hydration for seven summits!

Dix Range Trailhead & Parking

The parking situation for the Dix Range changes according to season.

There are two main lots: a small inner lot at the trailhead (near Elk Lake), and a large outer lot (south of Clear Pond) about 2¼ miles from the inner lot.

Unless you are very early, and very lucky, and get a spot at the inner lot right next to the trailhead, it’s likely you’ll begin your hike at the outer lot near Clear Pond. In October, during leaf-peeping season, both lots fill up long before 6:00 am.

Starting at the inner lot at the trailhead, the main loop is probably 15 miles. But having to hike in from, an back out to, the outer lot adds 4½ miles — which is apx 2 hours hike time — to your day.

The GPS route attached above includes the hike in from the outer lot, as that’s how I’ve done it both times.

You also need to factor in…

Seasonal Trail & Road Closures

The DEC page for the Dix Mountain Tract states

“The Elk Lake Trailhead and the first 2.3 miles of the trail accessing the Dix Mountain area are on private lands. The public has the right to use the trail but is prohibited from leaving the trail and trespassing on private lands. The trail is closed during northern zone regular big game hunting season. After big game hunting season, the trail reopens. However, beginning then, and through the winter and spring mud season, the public must park 2.0 miles back from the trailhead at the Clear Pond Parking Area.”

Camping in the Dix Range

Factoring in your drive-time to and from the Elk Lake trailhead, hiking the Dix Range makes for a very long day.

Many people choose to hike in to one of the primitive campsites at the base of the mountains and begin hiking the Dix Range the next morning.

There are multiple large flat areas, perfect for camping, around the Slide Brook Lean-To. They are strewn all around the junction with the herd path that leads to Macomb. (Sometimes, there are so many tents in the woods, it takes on a village atmosphere.)

A second set of primitive campsites can be found another 1¼ miles along the Hunters Pass Trail, around the Lilian Brook Lean-To.

Both are spectacular, super fun settings, deep in the Adirondack Wilderness. The Dix Range is very special. Please make sure to leave no trace.

This trail guide is new. The route was completed in October 2021 under which date this page will be filed later.

Dix Range Hiking Trail

Like many Adirondack High Peaks hikes, any hike of the Dix Range begins with a long walk-in. Depending on your starting point, you will walk for 2-5 miles to the junction with the Macomb herd path. At least the terrain is relatively flat, with no significant elevation gain.

From the trailhead proper, after two miles or so, you’ll cross a stream and a large drainage.

Keep an eye on the right side of the trail for a small unofficial yellow blaze affixed to a tree, with “MACOMB MT” handwritten on it, above an official DEC yellow camping blaze.

autumn forest, rock cairn, yellow blaze
Macomb herd path junction

It’s easy to walk past this modest trail sign when you don’t know where it is.

In 2019, there was no cairn. In 2021, the above cairn had been added. The yellow blazes are a more reliable indicator.

Macomb Herd Path

Warning: once you step off the main official trail, you will be following an unmarked, unblazed, and unofficial herd path over most of the Dix Range. Adirondack herd paths are usually easy to follow, but there are junctions where things can get tricky. And so…

Strong backcountry navigation skills are a must for any hike in the Dix Range. Specifically, you must be able to navigate confidently using map and compass, without your phone. Between selfies, photos and video capture, there is a strong likelihood your phone’s battery will completely drain on this hike.

The herd path winds easily uphill through a mix of deciduous and coniferous forest before eventually descending briefly to cross Slide Book.

Straight away you see you are at the bottom of Macomb Slide.

The Dix Range was my first Adirondack hike, and Macomb Slide was my first time climbing a slide. The scale of devastation wrought by a mountain slide is shocking.

Macomb Slide is steep and packed with loose dirt, but nothing grows there. It is wet; on cold nights, much of the slide is covered in needle ice. The terrain is very tiring, two-steps-forward-one-step-back type stuff. And it’s long.

