A Weekend in the Adirondacks: Hiking Cascade, Porter, and Jo Mountains

A Weekend in the Adirondacks: Hiking Cascade, Porter, and Jo Mountains

As our barely-existent winter has been winding down and the days are getting warmer, I’ve been getting more and more antsy to switch from skiing to hiking and camping. Easter weekend we finally had a completely free weekend to explore the mountains near our new home. While I miss family and friends in the Midwest, let’s just take a moment to celebrate how fantastic it is to live near mountains! Skiing, hiking, climbing, camping, backpacking…there’s so much I want to do! And it’s all so close!

For this trip, we headed up to the Adirondacks around Lake Placid. We drove up Saturday morning and were on the trail by 10:3o. When we left Albany, the sky was cloudy but the temps were relatively warm. By the time we got to the base on the mountain, it was  even warmer (it got up to the mid-40’s!) and the sun was out. We had perfect, clear blue skies the entire weekend. In March. Ahhh–mazing.

We had two main goals for our weekend. One: Have fun and laugh a LOT. Mission accomplished. Two: Try out new backpacking packs. We filled our packs like we were going on an actual backpacking trip, even though we were just day hiking. You definitely don’t need nearly as much gear as you’ll see us carrying. Though you should bring a smaller pack with water, food, and some basic safety necessities like a knife and extra clothing. Our packs, Matilda and Optimus (as we lovingly named them) treated us well, and we’ve fully bonded with them. I now have all the warm and fuzzy feelings for Matilda and can’t wait to take her on more adventures.

Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain

The peaks of Cascade and Porter are less than a mile apart by trail, so we decided to do both 46-ers on Saturday. (Note: 46ers are the 46 highest peaks of the Adirondacks. It’s a goal of many hikers in the area to summit all of them, but it is not our goal at the moment.  There are other mountain ranges to explore around us, and we’re not ready to commit most of our hikes to just the Adirondacks.) The total hike was about 6 miles round trip, including both peaks.

We started at the trail head on Rte 73 where there are several parking spots near by. There were a good bit of cars already there, so we parked at a spot a few hundred meters down the road and walked to the start. Once you drop off the road onto the actual trail, you’ll come across a little information booth where you should sign in and out. Better safe than sorry!

Trail Sign at Cascade and Porter Mountains in the Adirondacks

Hiking up Cascade Mt in March in the Adirondacks

Even though it was a warm day in the 40’s, the trail quickly become snowy and icy. We had our microspikes, but debated putting them on as we hiked the first mile. Eventually it became evident that the microspikes were 100% necessary, so we pulled off to put them on. Things went much better once they were on, and we were oh so happy we had them. We saw a few people hiking without spikes/crampons, and they were sliding all over the place. Worse, they were often hiking off the trail to get around the ice, which is horrible for erosion. Always be prepared for any condition, especially in spring/fall hiking.

Putting on Microspikes while hiking up Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks

As we made our way through the ice, mud and rocks, we came across a clearing near the top. It had great views of the Adirondacks and got us amped for the actual summit.  Actually, we thought it was the summit at first, until we saw the trail continued on.

Icy trail to Cascade and Porter Mountain peaks

The summit of Cascade Mountain is a really big rock. You’re basically on all fours, scrambling up big boulders to get to the summit. We laughed that all the (indoor) rock climbing we’ve been doing came in handy. Because the top is all rocky, there are no trees to block your views of the surrounding mountains.

View from Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks

At the rocky summit of Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks

Looking off at snowy peaks at Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks

View from the top of Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks

The sun was out, and I could have stayed up there for hours. Alas, we had another mountain to climb! To get to Porter Mountain from the peak of Cascade, you backtrack about 0.3 miles until you find the trail for Porter. Well, that’s what you should do. The signs for the Porter/Cascade split face the opposite way (so you can see them as you’re hiking up, but not down), so we hiked right on past them. Eventually we realized we’d missed the split and turned around to find the trail split. So pay better attention than we did.

After 0.7 miles on an even icier trail, we reached the peak of Porter Mountain. The peak is much smaller and trees obstruct your views, but (and this is a big but!) the peak is much less crowded. There were probably 15-20 people at the top of Cascade (the summit is really big, so everyone had plenty of space to spread out), but we were all alone at Porter.

At the top of Porter Mountain in the Adirondacks

Relaxing at Porter Peak in the Adirondack Mountains

All in all, the hike is easy and not overly strenuous, but between the ice, mud, and boulders it was slow going. We were on the mountain until 5:30, though we did spend a good bit of time enjoying the views and were in no rush. It was a great hike with fantastic views for not too much work.

Adirondack Loj at Heart Lake

About a 10 minute drive from the Cascade Mountain trail head was this lovely little camp site, owned and operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club. The campsites at the Adirondack Loj were spread out, surrounded by trees, and clean. They put on nightly dinners (sign up before 11:00 each day) and sell soup for lunch for $5/person. Addtionally, the ADK runs a High Peaks Information Center that rents and sells hiking things and is a great source of information. I’m picky about campgrounds (camping in the mountains of Colorado will do that to you), and this one gets an A+ in my book.

That night, the weather was a bit chilly. As we ate, it was in the low 30’s/upper 20’s, and then got into the upper teens at night. Luckily, we were nice and cozy in our tent and winter sleeping bags. I was actually shocked at how warm we stayed! To the point that I was actually taking off clothes as the night went on because I was so toasty.

Mount Jo

Sunday morning we wanted to do a short hike before eating lunch and heading back home. Mt. Jo is a little mountain (definitely not a 46er) whose trail started at our campground, so it was the perfect choice. There are two routes to the summit, the long route and short route. While the short route is shorter (shocking, I know!), it’s much tougher terrain. We choose to do the long route, which came to about 2.6 miles round trip. We brought our microspikes, but never used them. For such a little hike, this mountain actually had amazing views of the Adirondacks.

View from Mt Jo in the Adirondacks

View from Mt Jo in the Adirondacks

What a fantastic weekend! I really can’t get over the fact that we live so near these amazing places. The first thing I did Monday morning was to start counting down to our next trip. There’s so much to see! So much to do!

Your Turn…

What’s your next trip or adventure?

Do you have a favorite hike you’d recommend?

 

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