Adirondacks: Cascade & Porter Mountains
Tuesday, June 20, 2023 9:20 pm

Unexpectedly finding ourselves in New York on an unplanned road trip, my partner and I decided to do what we do best — hike in the mountains. This would be my first significant hike in New York since the Appalachian Trail in 2016. Wanting to go somewhere new to both of us, we set our sights on the Adirondack Mountains, a roughly 160-mile wide circular dome of mountains in northeast New York. Our target: Cascade and Porter Mountains, two of easiest of the Adirondack High Peaks to summit.

CareFree (my partner) and I started from the Cascade Mountain Trailhead, a short distance away from its parking areas, a few small parking areas alongside the road. (Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic to avoid as we walked from where we parked to the trailhead.)

Entering the forest at almost 1 pm, we started fairly late in the day for this trail. Over the course of the afternoon, we passed about a hundred other hikers, nearly all of them already on their way back down the mountain. (I’m not sure where they parked, there certainly didn’t seem to be that much parking nearby!)

The first third or so of the trail was somewhat muddy, with wet, though not terribly slick rock, wetted by several small streams. For us, at least, it was a fairly easy climb up, with the large rocks on the trail serving as a makeshift staircase, and we made fairly good time. In spite of the mud, the trail was easy to hike, partially because it had been significantly widened from years of hikers avoiding mud and water on the trail. Though, being extra-wide did make it easier for us to not run into the many other hikers on their way down.

A Wide, Muddy Trail
A Wide, Muddy TrailThe trail has expanded to more than twice its intended width from years of hikers avoiding mud and water on the trail.

As we climbed, the trail gradually dried out. Approaching the tree line, the trees gradually shrunk in height, allowing the sun to peek through the trees more often. Quite suddenly, the dirt trail gave way to bare rock, with trail markers painted directly on the ground.

Exposed Trail
Exposed TrailNear the summit of Cascade Mountain, the trail climbs bare rock flanked with short, stunted trees.

With relatively clear skies, there were great views from the summit of Cascade Mountain, hindered only by haze from the summer humidity. Mount Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks and in New York was visible to the south. In the east, the Green Mountains appeared blue from the haze, with the northern part of the Long Trail following the distant ridge. Lake Champlain, separating New York and Vermont, peeked out from behind a nearby mountain.

View East from Cascade Mountain
View East from Cascade MountainView east. The Green Mountains, carrying the Long Trail, are visible in the distance.

The nearby trees were a surprisingly vibrant green; apparently, there’d been a lot of rain recently, and the trees were quite happy with that.

From the trailhead, it took us about an hour and a half to reach the summit. For a 2.2 mile hike with 1,850 feet of elevation gain, this wasn’t too bad, especially since we weren’t especially in trail-shape. The trail to the summit was fairly steep overall, with a little bit of rock scrambling near the summit, but it was nothing particularly challenging.

There were maybe a dozen people at the summit, including a Summit Steward, whose role is to educate hikers on how they can help preserve and restore the fragile alpine ecosystem.

View South from Cascade Mountain
View South from Cascade MountainView south. Mount Marcy, the high point of New York and the Adirondack Mountains, is the tall peak towards the left.

After a short break, we descended from the summit, turning left at a trail junction to head towards Porter Mountain. This trail, noticeably less traveled, was more strenuous, with rocks and mud pits requiring more effort to hike around. Twenty minutes from the junction, we reached an amazing viewpoint facing south.

View south from a viewpoint below the summit of Porter Mountain.

About another ten minutes later, we reached the summit of Porter Mountain. There wasn’t much of a view there, but we could still see Cascade Mountain’s bare summit, and people still milling about it.

Cascade Mountain
Cascade MountainA view of Cascade Mountain from the summit of Porter Mountain.

We didn’t spend much time at Porter’s summit; by now, it was 3:30 pm. Returning to the junction between Cascade and Porter took another half hour. With a short break in the middle, it took us another two hours to hike down from the junction back to the parking lot.

We didn’t see very many people on the hike back down. Most notable were a group of four guys heading up to the summit to catch the sunset. Not far from the parking lot, we also passed a woman and her young daughter, who admitted they probably weren’t going to make it to the top.

In all, the roughly six mile hike took us a little over five hours, and included 2500 feet of elevation gain (and loss). The weather was great, the views were great, and the trail was (mostly) great. All around, it was a terrific introduction to the Adirondacks, and I’m looking forward to more hikes in the area.