1. The Garden to Johns Brook Lodge (JBL)
2. JBL to Upper Range Trail via Phelps Trail and Shorey Short-cut
3. Traverse of Basin and Saddleback Mtns on Upper Range Trail
4. Descent from Saddleback-Gothics Col to JBL on Ore Bed Brook Trail
Trip In A Nutshell:
This hike is best done as a 3 day trip and is treated as such herein. Those wanting to test their endurance can attempt it as a day hike. The first day is a hike in to Johns Brook Lodge from The Gardens trailhead, the second day is a loop of the Upper Range from the lodge, and the third day is the hike back out to the trailhead.
1. Easy walk on day 1 from "The Garden" trailhead parking lot to Johns Brook Lodge via the Y Johns Brook Trail (ADK #1, McM #108) .
2. On day 2, leave JBL via the Y then R Phelps Trail (ADK #1, McM #124) to the Y Shorey Short-cut (ADK #11, McM #122).
3. Follow difficult Shorey Short-cut to its end at the B Upper Range trail (ADK #9, McM #120) between Haystack and Basin Mtns.
3. On the Upper Range trail, traverse Basin and Saddleback Mtns to the col of Saddleback and Gothics Mtns.
4. Complete the loop by return to JBL via the B Ore Bed Brook Trail (ADK #8, McM #119).
5. Hike out from JBL to the trailhead on the next morning..
Days 1 and 3 of this hike are easy; just a matter of packing your gear between the lodge and trailhead. Day 2 is a very strenuous loop of the Upper Range (not including Haystack). It will require 10 hours for the average hiker to complete. The trail is often steep and rugged.
Trailhead Info for This Ascent: Go to The Garden trailhead.
The Loop Over Basin and Saddleback Mtns:
Starting from Johns Brook Lodge, the Phelps Trail (ADK #1, McM #124) follows the right bank of Johns Brook upstream. Hiking is easy from JBL to the Shorey Short-cut (ADK #11, McM #122, ) The forest becomes more dense as you ascend the Johns Brook Valley and the sense of being in a wilderness becomes stronger. You see fewer people, although Phelps Trail is a main artery of this region of the Adirondacks. As noted on photos below, the trail has a few minor detours to accommodate downed trees.
Compared to any other Adirondack Trail we've experienced, the Shorey Short-cut is steep and difficult. At the same time it is about as much fun as you can have in the woods. Your hands are every bit as as necessary to negotiating this route as your feet! Short rock climbs abound and some of these will take some thought. On the other hand, while steep this trail is not even remotely technical. We found it to be an interesting and invigorating segment after the uneventful "point A to point B" hiking on Phelps. Unfortunately, not many who write about Shorey Short-cut are as kind in their remarks as us. We don't really understand that, but we were always most fond of the Jungle Gym in 2nd grade.
Shorey ascends to the Basin-Little Haystack col, then descends about 300 ft elev. to intersect the Upper Range Trail, B (ADK #9, McM #120). The URT from Shorey to Basin is mostly consistent with the Shorey Short-cut: steep, some rock climbs, interesting, fun, and occasionally difficult. All in all, there aren't many places I'd rather be!
Most interesting is the rock climb of Saddleback just before its summit. This might be a show-stopper for a person afraid of heights, but while some of us did not find it easy, we appreciated that this was just discomfort with heights. Two of us on this hike were in our fifties and had no training or experience with rock climbing. The first 10 feet are awkward, and were scary for the ladies, but from there on you can walk up it with no problems. Use the photos below to scope out the climb. There are photos from a distance and from close up. Note that it is easier to climb than to descend. For this reason we were advised at the lodge to do the loop in this direction.
The return to JBL on Ore Bed Brook is a bit steep at its start, but it is made easier by ladders and even a stairway. The heavy rains of 2000 have done nothing to help the condition of OBBT which in 1999 was a carpet and now is rock and gravel.