Hiking to the top of Mount Marcy has been on our “list” of New York state things to do. Mount Marcy is located in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, particularly in the High Peaks Wilderness region. We love the High Peaks Wilderness and were so excited when we finally had a free summer weekend to tackle Mount Marcy!
Mount Marcy is 5,343 feet tall, the tallest point in the state of New York. It is known as Tahawus in Algonquin which means “cloud-splitter” and Tewawe’éstha in Mohawk which means “it pierces.” The first summit by European settlers was in 1837. Today, it is a popular summit in the Adirondacks!
How to Get to Mount Marcy Trailheads
The best way to get to the Adirondacks is by car. One of the most popular areas to start trails to Mount Marcy’s summit is the Heart Lake Program Center (more info on specific trails later). This area has parking, campgrounds, the Loj, and trail information.
- From NYC to Heart Lake Program Center: 5 hours, 290 miles
- From Boston to Heart Lake Program Center: 5 hours, 300 miles
- From Montreal, Canada to Heart Lake Program Center: 2.5 hours, 120 miles
Where to Stay While Hiking to Mount Marcy
There are a few options of where to stay when on your trip hiking Mount Marcy, but the best determinant of where you stay depends on the trail you plan on taking. Some of the trails warrant backpacking along the trail on the night before your summit, while some trails can be completed in one day. If you decide to take the most popular trail that can be completed in one day (Mount Marcy via Van Hoevenberg Trail), the following options would be good for you.
The Adirondack Loj has both private rooms and bunk rooms available. These tend to be one of the pricier options, but definitely worth it if you want to be close to the trailhead with comfort. The Adirondack Loj has meals available and is only steps away from the Van Hoevenberg Trailhead.
There are three cabins available near the Adirondack Loj. These seem to be the most expensive option, but would offer total privacy and could be shared by a family or group of friends. The cabins are also close to the most popular trailhead to Mount Marcy.
Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake
When we hiked to Mount Marcy, we stayed at the Wilderness Campground and loved our time staying there. There are traditional campsites available, but also lean-tos and canvas cabins. We stayed in one of the lakefront lean-tos and it was absolutely perfect. The lean-to had it’s own private trail to the shore of Heart Lake with a tiny little beach. We came down to the shore multiple times to watch the sunset and the stars at night. It was really magical and an experience I would recommend.
Staying at the Wilderness Campground is definitely the cheapest option (besides backcountry camping), and we loved being able to walk straight from our site to the trailhead without having to find parking at the trailhead. The Wilderness Campground has running water, flush toilets, and hot showers which was also a nice perk.
Backcountry Camping is a great option if you are planning on taking one of the longer trails to Mount Marcy. Where you backcountry camp really depends on the hiking route you take, but make sure to only camp in designated areas. Camping is never allowed above 3500’ elevation in the High Peaks Wilderness.
If hiking many of the main routes from the High Peaks Visitors Center and Heart Lake Program Center, many people camp in the Marcy Dam area where there are many first-come, first-serve campsites and lean-tos.
Routes to Take to Summit Mount Marcy
There are so many different routes to the top of Mount Marcy. Choosing the right route for you depends on how far you want to hike, if you plan on backcountry camping or not, time of year, if you want to summit other high peaks on the same day, and your hiking experience. If after reading this post, you’re still unsure which route is best for you, be sure to talk to the folks at the High Peaks Information Center (beside the parking lots at the Heart Lake Program Center) for more information on what hike would be best for you.
