Mount Marcy New York
· ·

Hiking Mount Marcy New York: The Highest Point in New York

The Mount Marcy hike is easily one of the most stunningly beautiful and challenging trails in the Adirondacks!  That alone is reason enough to add hiking Mount Marcy New York to your bucket list, but an added bonus is that Mount Marcy also just happens to be the highest point in New York!  There’s no better way to get a fresh perspective and literal bird’s eye view on this scenic region than to tackle the Mount Marcy hike!  This guide covers everything you need to know in preparation of hiking Mount Marcy New York!

The highest point in New York

Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!  Enjoy this guide to hiking the highest point in New York!


 Mount Marcy New York


The Mount Marcy hike has a lot to offer in a day hike!  Long distance, impressive elevation gain, dense forest, boulder scrambling, waterways, and breathtaking panoramic views of the highest point in New York and the Adirondacks!

Mount Marcy New York
Views from the Mount Marcy hike in New York


Location of the Mount Marcy Hike


Mount Marcy is located in far northeastern New York, near the charming mountain towns of Keene in Keene Valley, North Elba, and Lake Placid of Olympics fame!  This region of New York is blanketed in the lush forests of the Adirondacks and the High Peaks Wilderness, and you simply cannot go wrong with any of the quaint towns around here!


The official name of the trail to Mount Marcy is the Van Hoevenburg Trail.


The Mount Marcy hike and surrounding area


Quick Facts on the Van Hoevenburg Trail (Mount Marcy Trail)



Length: 16.2 miles out and back


Elevation: 5,344 feet


Elevation Gain: 3,585 feet

Mount Marcy Elevation Gain Chart
Mount Marcy Elevation Gain Chart


Rating:  Difficult


Estimated Time: 8 hours


Best Time of Year to Hike:  Spring, Summer, and Fall.  Winter conditions may make Mount Marcy impassable, and roads leading to the trailhead are subject to seasonal closures in the winter.  Remember, this is upstate New York, and winter does not mess around here.  Better to save this hike for a warmer season.  I hiked Mount Marcy in July, and it was perfect!


Pup Friendly: Yes, for dogs experienced with rocky terrain and stamina.  I opted not to take my pup on this hike.


The Trailhead for the Mount Marcy Hike


The trail to the summit of Mount Marcy is officially called the Van Hoevenburg Trail.  The trailhead is located at the Adirondak Loj, a lodge and meeting center immediately adjacent to Heart Lake.


It does cost $10 to park at the Adirondak Loj and access the trailhead.  There are multiple designated parking areas, snacks for purchase at Adirondak Loj, and bathroom facilities.


Insider Tip:  in addition to the bathroom facilities at the Adirondak Loj parking area and trailhead, there are actually multiple outhouses designated along the Mount Marcy hike.  Look for them near the Marcy Dam, and at several other locations along the 16 miles.  


Welcoming forest at the trailhead to Mount Marcy
Welcoming forest at the trailhead of the Van Hoevenburg Trail


Full Guide to Hiking Mount Marcy


Hiking Mount Marcy is not only the best way to witness the highest point in New York, it is also one of the most characteristically New York hikes you can hope to partake in in the Adirondacks!  However, this hike will challenge you, and it should not be taken lightly, even for experienced hikers! 


This hike is exhilarating, grueling, and rewarding all in one!  All I can say is get ready for some serious rock scrambling, in addition to plenty of elevation gain and views that make it all worth while!


Get ready for the rocks on Mount Marcy
Get ready for the rocks on Mount Marcy!


Ascending the Highest Point in New York


The trailhead for the Van Hoevenburg Trail and the Mount Marcy hike starts in extremely dark, covered, and dense forest at the onset.  It literally reminded me of scenes from Lord of the Rings, but all that denseness makes for a certain mystique to the beginning of this hike.


Hiking Mount Marcy
The canopied and covered beginning of the Mount Marcy hike


The trailhead of the Mount Marcy hike
Entering the High Peaks Wilderness on the Mount Marcy hike


The grade stays pretty flat as the trail proceeds through the forest canopy for the first part of the hike, and the characteristics don’t really change until you reach the Marcy Dam.  At the Marcy Dam, the forest does begin to open up, and after crossing over the bridge on the dam, the elevation and topography of the trail itself begins to change dramatically.


Insider Tip:  after crossing Marcy Dam, there is a register board for all hikers to sign.  


Crossing Marcy Dam on the Mount Marcy hike
Crossing Marcy Dam


The bridge over Marcy Dam on the Mount Marcy hike
The bridge over Marcy Dam


All I can say for the latter part of the ascension up Mount Marcy, is you likely will develop a love hate relationship with rocks after this hike!  Almost immediately after crossing the Marcy Dam, the real elevation and challenging terrain begin.  Though the trail is consistently uphill from this point, the biggest challenge is arguably not the grade of the trail, but the terrain of the trail.



