The Hike In A Nutshell:
ADK calls it the Ridge Trail. The state trailhead sign calls it the Zander Scott Trail (ADK #48). On the cool, sunny day we hiked it to Giant's summit, we called it just fine! We chose Zander Scott because we wanted the most direct route, a route with many views of the High Peaks, and a less-used route than the heavily hiked Roaring Brook trail. Zander Scott met all of these criteria and offers an interesting rest stop at Giant Washbowl to boot. The climb blends frequent open rock overlooks with deep forest shade. While steeper than the Roaring Brook route, the incline is nothing out of the usual for the Adirondacks.
The second part of the day, the hike via the East Trail (ADK #112) from Giant over to Rocky Peak Ridge, was as fun and interesting as the Zander Scott Trail. This trail dives steeply from Giant into the col and then climbs gently up Rocky Peak Ridge past delightful gardens of moss and sedge as the summit opens up to a long ridge. It continues out this ridge to Bald Peak and then down to Rte 9 south of Elizabethtown. Because we had only one car, we did not hike out the ridge. In retrospect it would have been much better to have continued on (ADK #112) all the way to Rte 9 and we recommend it highly. It is considered by some to be the most spectacular of Adirondack hikes.
The overall hike from beginning to end is 8.6 miles. It is a strenuous hike. Good to excellent trail surfaces, whether open rock or humus soil, over 90% of the route to Giant's summit. One false summit shows clearly on the ADK trail map---don't get your hopes up and take the detour to the left per the sign posted there. The ascent of Giant is, overall, moderate, with distance being more of a factor than terrain.
The descent into the col between Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge is very steep over 600 of its 800 vertical foot drop. Footing is difficult in spots. Watch out for loose gravel. You will need both hands. Poles are recommended if you are comfortable using them. The ascent of Rocky Peak Ridge from the col is short and, therefore, easy to moderate.
Clicking on "View Rankings" above provides a view classification of all the High Peaks. Giant, from its first overlook to its summit, provides outstanding views of the Great Range, Nippletop and Dial, the Dix Range, Porter, and Cascade. Rocky Peak Ridge provides worthwhile views of Giant's eastern face and slides. There is also a very interesting view further east along the East Trail which includes Marie-Louise Pond, Bald Peak. Lake Champlain is better seen from Rocky Peak Ridge than any other of the High Peaks.
Trailhead Information for this Ascent:
Rather than starting out at one of the major trailheads such as The Gardens, hikes to Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge start at small roadside trail heads that have one sign and often very limited parking. Find the trailhead on the left (east) side of Rte 73 driving south. Chapel Pond will be on your right. Look for the trailhead sign on your left close to the road as you drive by the south end of Chapel Pond. See photos of the sign in the photo section below.
There is no water after Giant's Washbowl located near the start of the hike. We each carried large 100 oz. hydration units. This would have been sufficient, but we ran into two men who had run dry. These men had blown by us on the way up Giant, we met them again on the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, and then caught up with them on the way down Giant and about a mile short of the trailhead. One was desperate for water so we shared with him.
Who was Zander Scott?
The trail covered on this page is the Zander Scott Trail. Tony Goodwin of ADK has informed us that Zander Scott was a young man who worked for the ATIS trail crew for several years when he was a college student. Sadly, he died tragically in a small plane crash in Alaska. Funds contributed in his memory were used to install all of the rock steps leading to the Washbowl as well as some above the Nubble junction. Tony also tells us that in the forthcoming revision of the ADK Guidebook, this trail will be listed for the first time as the Zander Scott Trail.
1. Zander Scott Trail (ADK #48) from Chapel Pond to Giant's summit
2. East Trail (ADK #112) from Giant to Rocky Peak Ridge