Even though the slide only goes half way up the mountain, it took me over an hour to get from the bottom of the slide to the summit of Macomb Mountain.

However, this is also the first section where the famous Dix Range views begin to open up…

From this point on, until the end of my hike, I think I said, “Oh, wow!” about 10,000 times.

Check out this stunning view from a little higher on the slide…

Elk lake seen in the distance
Elk Lake from Macomb Slide

For scale, notice the hikers bottom right.

And this is Clear Pond, where my hike began…

Clear Pond in fall
Clear Pond in the distance

Elk Lake in October…

Elk Lake closeup
Elk Lake

Macomb Mountain Summit

The summit of Macomb is very small but very satisfying, especially for me on this particular morning because it was my first ADK.

hiker on Macomb Mountain summit
Sean / first ADK summit / October 2019

At the summit, a small ledge looks out onto the high peaks all around and, below, seemingly hundreds of lower peaks roll on forever, arranged in rows like waves.

mountain ranges in fall
Macomb Slide view

mountain summits in fall colors
Macomb Range view

To South Dix

Head north from the summit of Macomb for less than a mile — but it’ll feel longer. You’ll lose about 600 ft of elevation, and have to re-climb about 200 ft, but this is one of the most fun sections of the route. The scramble is super fun and the views are incredible.

After following the serpentine trail down to the col, you’ll face this intimidating-looking but actually-wonderful open rock scramble on the side of South Dix…

open rock face on mountain
Rock scramble on South Dix

Video snippet…

There are several open rock patches on the way up, and the views are like this…

scenic Mountain View
View from South Dix / spot the hiker

Like much of the upper Dix Range, the summit of South Dix is a stunted conifer forest with no views. However, beyond the summit, more views open up on the way to Grace Peak.

Directly after, in fact, there’s a small lookout on the right side of the trail. (You can see the location if you zoom in on my Dix Range GPS track.)

To Grace Peak

Continue along the trail, heading northeast. Grace Peak is an out-and-back trek, again of about one mile each way, with a loss/gain of 300ft in both directions.

The herd path is not always obvious, but there are great lookouts along the way.

scenic mountain landscape view
View from South Dix

Grace Peak Summit

Climb up onto the massive open rocky summit of Grace Peak.

The views are mind-altering. You can look back at Macomb Mountain and South Dix, which you’ve just climbed, but also see Hough Peak and The Beckhorn ahead.

And, of course, this being the Dix Range, rolling waves of mountains as far as the eye can see…

rocky scenic view
View from Grace Peak

I could easily include 50 more photos I took from Grace Peak. It’s just an incredible spot.

hiker in yellow jacket on Grace Peak in the Adirondacks
Hiker on Grace Peak

This summit is also a great spot to rest and fuel up for the remainder of the hike.

Great Slide Lookout

I’m embarrassed to admit I made a mistake here, which I hope you won’t repeat. I didn’t know there was a second lookout on the summit Grace Peak. Allegedly, it’s even more spectacular than the first!

About 500 feet to the north of the first lookout, is a spot called the Great Slide Lookout. It looks down another massive slide (or two).

Make sure to visit this spot while you’re here — no matter how wrecked your legs already feel.

The second half of this Complete Dix Range Trail Guide is accessible to members who kindly support this content

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Similar Hikes to Dix Range

In terms of length and difficulty, you’re looking at major Adirondack hikes like the Santanoni Range and the Great Range.

In The Catskills, the most comparable hike would be The Devil’s Path or the Burroughs Range Loop.

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The parent mountain for this hike is Dix Mountain.

If you do this hike, LMK how it went…

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Trailhead Info for this Hike

This outer lot is larger than the trailhead lot, and is likely where you’ll have to begin your hike. From here, it’s 2.25 miles of road walk to the trailhead.

Google Maps Location: 43.991848, -73.830642

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

No service at trailheads / parking lots. I had spotty service up high. Very high. My network is Verizon. YMMV.