Oh, my aching muscles….
Blue Mountain is in the central Adirondacks. Located in Hamilton County, the peak of the mountain reaches 3750 feet (1143 meters) and elevation gain from the trail head is 1559 feet. The trail is approximately 2 miles up- you can do the math to see how steep the trail is! A 35-foot fire tower with incredible views tantalizes the hiker to endure the trail for some amazing Adirondack eye candy.
The views at the top are spectacular, but for the infrequent or novice hiker, it’s a lot of work to get there. All the information regarding the trail call this a “moderate” difficulty trail, with “difficult spots” toward the top. One site even said the first mile was “easy and meandering” and others called the second half “grueling.”
Look at our photos, below. Does that look “meandering” or “grueling” to you?
Our opinion? The first 1/2 mile is not easy, but it’s not terribly difficult. The narrow trails are littered with smooth river stones and a dizzying network of large tree roots. We climbed the trail one week after two consecutive hurricanes, however, so I think the mess from the torrential rains may account for the messiness of the trail. Also, while some spots were on rather smooth ground (and there were even a few horizontal areas, much to our relief!), most of the trail climbed at a 45 degree angle up rocks, over tree roots, and across large expanses of angled rock slabs.
Sorry, that photo above is a bit blurry– but it gives you an idea of the enormous slabs of pitched rock that had to be scaled. I actually found the slabs easier to trek across than stumbling over the zillions of smooth river rocks. This photo shows the trail about 20 minutes from the summit.
The appeal of the trail is the view from the summit; there is little to interest you along the 2 miles up. This made the hike less enjoyable, as we’ve clambered up Buck Mountain in Pilot Knob, and liked the wide trail and interesting rock formations along the way. We did spot a very interesting stream. The water is an odd orange color. I suppose the stream has a high iron content, as there are iron mines in the area.
As we continued, the trail became noticeably difficult. Two older ladies (from France) bowed out as soon as they got to the #2 trail stop (there are 14 total). We saw several couples coming down, but only three besides us going up. Everyone was huffing and puffing except one gentleman who was carrying his toddler grandson. He boasted that he’s been climbing this trail for 30 years, and can make it up in less than an hour. Wow! It took us about 2 1/2 hours (but we also had our domestic cat with us). When we neared the peak, I had to stop. The incline was incredibly steep, and because I had my cat with me (we couldn’t leave her in the car), I decided to sit and wait for the group. It was a difficult decision for me because I did want to see the peak, but the incline was too dangerous to carry a cat carrier up and down again. I stopped at the #12 stop. This was my view:
As far as trail markers, I’d give the trail a “C.” These markers were small, dark red, and tacked about 10 to 15 feet high. When we tried to leave the trail to return to the parking lot, we couldn’t find our way out. Two other couples, one of them experienced hikers, saw us wandering around and decided to help, but they got lost, too. Eventually, we followed the sounds of cars on the road and finally stumbled into the lot. Again, perhaps the trail was diverted because of the rains… not sure.
All the pain and agony of the trails was superseded by the views from the summit. The kids took photos.
The fire tower is accessible.
All in all, it was definitely a memorable experience, even if we were sore for days afterward. We’ve climbed mountains and hills before but this has been our toughest venture yet. I’d say the trail rates as more “difficult” than “moderate,” even “rugged” for much of the hike. The final 1/2 mile is indeed grueling, especially if you are lugging a hefty DSLR camera and a cat carrier up, haha. Be sure to bring water. Cell phone service was extremely poor (not surprising) and my son could get no service at the summit.
Before you go on any hike in the Adirondacks, be sure to check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Adirondack trail information website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html. The site has updates of closures, emergencies, warnings, descriptions, and what to expect or include.
Adirondack Scenic Byways: Blue Mountain & Fire Tower NYSDEC Trailhead; adirondackscenicbyways.org/resource/blue-mountain–fire-tower-trailhead.html
Adirondack Experience: Blue Mountain Fire Tower; www.adirondackexperience.com/recreation/hiking/blue-mountain-fire-tower
Trails.com: Blue Mountain Trail; www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGN094-017