Are you a collector of hiking patches? or simply looking for some new mountains to conquer? Well, I have a hiking challenge for you that will provide both! The Lake Placid 9er hiking challenge was established as a way to explore the region’s smaller peaks. In this post, I will share with you what it takes to become a LP9er.
Becoming a Lake Placid 9er
I started this challenge by mistake actually! I drove up to Lake Placid in the fall of 2018 to do some car camping with friends and we were looking for some smaller mountains with pretty autumn payoffs. After hiking Baxter, Van Ho, and Mt. Jo in a weekend, I later realized that I had a pretty great start to the Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge! This wound up driving my mud season climbs in the Spring of 2019 and allowed me to finish up my challenge in July of 2019 on Cobble Hill (a bit anticlimactic)!
What are the Lake Placid 9er?
Let’s meet the mountains.
The spectacular mountains associated with this challenge are listed below in (what I perceive as) order of difficulty! Mileage, ascent, and trail conditions are taken into consideration when deciding difficulty.
Certainly more of a hill than a ‘mountain’ but beautiful none-the-less! You will need to drive into the Northwood School Campus to find the parking lot for this hike. There are two routes to decide upon: the first route is significantly shorter but steep and requires some rock scrambling; the second route is longer and much more gentle. We did the hike in a loop – went up the steeper side and descended the more gradual way. The views from the summit are beautiful despite the easy climb. This is a great hike for a family!
A great beginner hike with a beautiful pay off! Head north on Route 9 off of 73 for about two miles before you’ll see the trailhead parking for Baxter on the right-hand shoulder. The trail is steady, with a few switchbacks, and nothing too steep! It is a great trail to hike with little ones; it is also a great route for a short mountain trail run. Baxter is a fairly easy, yet charming hike in all seasons and would definitely make for a splendid snowshoe.
Big Crow Mountain
From the same parking lot where you will park to hike Hurricane, you will also find the short but steep trailhead for Big Crow. After a quick jaunt through the woods, you will find yourself climbing for straight up for about a half-mile. Although the trail is short, your legs will be working hard and your breathing will grow heavy until you’ve reached the summit. If you have just returned from hiking Hurricane Mountain, it is crazy to look back on the fire tower from which you just came; it appears as though it is ages away from where you are now.
From the ADK Loj parking lot (parking fee), hop on the trail for this beautiful mountain near the entrance in the corner by the snowplow turn-around. There are two routes to the summit, and the possibility to loop back down and around next to Heart Lake if you choose. The longer trail is more gradual, whereas the shorter trail is steeper and requires some easy rock scrambling. The payoff is HUGE for minimal effort; the views of the high peaks from Mt. Jo make it one of the most popular hikes in the Lake Placid region. It’s exceptional for sunrise or sunset hike given its short distance and relatively easy nature.
We woke up early one October morning and climbed Mt. Jo for sunrise. Arriving at the summit just after first light we found ourselves in a bit of a fog. As the clouds began to lift, they revealed stunning views of Heart Lake and The MacIntyre range. After sipping tea and coffee on the summit as the morning sun burned off the fog, we descended the long way down past heart lake which did NOT disappoint with loud fall foliage at its peak.
Mt. Van Hoevenberg
There are two great trails that one can access the Mount Van Hoe summit from. The newest, ‘East’, trail leaves from the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex; I took the trail from Meadow Lane near the Adirondack Loj and was not disappointed! The hike begins just off the dirt road and stays fairly flat for just about a mile. A beautiful steady climb just beyond the small, marshy body of water to the east leads to a stunning summit with a rocky outcropping that provides views of the High Peaks Region. Unfortunately, the summit was socked in while we were up there! We do hope to visit again to experience the view.
Bear Den Mountain.
Located in Wilmington inside the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center; look for the parking for Bear Den. The hike itself intertwines with bike trails and can be confusing at first but proves to be a steady, yet relentless climb from about a half-mile in until the summit. The summit of this peak is truly unique; rugged stone piles provide stunning views of Whiteface and beyond. You are right up on Whiteface and it’s ski runs which provides a neat perspective. It truly is a hidden little gem among the very busy trails of the Adirondacks.
Parking for this one can be tough during peak season seeing as the lot for it is located right near one of the busiest trailheads for the ADK 46 Challenge. You CAN NOT park on the shoulder; you must find a spot. If you arrive bright and early – better chances on a weekday – parking should be of no concern. The trail begins to climb immediately but levels off to a steady incline quickly. The summit itself isn’t exactly exciting, however, balancing rocks along the way is a treat. This beautiful rocky outcropping provides the infamous, balancing rocks, where many 9ers take their leap of faith photos! This spot is a great place to view Cascade Mountain, Upper, and Lower Cascade Lakes, and Cascade Falls as well as other mountains in the High Peaks Region. Climbing below and through the balanced rocks is also exciting and unique!
Smaller in stature but a thrill of a hike! This beauty requires rock scrambling and steep climbing often earning it the name of most challenging 9er. The Chimney area can mimic a technical climb at times; although we had a dog with us, I wouldn’t suggest this trail to those hiking with an inexperienced child or dog! Be sure to follow cairns over the bare rock that encompasses the final half-mile push to the summit. You will be rewarded for your climbing with astounding 360-degree views; this summit boasts some of the best views of Whiteface and Ester in the region, enjoy it!
There are two approaches to the Hurricane Mountain Firetower. The Northern Approach takes off from the same parking lot as Big Crow (Hurricane Road from the town of Keene to O’toole Road) and the Eastern Approach from Route 9N. I’ve hiked this beauty both in late Spring and the heart of winter; it is just dreamy in both seasons. This is the longest hike of the Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge but also the only one with a fire tower! The fire tower is a cool addition to the summit which provides stellar views on its own. It is called Hurricane for a reason; it is one windy summit! If you do hike Hurricane from the Northern Approach, see how you’re feeling on the return and take a quick run up Big Crow to cross two off your list – their trailheads are in the same parking lot.
A little hiking competition
The Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge was a really fun distraction from the High Peaks during mud season; it’s also a great opportunity to introduce the less experienced to the Adirondacks in an exciting way. So many people hear about the 46er challenge and immediately want to conquer all 46, but it’s always good to start somewhere a little less daunting. Starting with the Tupper Lake Triad or Saranac Lake 6er’s before moving on to the 9er is a great course of action if you’re new to the outdoors as well.
If you have completed your Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge, head on over to their website to register and earn your patch!