Some of you reading this are going to be newbies to the Adirondack hiking scene, so I do need to take a minute and explain:
There’s 46 “high peaks” in the Adirondacks. Actually, a few more, but some of them for various reasons are not called “high peaks.” Sawteeth is ranked 35th. That does not mean it is one of the easier High Peaks to climb, trust me! It means it is one of the high peaks over 4,000 feet. That does not translate into “11th easiest”. It’s 12.5 miles round trip!
I read hiking reviews that call some of these hikes “moderate”. I was actually on Cascade Mountain a few years back, high peak # and found a family hiking with two grandmothers in tow. Trust me, age is not a factor for the experienced climber, but if you’ve never been on a hike, and see the words “moderate”, you’re going to assume–like the two grandmothers regretfully did–”I can do that.”
“Moderate”, therefore, means what is moderate to an experienced hiker. It means you know the struggles, what rock scramble is, how to climb ledges, and how to pace yourself–and take care of yourself should the worst happen–over several miles of rugged terrain.
With that background, I had one of the best hikes I ever did climbing Sawteeth Mountain with a group of fellow hikers. We had an absolute blast. To Jim, our leader, Kathy, Courtney, Becky, and Joe, thanks for making a great trip.
The Hike, Getting There, and the Adirondack Forest Preserve:
The trail starts off the Adirondack Forest Preserve located directly across from the Giant Mountain parking area. If you’re traveling North on NY I87, make a left off Exit 30, and you’ll start to see trail
heads. It’s a mile or so before the center of Keene.
The first 4 miles are a cake walk. But it is four miles of cakewalk!
Lower Ausable Lake: Simply beautiful!
Here’s a word on the Adirondack Forest Preserve. It is privately owned. I don’t know all the details, but it is related to the Ausable Club, a highly exclusive club. The trail heads to many of the peaks start here, but the club owned thousands and thousands of acres. To allow access, the State of New York purchased a right of way across the property, and the property then became known as the Adirondack Forest Preserve. So the Ausable Club is where the houses are located, and the Adirondack Forest Preserve is where the land is located.
So you park in the parking lot just off Rt 73, and hike almost four miles on a dirt road across the Preserve land and past the houses and pool and golf course and club house that make up the Ausable Club.
Then you hit a guard booth, the trail head. You must sign in, like you do with every other hike. There are no ATVs or bicycles allowed. Even though you’re hiking to Sawteeth, you head towards the sign that says Gothics.
[Along that 4 mile stretch of land, you'll also see turn offs for several other mountains you may wish to hike in the future.]
So the start of the hike is four miles in, but the walk on the dirt road is easy with slight hills going up (which become down hills on the way back).
Lower Ausable Lake
Awaiting the morning burn off
After you pass the guard booth you’ll hike a bit more and reach a series of small bridges and an absolutely stunning view of Lower Ausable Lake. Cross a little bridge and you’ll see a sign: Sawteeth, Scenic Route, to the left, and East River Trail straight ahead.
Scenic Trail vs. East River Trail:
We took the East River Trail up. NEWBIES SHOULD TAKE THIS TRAIL. A word on “Scenic” shortly. The East River Trail is considered “moderate”. Parts of it were actually a really nice walk with occasional steep and strenuous gains in elevation. After two hours, you reach a junction, where the trail leads to the right to other mountains. There is a little sign that says “Sawteeth Summit: 500 feet”.
1. There is NO WAY it’s 500 feet. Much longer.
2. THAT LAST STRETCH IS NOT MODERATE. It was STRENUOUS, and VERY dangerous, of climbing rock formations and steep inclines, hoping and praying you don’t slip and fall ten feet on the wet and mossy rock.
The reach to the summit can be tricky.
Yes, there was still some ice and snow, albeit minimal (Memorial Day).
After the views, we separated into two groups: Half of us went down the way we came up, the other half took the “scenic trail.”
Marcy with Snow As Memorial Day Approaches
The report is that the scenic trail is STRENUOUS. Parts are so steep there’s ladders affixed. There ARE awesome views of the Ausable Lakes, and a series of look outs. Coming up the scenic trail, the look outs are the “teeth” of the saw, ups and downs, creating false summits.
Bring at least three liters. I brought an entire gallon. I was still dehydrated. But three liters was the consensus. For snack, I brought two peanut butter sandwiches and a box of Pop Tarts for instant energy.
Rainbow Falls-Do NOT Miss
A few hundred yards up the trail you’ll see the spectacular rainbow falls. Hundreds of feet high. Do not miss.
Throw in Gothic?
It is not necessary to do Gothic at this time. There’s other opportunities!
A Word on Directions
Many of the hikes begin off Route 73, of Exit 30 off the Northway, heading towards Lake Placid. Make a left toward Keene. Just before Keene, on the right, is the trail head for Giant Mountain. Immediately on your left is a small access road. Make a left and park. Four miles of walking, you’ll pass the golf course for the Ausable Club, then hit the Adirondack Preserve check in. Keep going, you’ll see a small foot bridge.