The Hike In A Nutshell:
We used the Upper Works trailhead because it seemed to us to be the easiest route to the Uphill Brook lean-to located at the junction of the Opalescent River and Uphill Brook. From there we climbed 5 peaks: Cliff and Redfield on one day; then Gray, Skylight, and Marcy on another. Counting the trip in from Upper Works and the trip back out as 2 days, and allowing for 1 day of rest at the lean-to in the middle of our climbs, we spent 5 days in the woods and 4 nights at the lean-to. A lot of hikers might read this and say we could have or should have done it in less time. In our case, the weather was terrific and there was nowhere we would have rather been.
We climbed Gray via Feldspar Brook, a stiff climb to Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, the highest lake in New York State. The summit trail to Gray must be the very shortest summit trail of the 46 as it couldn't have taken us 20 minutes to hike it from end to end. We would advise anyone to not limit their planning to just Gray. It is fairly inconsequential and since you're in the immediate vicinity of both Marcy and Skylight, one or both should also be climbed. The ascent of all 3 from our lean-to required about 9 hours allowing lots of time at the summits.
If you are coming in all the way from one of the main trailheads to climb Gray or one of the other peaks in this locale, and then be back to your car by sundown, then that is a very strenuous day.
If you come in on, say, Friday, camp at the Uphill Brook Lean-to, climb Skylight, Marcy, and Gray on Saturday, and then hike back to the trailhead on Sunday, that would be about perfect and it would rate as a moderate-to-strenuous hike.
To be perfectly clear, you should only plan on one peak if planning a day hike. An overnight could expand your climbing to two or maybe three peaks, assuming you rise early and hike late. A three day trip gives you the possibility of climbing as many as five peaks. These peaks would best be Marcy, Skylight, Gray, Redfield, and Cliff. All other peaks add significant hiking time to/from. All of these peaks are best hiked from Uphill Brook Lean-to and there are numerous spots for tents in the vicinity of the lean-to, as well. he three is strenuous from Uphill lean-to, close to the base of Feldspar Brook. While Feldspar Brook is steep, long, and strenuous, the trail condition is good. The ascent of Gray Peak is short and easy despite being a so-called trail-less peak. (See the Skylight and Marcy pages for their particulars.) If you are hiking from Lake Colden, then add 4 miles to the round trip. For most hikers, that added distance would probably eliminate either Marcy or Skylight from your agenda.
Gray offers precious little in the way of views, being completely and densely forested on its summit. Expect nothing so as not to be disappointed. The adjacent summit of Marcy is barely visible through the trees.
Lean-to and Tent Sites:
There are a number of options if you would like to spend a night in the vicinity of these 3 peaks. Note, however, that this is a heavily hiked area. Most of the year there will be a number of parties vying for the lean-to's.
Two lean-to's are located on the Opalescent River Trail close to the outlet of Feldspar Brook: one on the west side of the Opalescent very close to Feldspar Brook BLUE (ADK #76, McM #146 ), and the other just before the junction of Uphill Brook and the Opalescent River (McM #46if you are coming up from Lake Colden.
There are also designated camping areas at the lean-tos above. Regarding the camping site at the Uphill Brook lean-to (this is the first one you come to if you approach from Lake Colden), there is some excellent flat ground, well shaded, that will accommodate a party of 3 tents. Other sites exist within 50 yd. that are smaller and not always on level ground, but they are on short dead-end paths and are very secluded.
A number of people are illegally camping at Four Corners which is the saddle between Marcy and Skylight. Evidently, these people compound their objectionable behaviors by leaving plenty of trash behind as well. Camping above 4000' anywhere in the Adirondacks is prohibited.
1.Feldspar Brook Trail to Lake Tear
2.Ascend Gray Peak
3.From Four Corners ascend Skylight and Marcy
Map 1: Route from the Uphill lean-to on the Opalescent River to the summits of Gray, Skylight, and Marcy. The route shown is 4.5 miles from the lean-to to Gray, then Skylight, and then Marcy