A tough, steep, beautiful loop.
With 3600 feet of elevation gain, this 8 mile loop route up and down Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks will test your legs — but the views from the summit, and from this descent route, are truly stunning.
This is a steep and physically demanding hike. On a warm day, there will be sweat.
Make sure you have enough water for this hike — at least 3 liters per person — plus a Gatorade or similar to replace lost electrolytes.
Giant Mountain Trailhead & Parking
The trailhead for this route is on the north side of Route 73, right opposite the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) lot for Indian Head, etc. The lot is medium-sized and fills up quickly.
Many of the classic road-side parking spots on Route 73 have been blocked off and the AMR lot now requires a reservation and permit. All of this will put additional pressure on the existing public lots, most of which are on the smaller side.
I did this hike near the end of June, just before the summer hiking season really kicks off. I arrived at 9:15 am and there were several spots left. I doubt that will be the case for the remainder of the hot season.
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Hike Safely on Giant Mountain
Giant Mountain is so well-known. It’s on a lot of casual hiker’s to-do list.
On this day, I saw many hikers wearing non-hiking footwear and carrying hardly any supplies.
I was concerned to see so many people attempting what is a difficult and somewhat technical hike — without even one of The 10 Essentials.
I did this hike when the mountain was bone dry and I was very glad.
Warning! During the three warm seasons, personally, I would not attempt this hike after any rain. There are vast sections of rock slab and, up high, there are several oversized boulder scrambles. Super fun! But I sensed, after any rain, I would personally be challenged beyond the point of enjoyment and safety.
Giant Mountain Hiking Trail
All the trails on Giant Mountain are relentless. The trailhead for this climb is at 1300’ and the summit is at 4600’ — so you will climb 3300’ in about 3¾ miles. It took me about 3.75 hours to get to the summit, so I averaged about one mile per hour. This mountain slowed me down.
Although most hikers seem to be faster-paced than I am, I would still plan for a long day on this hill — partly just because you’ll be soaking in so many excellent views for so long. It’s an amazing mountain.
The terrain is lovely throughout, and ever-changing, which keeps this hike interesting the whole way. Down low there’s a mix of cool deciduous woods sprinkled with hemlock stands. Up high, there’s lots of spruce getting blasted in the sun, and smelling amazing, and even some cedar trees.
There’s a fun stream crossing, a ladder, scrambles.
Above 3000’ the views are insane.
Start at the trailhead where there are some rank Porta Potties. Follow the red blazes.
This route passes the turn-offs for both the base and the top of Roaring Brook Falls. I did the upper falls on the way in and the lower falls on the way out. (Separate hike report coming soon.)
You’ll get to cross Roaring Brook itself not far from the top of the falls…
At the third junction, turn left, away from the Washbowl Trail, and head uphill. The next mile and a half is super fun, with some steep sections near the top and lots of Adirondack terrain goodness all along.
At the fourth junction, prepare to turn left again. You will return to this junction later to head back down the mountain via a different route.
However, before you head up, according to GaiaGPS there’s a lookout somewhere at this junction. I didn’t know about during my hike. Probably worth looking for. LMK if you find it.
To head up, turn left and follow the blue blazes. The next 0.6 miles of trail is so lovely. Views start to open up on your left and right. I checked some of the short herd paths along this section but the views from higher up surpass them all greatly.
Pass over a small knob before you start climbing the final pitch.
The trail becomes increasingly rugged and fun. Some of the rock scrambles were right at the edge of my comfort zone. Perfect!
Pass the fifth and uppermost junction and, once again, hang left. (But the trail to the east/right, toward Rocky Peak Ridge, is worth exploring for a few minutes on your way back down; more on that below.)
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Notice the flora around you; up here, it’s very different, with weird little plants just off trail. To protect these plants, make sure to always stay on the trail.
Soon enough, you’ll pop out onto the open summit, which has amazing 180° views to the south and west toward the Dix and Great ranges.
It’s hard to image a more spectacular place to eat a well-earned sandwich.
Descent from Giant Mountain
After soaking in the views, return the way you came — until you get back to the uppermost junction. There, turn left, following the yellow blazes and hike downhill only a hundred yards or so.
At at obvious spot, the views of Rocky Peak Ridge and the Dix Range and Nippetop are so great. Well worth the extra minutes.
In fact, another 300’ lower in elevation, there’s a marked scenic spot on this trail. On this day, conserving my energy, I didn’t want to have to re-climb that elevation loss. So I settled for this view, which is pretty amazing…
The col between Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge is one of the steepest in the Adirondacks. When I was planning this hike, I had an idea I might hike out to RPR but, as soon as I saw it with my own eyes, I noped-out on the spot; by this stage, my legs definitely did not have those extra miles in them.
Head back once again to the uppermost junction and then turn left to head downhill, following again the blue blazes.
The descent to the next junction should only take 30 minutes or so, 38 if you’re me.
Just above the junction, a short spur trail leads to a privy.
At the junction itself, notice where you came up from the right. You can return the way you came, following the red blazes back down, past Roaring Brook Falls. Or you can turn left and head down the Ridge Trail continuing to follow the blue blazes.
Giant Mountain Ridge Trail
This trail is dominated by massive open patches of rock slab and epic views.
There’s also quite a bit of exposure. I would think twice before using this route on cold, windy days. Read How Windy is Too Windy to Hike?
The views are dominated by the Dix Range, Nippletop, as well as Round Mountain and Giant’s Washbowl which are seen, first, at a distance, then ever more intimately. IMO, scenery-wise, this is the correct direction to hike this trail section; I was facing amazing views almost the whole way down.
After a mile or so, at the bottom of this section, you’ll come to a junction and face a question to which are no wrong answers.
- The Washbowl trail leads downhill around the the edge of the lake you’ve been looking at for the last mile
- The Nubble trail leads uphill to a small knob from which you’ll be treated to yet more incredible views
Both trails converge on your way out, so it doesn’t matter which one you take. The latter is a little shorter and is the route I took on this day.
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Follow the yellow blazes toward Nubble. After 20 minutes and an elevation gain of apx 250’ — which doesn’t sound like much but, by now, it definitely feels like it is — you’ll be at the junction for Nubble, the views from which you should not pass up. (Separate hike report for the Nubble coming soon.)
From here, the hike out is easy.
At the next junction, turn right. Shortly after that, you’ll be back at the junction with the red trail. There, turn left and head downhill past Roaring Brook Falls and, finally, out to the parking area on Route 73.
The parent mountain for this hike is Giant Mountain.
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
Medium-sized, very popular lot.
Google Maps Location: 44.150270, -73.767540
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
You’ll have cell service the higher you climb. None at the trailhead. None down low. The situation improves above 2500ft. My network is Verizon. YMMV.