The most popular route
Mount Marcy Via Van Hoevenberg Trail: 16.7 miles, 3,536ft elevation gain,
Other trailheads (listed in order from least to most mileage)
- Mount Marcy from Johns Brook Lodge: 16.6 miles, 3,979 ft elevation gain
- Mount Skylight, Mount Marcy, and Gray Peak Loop Trail: 16.9 miles, 4,996 ft elevation gain,
- Mount Marcy and Tabletop Mountain via Van Hoevenberg Trail: 17.2 miles, 4,320 ft elevation gain,
- Mount Marcy from Upper Works Trail: 18.5 miles, 3,897ft elevation gain,
- Avalanche Lake Mount Marcy Loop Trail: 20.0 miles, 3,802 ft elevation gain,
- Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak, Iroquois Peak, Mount Colden, and Mount Marcy Loop: 21.6 miles, 8,034 ft elevation gain,
- Mount Marcy via Haystack, Gray, and Skylight: 28.0 miles, 8,910 ft elevation gain,
Mount Marcy via the Van Hoevenberg Trail
The trail we decided to take to the top of Mount Marcy was the Mount Marcy via Van Hoevenberg Trail. We felt that this was the best trail for us for the time of year that we were visiting and we were able to snag a lean-to at Heart Lake near the trailhead.
To hike the Van Hoevenberg Trail, you must park at the Heart Lake High Peaks Trailhead. If you’re staying at any of the accommodations at Heart Lake, you can walk from the Loj or your site. Since we stayed in one of the lean-tos, we walked from our site (and it was much nicer than waking up even earlier to drive and try to find a spot at the trailhead!)
The first 2 miles are pretty flat and bring you to the first beautiful view of the day from Marcy Dam. At Marcy Dam, the trees open up and you can see nice views of some of the High Peaks. Many people choose to camp around Marcy Dam as there are many campsites and lean-tos available.
Next, cross the bridge at Marcy Dam and continue up the trail. The trail follows the river for a bit and has a small water crossing. There is a high-water route available if the river crossing is too high, but we did not need to use this in early June when we went.
Follow the only trail as there are not many intersections along the trail for a while. Eventually you will reach Indian Falls. It is difficult to get a good view of the falls (but technically you can if you follow an old trail down through some brush). The best place at the falls is the view of the mountains from the top of the falls. We sat here and ate a snack for a little break. Also good to know- there’s a “toilet” near Indian Falls, which you can find by following the wooden signs nailed to trees.
When you’re ready, continue up the trail. At the next intersection, you will turn right and follow the signs pointing to Mount Marcy (if you turn the wrong way, you will end up at John’s Brook Lodge). There is also a “toilet” here at the intersection.
From here, the trail was pretty muddy for a bit and consisted of walking on logs through the mud. Eventually you will come to a viewpoint that gives you a perfectly framed view of the summit of Mount Marcy. You can look up and see tiny moving dots of the people ascending before you.
Soon there will be an intersection in which you will turn right again (just follow the signs for Mount Marcy). Continue up the trail. As you ascend, the trees will begin to clear and you will start to have sweeping views of the surrounding High Peaks.
On a clear day, you can see so far and swaths of blue and green before you. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
As you continue, the trail will become quite steep in places. Take as long as you need, the views will be so worth it!
Finally you will reach the top and have amazing views in all directions. To the north you can see Algonquin Peak. To the southwest you will see Mount Haystack.
We sat for a while and enjoyed some lunch on the summit.
When you’re ready, you can head back down the mountain just the way you came.
Tips for Hiking Mount Marcy
Start Early in the Morning
The parking lot fills up quickly and you definitely want to get a spot, but also the later in the day you go, the greater the risk for afternoon thunderstorms which can be dangerous (not to mention drenched) if you’re on top when they roll in.
Pack extra water (or water filtration system)
No matter what route you take, summiting Mount Marcy requires a long hike. You definitely don’t want to be that person without water. Pack more water than you think you’ll need. If you prefer to bring a water filtration system, there are many water sources along the trail.
Wear appropriate footwear
I’m the first one to hike in sandals if I can, but this is definitely not a sandals hike. You will encounter a lot of different terrains on this hike that require boots or trailrunners.
Bring Bug Spray
Bugs can be bad along any Adirondack trails in the summer. Black flies are especially bad in early summer. If the bugs are bad when you’re hiking, any Adirondack hike without bug repellent could become miserable very quick.
Thanks so much for reading! Do you have any questions? Please feel free to let me know down below in the comments!