Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge

The Lake Placid 9er hiking challenge was established in 2018 as a way to explore the regions smaller peaks. Many hikers try to tackle the 46er challenge over the course of a few weeks, months, or years when they’re in the Lake Placid area. The Lake Placid 9ers are slightly more attainable in a single trip or for those new to the hiking scene; if you’re trying to hike something that is less than 4,000 feet and still offers stunning views of the area. The Lake Placid 9ers hiking challenge will provide you the opportunity to scale a Fire Tower, visit the historic ADK LOJ, and explore the surrounding Lake Placid Area.  

Views from a unique gem of the Adirondacks!

I started this challenge quite 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!


Meet the Mountains.

COBBLE HILL
MT. JO
PITCHOFF MOUNTAIN
BAXTER MOUNTAIN
MT. VAN HOEVENBERG
CATAMOUNT MOUNTAIN
BIG CROW MOUNTAIN
BEAR DEN MOUNTAIN
HURRICANE MOUNTAIN

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.

Cobble hill.

trail map of cobble hill
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 2.1 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,332 feet
  • Ascent: 485 feet
Two trail signs lay on the floor of the trail

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!

Baxter mountain.

trail map of Baxter Mountain
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 2.4 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,440 feet
  • Ascent: 741 feet

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. 

A socked in summit in autumn
Jumping for joy even though the summit is socked in!

big crow mountain.

Trail map of Big Crow
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 1.4 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,815 feet
  • Ascent: 570 feet

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. 

mt. jo

trail map
Photo Credit: Alltrails.com
  • Distance: 2.6 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,876 feet
  • Ascent: 692 feet

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.

fog rolls through afall foliage view of the macIntyre Range

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.

back of a girls head in Autumn facing heart lake
Heart Lake on the return!

Mt. van hoevenberg

trail map of Mt Van Hoe
Photo Credit: Alltrails.com
  • Distance: 4.4 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,940 feet
  • Ascent: 692 feet

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.

girl posing by marshy body of water with low clouds on an autumn day

bear den mountain.

trail map of bear den mountain
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 4.5 miles RT
  • Elevation: 2,650 feet
  • Ascent: 1,479 feet
Girl with braid signs into a trail reigster
Don’t forget to sign in!

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. 

A couple sits at the summit of bear den

Pitchoff mountain.

Trail Map of Pitchoff Mountain
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
Pictured here as a thru-hike
  • Distance: 5.2 miles RT
  • Elevation: 3,500 feet
  • Ascent: 2,132 feet

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! 

girl jumps from one large boulder to another on a  mountain summit
To See Other Balanced Rock Photos Click Here!

catamount mountain.

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com

  • Distance: 3.6 miles RT
  • Elevation: 3,165 feet
  • Ascent: 1,571 feet
Rock Scrambling w/ a Pup takes teamwork!

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!

hikin challenge nearly completed! girl sticks her tongue out with a smile on top of Catamount

hurricane mountain.

Trail Map of Hurricane Mountain
Photo Credit: AllTrails.com

  • Distance: 6.8 miles RT
  • Elevation: 3,678 feet
  • Ascent: 1,528 feet
Winter Snowshoe up Hurricane Mountain!

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 hiking boot on top of hurricane mountain

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 have completed your Lake Placid 9er Hiking Challenge, head on over to their website to register and earn your patch!  

The High Peaks Region Through Balanced Rocks on Pitchoff!

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