1. Ascent of Macomb via the West Face Slide (post-Hurricane Floyd) (McM #63)
2. Descent via the Lillian Brook herd path (McM #67)
The route shown on map starts at the Elk Lake trailhead and travels NE to the summit of Macomb.
The Hike In A Nutshell:
Since Hurricane Floyd blew through in the mid-Nineties, the routes up or down the west faces of Macomb have been varied and often in disarray. Now we appear to be able to put some clarity on what the situation currently is for those of you that want to hike into the Dixes via Lillian Brook.
Art Allen informs us that the approach to McComb's slide from the Red trail has been re-routed about half way up. At the point where the trail descends down into Lillian Brook a new trail has been cut. This new section remains up on the ridge to the north of the brook (brook on your right) and continues to it reaches the slide about 10% of the way up the slide. From there Adirondack Journey's description remains correct. The new section has a small sign at the start posted to a tree and is flagged. It is easy to follow, with blow-downs cut. My total time from Slide brook lean-to to slide was 55 -60 minutes.
The Dixes In General
The RED Dix Trail (ADK #119, McM #59), connects to all the Dix Range summit trails from the Elk Lake trailhead. Unmarked as well marked trails ascend the Dixes. These are not maintained, but in a majority of cases, usage has tamed them since Hurricane Floyd wreaked havoc with them in 1999. Hikers' boots have rerouted them around the principal blow-down sites. The resulting herd paths are numerous and can cause confusion. By 2002, the herd path to Macomb from Slide Brook, and the route from (approx.) the col between S. Dix and Macomb down to Lillian Brook remain challenging. Now, at least the former, which we treat on this page, is in good shape (in the Adirondack sense of the word "good").
Best Tip for Macomb:
Ascent of one of the two slides on Macomb's western slope makes an excellent day hike and introduction to slide climbing for the beginner. It's a "no-slip" slide as no part of its surface is bare rock. Footing is sure. Views are great.
West Face Slide: The approach to Macomb's West Face Slide, the short slide shown on maps that show such natural features, but the fallen trees are in onesies and twosies, and are not masses of full-grown, uprooted trees obstructing the path almost completely for tens or hundreds of yards. Clearly, the herd path has been rerouted because you will occasionally see enormous devastation on 10 acre patches just to your left or right as you move through the forest. Red tape tied to trees occasionally marks the herd path, but it seems less needed as time goes on.
As for ourselves and our hike up Macomb, we decided we had burned too much time looking for a different herd path, the start of McMartin's route #67 from Lillian Brook to the S. Dix Macomb col, so we opted to climb Macomb's West Face Slide, instead. Once again, the McMartin guidebook was a hindrance, not a help, but a new edition came out in 2001.
Difficulty: The slide itself is not at all difficult. As slides go, it is short; slide length is about 1400 feet with an elevation change of approximately 400 feet. Mainly gravelly rubble, not smooth rock or slick rock. Anyone should find this an easy ascent, even though footing is sometimes a bit uncertain in the gravelly areas. All in all, it's a good slide for first-timers. The modest challenge associated with climbing Macomb is actually the approach to the slide from the RED trail. It is a narrow path, often following along the steep banks of Big Slide Brook, and finally on rocky, boulder-strewn, streambed of the upper reaches of the brook. Figure on lots of blow-down, but as an irritant, not an obstacle. The footing from the point you leave the red trail to the bottom of the slide is spongy humus, the basic, organic black earth of Adirondack trails, often covered with pine needles. We figured less than 5 hours round trip allowing plenty of time for photography. Overall, we give the hike an moderate rating for the average hiker.
Views: If you go to our view ratings (left at top) you will see that we assign Macomb a lofty VERY GOOD for view. And so she is. The best thing about climbing the slide is the view over your shoulder as Elk Lake and the mountains beyond open to your view. Terrific! You will see Elk Lake in its entirety. The view of the Colvin Range is perhaps the most spectacular. The Great Range behind the Colvin Range is very nice. Oddly or not, when you reach the summit, you will have access to the same views, but they are not as good. Somehow they do not seem as close or as fresh, so take your photos on the ascent.
Notes: Finding a route from Slide Brook is not hard. There are at least 2 herd paths at Slide Brook, probably more. We went outbound on one, returned on another, and appear to have unintentionally switched from one to the other several times in between. Starting out, we recommend that from the Slide Brook lean-to itself, you head toward the Elk Lake trailhead, crossing Slide Brook bridge which is no distance from the lean-to. After you've taken a few dozen steps off the second bridge, you'll see a sort of clearing uphill to your left and a little higher than you're standing on the trail. You'll also note that if you walk a bit further on the red trail (still in the direction of the trailhead), you'll come to another stream bed. It was dry when we were there.
Walk up into this clearing and head toward its right, rear corner. There you'll intersect this dry stream bed and see the start of a trail that's pretty well defined. Follow it. It's over rough terrain, but it's easily discernible. It will generally follow the stream bed such that from time to time you're on a steep bank that drops down to the stream. You may see orange or red tape tied to trees marking the trail. All in all, you are not apt to get the feeling that you've wandered off the trail. At one point, we were low in the defile that the stream bed follows and saw a trail junction, one branch of which crossed the stream bed and angled up on the opposite slope. We took that to be the route to the 1947 slide up Macomb (McM #64). McMartin reports that that slide is now little used. We stayed left.
In time you find yourself right in the streambed, which has become very narrow. Many cairns mark the route. The streambed becomes less and less like a watercourse and more and more like a rubble pile. In fact, it turns out to be the outlet for the rubble that falls down the slide, because, shortly, the rubble makes a sharp right turn and opens up to the slide itself. Climb on! You've arrived! When you reach the trees at the top of the slide, you will find the route to the summit easily identifiable. A 10 min walk takes you to the summit of Macomb.
(We note that there is also a herd path that starts at the outhouse above the lean-to. We found that to be vague and meandering, a collection of herd paths that petered out. We're sure that if you hit on the correct one you'll be okay, but the route we describe in the preceding two paragraphs starts out solid and stays solid all the way.)
Options At the Top:
If you have aspirations to hike the whole Dix Range, this climb up Macomb is a good way to start out, provided you allow appropriate time. We hiked the rest of the Dixes on a different hike (go up to the button bar and click on "up"), but here are some options that might appeal to you.
Option 1: This is, we believe, an excellent day hike, but you will either need two vehicles or a friend willing to tote you back to your car.
Start at the Elk Lake Trailhead, ascend Macomb via Slide Brook.
Hike to Macomb
Continue to East Dix
Return to Macomb
Follow the herd path from Macomb to Hough and Dix
Descend Dix by the red trail back to the Elk Lake Trailhead
Option 2: If you have time for only a few peaks we suggest you take the easy walk over to South Dix, continue on to Hough and Dix. From Dix's summit take either the yellow trail (McM #61) from the Beckhorn down to the RED trail (ADK #119, McM #59) to return to Elk Lake Trailhead,... or from Dix's summit continue to Hunters Pass the RED back to Elk Lake.
Other Options: Any other option takes more time and would result in descent down any of the westerly routes off Dix Mtn.
A Note Regarding the Lillian Brook Herd Path (McM #67)
The page you are now on is devoted only to the West Face Slide approach to Macomb, but in case you are researching other routes to Macomb you can find the Lillian Brook herd path by clicking here. The bottom line, though, is avoid the Lillian Brook route until the blow-down (particularly bad there) settles.