From Marcy Dam until the summit, you will basically be hiking on rocks.  Lots of rocks, in lots of different sizes.  For a large portion of the ascent, the trail is actually climbing up a small ravine, with a small stream flowing through it.  This means not only are there rocks to traverse going uphill, but often they are slippery.  Even more so if you hike Mount Marcy after a rain, like I did.


The stream itself is often no more than a trickle or small puddles in most places, but it does mean you have to be very mindful of foot placement, which does slow the pace down somewhat.  You will have to be even more mindful if you happen to be hiking after a recent rain, as the small trickles and puddles may not be as small.  But make no mistake, it is almost all rocks all the way up.  Rocks and water make for a often precarious ascent up Mount Marcy.


Mount Marcy New York
Rocks and water everywhere on the Mount Marcy hike!


The highest point in New York at Mount Marcy


Continuing up the trail over rocks and water on Mount Marcy
Continuing up the trail over rocks and water on Mount Marcy


Mount Marcy New York
Still more boulders to climb up!


The highest point in New York at Mount Marcy



Hiking Mount Marcy is a mental and physical battle against the rocks, and depending on your view of rock scrambling, you will either enjoy or loathe all the rock scrambling.  The rocks range in different sizes, from the size of a hand, to the size of a small vehicle, to enormous sheets near the summit.



If you enjoy rock scrambling and climbing, you will have a blast!  I myself find that sometimes rock scrambling can make a trail more fun, because it is definitely engaging!  On the flip side, that many miles of uphill rock scrambling to go up is hard enough, but by the end of the descent of hopping from rock to rock, you will probably be ready to not see a rock for a good long while!  This is DEFINITELY a trail I would recommend a solid pair of trekking poles for, as they will give you added stability for both the ascent and descent over the precarious and often slippery rocks!



To put it in comparison, though this hike is not a monster in terms of uphill grade or elevation gain, I was more physically and mentally worn out after the Mount Marcy hike than I was after climbing over 4,000 feet of elevation gain on the highest point in Colorado, and a 14’er, at Mount Elbert!


In fact, in my pursuit of hiking all 50 of the U.S. state high points (which I have almost completed!), Mount Marcy still ranks high on the list of most physically and mentally challenging.  There is just something about those rocks!  But to be clear, the payoff is SO worth it, and it is one of the most gorgeous places in an already stunning part of Northern New York!


The grade up to the summit is consistent and moderate in its steepness, though once you pass the Marcy Dam, there really aren’t any flat parts of the trail to the summit.  Being able to maintain a consistent uphill, on rocky terrain, for this type of long distance hike is truly challenging, and absolutely requires a baseline of sustainable hiking stamina.  How do you prepare for consistent, uphill, long distance hiking?  Check out these 6 simple hiking training exercises you can do no matter where you live!


Other than the rocky trail, the ascent up Mount Marcy boasts a lot of other great qualities!  The forest is peaceful and still, and there is a healthy mixture of dense canopy and dappled sunlight to enjoy. 


Continuing on through Mount Marcy's forest
Continuing on through Mount Marcy’s peaceful forest


The Mount Marcy hike in New York
Ethereal mossy overhangs on the Mount Marcy hike


You will know you are getting close to breaking treeline when you see the wooden sign warning of the potential for hazardous weather.


Because the summit of Mount Marcy is above treeline and greatly exposed, it is important to keep an eye on developing weather, and avoid becoming exposed to any hazardous conditions while above treeline.


Getting close to treeline and the summit on Mount Marcy
Getting close to treeline and the summit of Mount Marcy


Emerging from treeline and just below the summit, you will encounter several spots of larger, steeper slabs of boulder to haul yourself over, before emerging onto several massive slabs of exposed bedrock.  Here above treeline and on the exposed bedrock, you should be able to see the summit of the highest point in New York in the distance.



Boulders approaching treeline on the Mount Marcy hike
A few final large boulders and bedrock to scale approaching treeline


Beginning to emerge from treeline on Mount Marcy
Beginning to emerge from treeline


Another treat to witness at this spot in the hike is the emergence of alpine life.  There are a lot of conservation efforts and protective policies in place to care for the fragile alpine ecosystem that exists at the top of Mount Marcy. 


I actually met a gentleman on my hike who was situated on one of the large swaths of bedrock just below the summit.  He explained that he worked for an organization in which he camped on Mount Marcy for days at a time, helping to monitor and advocate for the alpine plant life here.  A job I was envious of!


Alpine life on Mount Marcy
Alpine life emerges on Mount Marcy


After crossing the sprawling bedrock below the summit, you will finally reach the flatter, 360 degree summit of Mount Marcy New York, the highest point in the state!  The surrounding area seems to shimmer with all the variations of greens and blues that you would expect from this lush Adirondack region!


Bedrock leading to the summit of Mount Marcy
Bedrock leading to the summit of Mount Marcy


Approaching the summit of Mount Marcy
Approaching the summit!


The highest point in New York
A fog shrouded highest point in New York!

