Hiking to the top of Ampersand Mountain in Saranac Lake

After a successful hike at St. Regis Mountain in the Adirondacks, I was more motivated than ever to do the other hikes of the Saranac Lake 6er challenge. I took a break for lunch at Saranac Lake, and then I headed to Ampersand Mountain, southwest of the village.

The trail head is located along the very busy Route 3. There is a small parking lot along the road, which was quite full when I got there. Luckily for me, some hikers were leaving by the time I arrived, so I was able to find a place to park my car (apparently, parking can be a bit problematic on busy weekend days).

I crossed Route 3 and started on the trail, en route to my second summit of the day.

Ampersand Mountain trail
On my way to another summit

The Saranac Lake 6er challenge involves hiking to the top of six mountains near Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. I enjoy a good hiking challenge, and I was particularly excited to undertake this one as I felt it was a good way to explore the beautiful nature of the area.

I was just a bit anxious since I had read that the trail to Ampersand Mountain summit had a few difficult sections. But as was the case at St. Regis Moutain, this hike started off smooth and easy. The trail took me across a few streams on small bridges and then across a wet section on a boardwalk. With the fall colours, the mature forest was beautiful.

Trail to Ampersand Mountain
Keeping my feet dry, I like that

It seems that the name of the mountain comes from the Ampersand Creek, whose winding course would recall the shape of an ampersand. But the trail itself was not winding. It was actually heading in a straight line through the forest, towards the top of the mountain.

Of course, the trail eventually started to gain some elevation, but at first it was very slight. I even thought that this hike might not be too difficult after all. But as I progressed, the trail became steeper and rockier.

Rocky trail to Ampersand Mountain
The fun starts

In fact, when the ascent begins, the trail offers little respite to catch your breath, and the grade gets steeper and steeper. A stone staircase has even been built on the mountain to alleviate erosion due to water and the passage of many hikers.

The trail remains rocky almost to the top. Some steep sections were also a little slippery due to the mud. There were also sections that required a bit of scrambling, where I had to use my hands to grab hold of the rocks and continue my climb.

Rocky trail to Ampersand Mountain
Will it ever end

In short, it was not an easy climb. And I was a bit worried at the idea that I would have to go down via the same steep trail.

Then the trail gave me a little respite as it stopped climbing and brought me under the evergreens near the top. It took me around huge and impressive boulders and then I just had one last steep climb up the rocky ridge of the summit.

Summit of Ampersand Mountain
Almost there!

But once I arrived at the top, I was once again amazed by the beauty of the landscape. Ampersand Mountain offers an almost 360-degree view of the entire region (with, among others, a particularly impressive view on Middle Saranac Lake). I forgot for one moment my exhausted legs and my anxiety to come down.

A view on the Adirondacks
It was totally worth it

The summit has an elevation of 1,021 metres (3,353 feet). There used to be a fire tower at the top of the mountain, but it was abandoned in the 1970s and eventually demolished. A memorial tablet at the top of the mountain honours Walter Channing Rice who manned the fire tower from 1915 to 1923.

I took a long break at the top and then eventually started the descent as it was getting late in the afternoon, and I wanted to get back to my car before sunset.

And the descent was rather difficult, as I expected. My legs were pretty tired after my two hikes on that day, the trail and rocks were slippery in some places, and one of my knees was starting to throb. Let’s say that my progress was really slower and more hazardous than at St. Regis Mountain.

Trail of Ampersand Mountain
The slow and careful walk back down

But I eventually reached my car, almost four hours after starting my hike. I covered a total of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), with an elevation gain of 542 metres (1,778 feet). And I had now completed my second hike of the Saranac Lake 6er challenge!

8 comments

  1. Sounds like a challenging hike that was well worth the effort for those views from the summit. I’m not a fan of the downhills either and often find it worse than the uphills. Glad to hear you made it back down in one piece before it got dark!

    1. I agree with you! I think that with age, I find downhills more physically challenging on my legs. But yes, it was all worth for these views! 🙂

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