Three High Peaks, One Long Day

What up Road Trip Warriors!? On July 30th, 2020 I bagged these three Adirondack High Peaks leaving me at 33/46 summited! This hike was BRUTAL and took a toll on mine, my best friend, and my brothers’ bodies, but it was worth it! We had each summit to ourselves and the panoramas were jaw-dropping. These are some of the highest mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks wilderness and they all have rocky, bald summits. If you are looking for some rough hiking, this route is for you!

Summary of Haystack, saddleback, basin

  • Difficulty: Very Strenuous
  • Length: Roughly 24 miles round trip 
  • Mount Haystack Elevation: 4,960′ above sea level
  • Saddleback Mountain Elevation: 4,515′ above sea level
  • Basin Mountain Elevation: 4,827′ above sea level
  • Hiking Time: 14-15 hours 
  • Photo Opportunities: There are many opportunities to snap a picturesque photo on this loop. You could capture a shot of the summit of Haystack while on Little Haystack or a picture while climbing the Saddleback cliffs. You really can’t go wrong with capturing images from the summits of any three of these Adirondack High Peaks. Personally, I enjoyed taking pictures of Mount Marcy from Haystack.

 Trailhead

The trailhead for the this hike is located at the Garden. The Garden is located in Keene Valley, NY and the road is on the left shortly after passing Noonmark Diner. You’ll follow the dirt road to the end to a dirt parking lot where you will pay $12 to park your vehicle. The trailhead is easily visible in the lot with a trail register next to it. You’ll come across this sign below shortly after starting your hike.

Hike to Johns brook lodge

After signing in at the trail register, you’re going to be following the trail to John’s Brook Lodge (JBL) roughly 3.8 miles into the woods. The trail is self explanatory, with many signs and trail markers to guide you to the lodge, see photos below. In regard to the second photo below, do not head towards Saddleback/Gothic Mountains. Go right and continue heading towards JBL. During the summer, you can purchase water and snacks from the lodge and there are picnic tables to sit at. There is also a water fountain where you’ll be able to refill your bottles. I do not believe these amenities are available in the winter. The trail sign to Haystack at John’s Brook Lodge is wrong (third photo that says 7.4 miles to Haystack). You will want to keep continuing straight past the picnic tables on your right despite where the sign is telling you to go.

The hike towards Mount haystack

After making it past John’s Brook Lodge, you will be hiking throughout the forest for a few miles. There was pretty significant blowdown on the trail so you will have to maneuver around fallen trees, branches, and whatever else may be in your way. Along the way you will be able to see Saddleback towering above you. Doing this loop, Saddleback will be the last High Peak of the day that you summit!

Eventually you’ll come to a clearing where you will see Mount Haystack in the near distance. It is a good spot to capture some pictures of this High Peak. You’ll descend briefly until you come to a fork in the trail with a sign pointing towards Haystack on your right and Basin Mountain on your left. This 1.1 mile trek to Haystack is steep and you’ll be above tree-line for a bit so be prepared.

the devil’s half mile and summiting mount haystack

Before summiting Mount Haystack, you first must reach the top of Little Haystack. The actual summit will tower above you now in the very near distance once you are atop Little Haystack. You’ll descend steeply and then ascend to the summit of Mount Haystack. This is one of the few High Peaks that makes you feel like you’re not in the Adirondacks anymore. It is a beast of a mountain here in New York and the views from the summit are commanding. You will have first class viewing of Mount Marcy adjacent to you and also views of Basin and Saddleback which will appear very far away. Just for a time reference, we started this hike at 6:30 AM and we summited Mount Haystack at 12:30 PM.

Mount Marcy
Basin and Saddleback (on the left)

Heading to bASIN MOUNTAIN

So…now you must start heading to Basin Mountain. I can verify that it will not feel great going back down Mount Haystack and up Little Haystack to then go back down to where that fork in the trail was. However, it won’t take nearly as long as you think. Once you’re back at that split, you’ll have less than a mile to the summit of Basin. It is a steep, but rewarding climb with scenes that get better as you keep moving up the mountain. We topped out at Basin at roughly 3:00 PM. This is another bald, rocky summit with superb views of the surrounding Adirondack wilderness.

Mount Haystack on the left

SADDLEBACk and her cliffs

The trail is pretty easy to follow to Saddleback. You’re going to descend into a col, but it isn’t that deep. Then you will have to climb up the Saddleback cliffs. If you’re an adventure photographer, this is a really great spot to capture some shots of you and your buddies scaling the cliffs. I would share photos of what it is like on the cliffs, but I didn’t take many pictures until I was on the summit. My only advice is to take time to figure out what route is best for you. There isn’t a best way up, but don’t rush it. Find yourself some good rock to grasp, lean forward, and just keep moving up to the summit. We hit the summit of Saddleback Mountain at 4:30 PM about an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving Basin Mountain.

My Brother Climbing the Saddleback Cliffs
View from Top of Saddleback Mountain

Down Saddleback and Back to Johns brook Lodge

The trek to Johns Brook Lodge is, and I cannot emphasize this enough, very long. The descent isn’t too rough, it just seems to carry on forever. Less than an hour after leaving the summit of Saddleback, you’ll hit the sign below that says 2.8 miles remain until Johns Brook Lodge. It is definitely longer than 2.8 miles and you will be able to agree after finishing this hike. There is another sign you’ll hit after this one that will say .3 miles and shortly after you will finally be back at Johns Brook Lodge! For time reference, it took us about two hours to get from the summit of Saddleback Mountain to JBL.

Getting back to the Garden trailhead

As you can see in the sign above, once at JBL, you have the remaining 3.8 miles back to the trailhead. This is the same way you came in so you’ll be familiar with the trail now. It took about an hour and a half to get back to the Garden from JBL with tired legs. See below for what my iPhone tracked throughout the day. I know it isn’t 100% accurate, but it emphasizes that this day hike is a brutal, rewarding way to spend your day.

DOG FRIENDLY

I would not recommend this hike for dogs. It is a very long day, and I’m not sure at how well your pet would be able to ascend the Saddleback Cliffs. Is it impossible? Probably not, but I just don’t recommend it for the safety of your furry friend.

Fam friendly

This is definitely not a hike that I would rate as fam-friendly. The distance, the climbing, and the time spent above tree-line are all things that should be considered before embarking on this hike. I would only recommend it for those attempting to be Adirondack 46ers or experienced hikers. If you do want to take on this trek just make sure you are well prepared.

Clothes/gear worn

  • Timberland Hiking Boots
  • Nike Compression shorts
  • Athletic shorts
  • Outdoor Research Sun-rated hat
  • Athletic T-shirt
  • EMS Hiking socks (warmest pair they make)

GEAR/FOOD BROUGHT

  • 3L of water
  • Peanut butter granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, trail mix
  • Extra EMS hiking socks
  • Bandana
  • Extra shirts, compression shorts, and underarmour
  • Wind/Rain Pants
  • Emergency tents and blankets
  • Knife
  • Paracord and three carabiners
  • Water-proof matches
  • LifeStraw (water filtration, costs about $20)
  • Trekking poles
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Garmin inReach (satellite device that has a GPS, can send texts, send SOS, and has many other helpful features)

RTW Note

Thank you Road Trip Warriors for taking the time to check out this epic trek in the Adirondacks! It was definitely one of my top hikes in New York. In my opinion, the views from the summit of Mount Haystack are unmatched! Anyway, if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, SMASH the follow and share buttons, leave a comment, and leave a follow on twitter where I post most of my photos! I have more epic hikes and info on those hikes to come!! Keep on trekking!

-Ant

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