The summit of Mount Marcy New York


Mount Marcy New York
The summit of Mount Marcy!


Descending the Highest Point in New York


This is an out and back trail, so you will descend the way you came up.  First back down over the bedrock, down to treeline, and back on the rocky trail all the way to Marcy Dam!  The flatness and gentle dirt trail after Marcy Dam will be a welcome relief at that point, I promise!



The trail for the Mount Marcy hike is well maintained, well marked, and easy to follow in its entirety.



A beautifully rare flat spot on the Mount Marcy hike!
A beautifully rare flat spot on the Mount Marcy hike!


Gear Recs for Hiking Mount Marcy New York


So what should you bring with you on your Mount Marcy hike?  Most importantly, you should bring a well developed baseline of long distance hiking stamina.  This is a 16 mile long day hike, with rocky terrain and substantial elevation gain!  You should be completing a combination of long distance practice hikes, cross training, and strength and HIIT training routines prior to attempting hiking Mount Marcy.



Besides the physical preparations, what necessary gear will you need to conquer the highest point in New York?




Waterproof boots are a must on Mount Marcy
Waterproof hiking boots are a MUST on Mount Marcy


  • hiking socks!  Taking care of your feet is important when hiking Mount Marcy.  Your hiking boots are only as good as the hiking socks you pair with them.  As you prepare to spend a long day and a long 16 miles in whatever socks you choose for Mount Marcy, consider choosing a pair of socks with the best blister prevention fabric possible – merino wool!  Merino wool is simply the best fabric to hike in, because it is breathable, odor resistant, quick drying, and moisture wicking.  All of those qualities equal a hiking experience that will deter the likelihood of developing blisters.  Because nothing can ruin a good hiking experience faster than blisters!  The most reputable wool hiking sock in the business are these merino wool ones you can purchase here!

( And be sure to bring an EXTRA PAIR of hiking socks, in case your feet get wet!)


  • trekking poles!  I don’t always hike with hiking poles, but I do on trails like Mount Marcy!  With all those rocks, your legs and knees will thank you for using reliable hiking poles like these Black Diamonds by the end of the 16 miles, especially on the descent!  I love this particular model because of the cork handles!  These will prevent slippage from sweaty hands, unlike some other plastic or rubber handled trekking poles.



  • water transportation system!  You need to have a way to bring at least 3 liters of water with you when hiking Mount Marcy.  My preferred method of bringing this quantity of water is through the use of a water hydration bladder.  I love this wide mouthed 3 liter Platypus water bladder, because it is sooooo easy to clean and dry out after using, and it is super convenient to be able to stay hydrated on the go.  And bonus, this bladder fits perfectly in my Camelback Helena backpack, my favorite day pack for all my day hikes, and another thing that product that you will definitely need to bring along on this hike.



  • wear the right fabrics!  I applauded merino wool earlier, and I will continue to do so with all my other clothing recommendations for hiking Mount Marcy.  Invest in moisture wicking, breathable, and quick drying fabrics, like my favorite wool base layer I practically live in during all my hikes!  Because the weather can fluctuate on this peak, and even in the middle of summer you may encounter strong winds and plummeting temperatures, it is wise to have a layering option in mind as well.  My favorite layering long sleeve is this mid weight merino wool option!  And finally, its a smart idea to have an outer layer that can protect against the elements.  Your outer layer should be wind and waterproof (not water resistant), but also be lightweight, compact, and responsive enough to fit your needs on a day hike.  On my own hike on Mount Marcy, I was very grateful to have packed my own favorite ultra-lightweight outer layer shell, for when I encountered some pockets of rain clouds on the descent!



  • a Buff!  I just have to mention the amazing addition my Buff has been to my hiking inventory!  It is so multi-functional and purposeful.  On Mount Marcy, I used it initially as a headband to keep my hair up and in place, and as I neared the summit with stronger winds and dropping temperatures, I used it to cover my ears for protection.  I have used my Buff in so many different ways in so many places, including my half marathon race over the frozen tundra in Greenland!  You will not regret adding your own Buff to your own hiking inventory!
Absolutely LOVE my BUFF, which I wore hear on neighboring Mt. Katahdin!



  • snacks! You are going to want to have some snacks for this long and challenging 16 miles.  Make sure they are compact, lightweight, and easy to eat on the go.  It is also critical to have snacks that will provide beneficial energy and are easily digestible.  Some of my favorite day hiking snacks include tuna packets, peanut butter, nuts, carrots, granola, jerky, protein bars, dried fruit, and bananas.  You can get the FULL LIST of the best hiking snacks HERE!




With your gear recommendations taken care of, you are now prepared for the Mount Marcy hike and the highest point in New York!  Interested in other state high points across the U.S.?  I have hiked almost ALL of the state high points in America, and you can find out about more about other high point hikes in the U.S. HERE!



>>>You can also grab a FREE high points in the U.S. PDF HERE!






Highest point in New York


Highest point in New York


Get Your FREE Hiking Checklist PDF

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *