Despite its difficulty, the Hadley Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The journey to the summit is a tough slog, gaining more than 1,500 feet in less than two miles. Hikers are nonetheless rewarded with panoramic views of the Adirondacks, Great Sacandaga Lake, and even the Green Mountains in neighboring Vermont. In autumn, the vistas are particularly superb.
On a pleasant summer or fall afternoon, the Hadley Mountain Trailhead along unpaved Tower Road is likely to be quite crowded. At just over a half hour from Lake George—or 1.5 hours from Albany, New York—perhaps this is not too surprising. There is sufficient parking at the trailhead for around a dozen vehicles, but additional parking is available along Tower Road.
The start of the trail is marked with a small sign, as well as a tribute to the fire tower that sits atop Hadley and dates to 1916. Shortly up the relatively obvious path is a trail register.
For more than a mile, the wide but strenuous route is relentless in its climb, at times running directly up slabs of bare rock—mostly gneiss, mixed with quartz, biotite, and hornblende. While largely avoiding streams, the trail can be very slippery—use caution and, especially with small children, take it slow and easy.
As for the scenery, most of the hike up Hadley Mountain is shaded, ascending through a forest of hemlock, maple, and paper birch (the latter easily recognizable). This area has seen its fair share of fires, as evidenced by the relatively new tree growth.
Roughly 1.2 miles from the trailhead, the maddening climb briefly levels out as the Hadley Mountain Trail crests a ridgeline. From here the route trends north by northwest while eventually edging skyward again toward the summit. At one point, the trail cuts between two impressive rock outcroppings.
Less than a quarter mile from the top, the Hadley Mountain Trail reveals its first unobstructed views, mainly to the south and west. On a clear day, it’s hard to miss the turquoise waters of Great Sacandaga Lake to the southwest, while Spruce Mountain (2,650’) and Ohmer Mountain (782’) highlight the landscape just off to the right.
Back on Hadley, hikers may notice a relative density of pines throughout the remainder of the hike to the summit. In winter, it is only they and the occasional bush that keep their leaves.
By now the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower is probably in view—a motivator for the weary approaching the final climb. Excellent views to the south, west, and north can be had without ascending the tower; the rock-laden summit offers relatively unhindered vistas. To experience the full 360-degree panorama, ascend the narrow stairs and pop open the trapdoor—a small, sheltered viewing room with windows awaits.
On a clear day, the High Peaks of the Adirondacks are visible to the north while Bell Brook Pond and Great Sacandaga Lake can be seen to the south. To the east, one can see as far as the Green Mountains of Vermont on the horizon. In October, the forests of the Adirondacks offer a mélange of reds, oranges, and golds.
It may take a long time to want to leave, but once you have had enough of the windswept peak, return the way you came—the journey down may take half the time of the ascent. In total, allot at least 3-4 hours for the out-and-back.