Store Is Closed
Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak, Iroquois Peak from Heart Lake
Jul 7 2011 5:00:00 pm EST
Please note: this article is intended as a reference only. It is not a substitute for an updated guidebook and map. Also, travel in the wilderness requires experience and preparation that a guidebook can offer. Always check trail conditions on the DEC website to make sure the trail is open. The Adirondacks are prone to slides, flooding, and trail erosion.
From Heart Lake, the trail to Algonquin Peak, the second highest summit in New York, is a manageable day hike. Along the way, the hiker has an opportunity to summit Wright Peak and Iroquois Peak, both high peak summits. From Heart Lake, the hike to Wright Peak is 3.8 mi, adding in a .4 mi spur from the main Algonquin trail. Not factoring in this spur, the distance to Algonquin peak is 4.3 mi, though some of this is relatively steep with some scrambling.
From the summit of Algonquin, an unmarked, but relatively well established trail leads to another high peak, Iroquois. The distance from the Van Hoevenberg trailhead to Iroquois Peak, not factoring in the Wright spur trail, is a sometimes difficult 5.4 mi.
Overall, this is an excellent warm up day hike for the high peaks. If Algonquin seems out of reach, the hiker can abort the journey and settle for Wright Peak. If the hiker feels more ambitious, he/she can continue from Algonquin to Iroquois Peak, and may even throw in Wright Peak.
For reference, I have published a photo gallery of my hike to Algonquin.
Trailhead: On I-87, take exit 30 for US-9 toward NY-73/Keene Valley/Keene. Head North on US-9. Bear left on NY-73. You will pass the Bed & Breakfasts, restaurants, and shopping of Keene Valley, as well as the town of Keene. Approaching 26.5 miles from exit 30, you will take a left on Adirondack Loj Road (High Peaks Trailhead sign). It is five miles from this turn to the Loj. Take caution while driving on Adirondack Loj Rd, as there are often large potholes. At the end of the road, you will encounter the Heart Lake parking area, where you will pay a $10 daily parking fee ($5 for ADK members). I suggest the Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peaks Region as a guidebook and the National Geographic Illustrated Map, Lake Placid/High Peaks for a map. For Upstate New Yorkers, the nearest Barnes and Noble or Eastern Mountain Sports may stock these things. I also suggest bringing a GPS on your trip with appropriate map sets, as some of the roads and trails in the Adirondacks are confusing. Don’t count on cellphone reception.
The hike to Algonquin begins at the Van Hoevenberg trailhead, located near the High Peaks Information Center. Sign in at the trail registrar and pick up a small rock to bring to the summit of Algonquin (to serve as a border for the fragile Arctic alpine vegetation).
The hike along the Van Hoevenberg Trail is easy going for the first mile. At 1.0 mi, a trail juncture is encountered. To the left, the Van Hoevenberg Trail (blue trail markers) continues to Marcy Dam. However, the trail to Algonquin (yellow trail markers) continues straight.
At 1.5 mi, the Whales Tail Notch Ski Trail bears left. Continue bearing right. From this point, the trail becomes progressively rockier and steeper, crossing a brook at 2.0 mi. At around 2.6 mi, A side trail to the left leads to a designated campsite. Continuing on the main trail, a waterfall lies a hundred yards off. Beyond the waterfall, the trail ascends some steep portions before reaching a spur trail to Wright Peak at 3.4 mi. The optional ascent to Wright Peak is .4 mi, and is cairn marked in the exposed areas. Wright is the 16th highest peak in the Adirondacks.
Continuing on the Algonquin trail, the climbing becomes steep, with long tracts of smooth rock in portions. The fragile Arctic alpine zone is marked at 3.9 mi; beyond this point, trampled vegetation can take decades to recover, requiring the hiker to remain on marked trail. Following a series of cairns and yellow paint blazes, the trail is surrounded be recovering Arctic alpine vegetation, with dwarf spruce, birch, and fir trees, deer hair sedge, and other naturally stunted vegetation. It is among my personal favorite examples of the Adirondack alpine ecosystem (tied with Skylight).
The summit is reached at 4.3 mi, affording a unique view of Lake Colden and meandering Flowed Lands below. The scarred face of Mount Colden is clearly visible to the south-west, with a hint of Mt. Marcy directly behind. To the north-east, Wright Peak can be observed, and individuals at the summit can be discerned. Immediately to the left and further back, Heart Lake can be seen.
To the south-west, two nearby peaks beckon, Boundary Peak, and the greater Iroquois Peak. If the day is young and energy levels are adequate, a hiker can continue on a discernible herd path towards Iroquois Peak. The open areas are cairn marked, though the rest of the 1.1 mi trail is unmarked. Iroquois is the eighth highest peak in the Adirondacks.
As a reminder, for reference, I have published a photo gallery of my hike to Algonquin.