Trip In A Nutshell:
The hike started at Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) located on Johns Brook about 3.4 miles from The Garden trailhead. The Phelps Trail (ADK #2, McM #124), is probably the shortest and least difficult route (see note below) to the summit of Haystack. It is marked with YELLOW markers and follows Johns Brook upstream (SW), almost always within hearing distance of the brook. Just before crossing Johns Brook and turning SW, the trail becomes RED, continues past Slant Rock, then climbs into the defile between Marcy and Little Haystack. At the head of Panther Gorge in the defile, we depart the Phelps Trail, making a 90 degree left turn onto the BLUE Connector Trail (ADK #61, McM #121) to its junction with the BLUE Upper Range Trail (ADK #9, McM #120). We then climb Little Haystack arriving finally on Haystack's summit (ADK #10, McM #54) . The round trip should take 5-8 hours depending on weather and fitness.
We suggest you avoid this peak in adverse weather conditions, even though the last two times we climbed Haystack we did not follow our own advice. After Mt. Marcy and Algonquin Peak, Haystack is the third highest peak in the Adirondacks. Like both Marcy and Algonquin, its summit is mainly bare rock. This hike is very strenuous. It is steep and stony from about 15 minutes past Slant Rock onwards. The section from the top of Panther Gorge SE to Little Haystack is steep . Once on bare rock after intersection with Upper Range Trail, the hike becomes a very exposed summit hike at high altitudes over anorthosite footing. The weather can quickly become severe on any of the major peaks and this one is no exception.
Note: A better route?
There are a number of routes to Haystack. The one discussed on this page is probably the road most taken and a pretty good way to get there. We suggest you consider the route north from the Elk Lake trailhead to Panther Gorge, then climb Haystack via its SW approach. True, the SW approach is consistently very steep from Haystack's base to the summit, but the walk from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge is delightful, Panther Gorge is well worth visiting, and the climb up Haystack is fine if you take it one step at a time.
Maps 1-4: To the right start at the Garden trailhead, head SW past Johns Brook Lodge, and climb Haystack's NE slope to the summit; that is, it is the same hike as is discussed on this page.
Maps 1-4: Below, start at the Elk Lake trailhead, well south of Haystack and just a stone's throw from Elk Lake's southern shoreline. They head north into Panther Gorge and climb to Haystack's summit via the SW slope. This hike is not discussed on this page or elsewhere at Adirondack Journey for now, but suffice to say, it is the best route to the summit of Haystack.
1.The Garden trailhead to Johns Brook Lodge
2.Haystack via the Phelps Trail
Maps 1-4, below to the right, start at the Garden trailhead, head SW past Johns Brook Lodge, and climb Haystack's NE slope to the summit; that is, it is the same hike as is discussed on this page.