Things and people had been pretty busy in the spring of 2022. Even though the Canada-U.S. border was now easy to cross again (with Covid restrictions greatly reduced), I had not managed to get to the Adirondacks as often as I would have liked. Fortunately, fortuitous timing and weather opened up a tiny window and I managed to squeeze in a hike right around the summer solstice. Stephanie happened to be available (thankfully, because if not I would have had to have gone down alone, which is never my favorite thing).
Probably there were about twelve or thirteen cars at the roadside trailhead. Clearly we weren't going to be alone on the mountain, but still, a fairly small number and a far cry from the huge numbers on a peak like, say, Cascade.
The day was clear and with low humidity, and slightly breezy. Very ideal for hiking, and with great potential for little to no bugginess.
The hike up through the forest was pleasant enough but rather uneventful. As always, I'm grateful for the relatively uneroded condition of the Jay Mountain trail. Hopefully visitation stays at a moderate level and the trail doesn't get too beat up.
This was Stephanie's first time ever up Jay, so she had not yet experienced its special charms (in fact, this was Stephanie's first Adirondack hike in over five years, incredibly). Soon we arrived at the point where the ascent trail meets the main ridgeline of Jay Mountain (Jay Mountain is essentially a long ridgeline with many little bumps and subsummits). The trail to the left led in a few minutes to the first good lookout on the very western end of the ridgeline, and we visited that first. As we took in the first expansive views of the surrounding landscape, it was obvious Stephanie was glad to finally be back in the mountains.
After a few minutes at the western lookout, we headed back down, past the intersection with the ascent trail, and continued eastward along the ridgeline.
The beauty of Jay's ridgeline is that it is never long before you come upon something interesting or beautiful. And indeed, we soon came to the next of many excellent ridgeline lookouts - this one facing southwest towards the distant Central High Peaks. Next came the nice sequence of ascending open meadow, which this time seemed a little thicker and bushier than on past hikes.
After a couple of brief stints through stands of conifers, we emerged into another section of open terrain, where we stopped to have our first snack break. This point (also a local highpoint along the ridge) is known as Blueberry Lookout (and there indeed are many blueberry bushes located here, at this point not yet in season).
Stephanie was starting to get a good sense of the specialness of Jay Mountain as we continued east from our lunch, walking along a beautiful stretch of solid, unbroken bedrock. Ahead of us, we could see the cut of Grassy Notch, the brownish gravelly slopes beyond, and higher up, a craggy subsummit. Diverse, interesting, and scenic.
The clean bedrock walking gave way to the sharp descent into "Grassy Notch". This is a small pass that cuts across the Jay ridgeline. It is not actually full of grass, but of trees. A short down-scramble leads to a well-worn path that descends into and through the trees. The notch is not wide - maybe fifty or sixty feet wide, and soon we were ascending steeply up and out of the other side. We chose to take the easy scrambly route that leads out onto the gravelly section: an area of brownish loose crushed rock that seems like the polar opposite of the solid, clean, light colored bedrock that comprises the ridgeline on the other side of Grassy Notch.
A fairly discernable footpath leads up the moon-like brownish gravel, completely in the open. Views are once again great here.
We climbed up the gravel slopes and reached what I like to now call "Cairn Plateau" -- a nearly flat section of ridgeline where someone long ago has constructed a very large cairn comprised of tightly-fitting stones. This spot gives us a nice close-up view of the next attraction along the ridgeline - an attractive and craggy sub-summit. A picture-perfect little path leads through yet more beautiful meadow towards this peak.
Approaching Cairn Plateau
The small bit of beautiful meadow hiking quickly gives way to a short section in the trees before we begin to emerge onto open sections of slab below the craggy subsummit. Footpaths do lead around the subsummit to the left, to easier slopes that are more hiking than scrambling, but we're into scrambling, so we stayed out in the open, along the ridgeline's crest, and tackled an easy class 3 scramble up the face of the crag. We stopped to admire the cool and relatively rare environs of a spot like this (in the Adirondacks) before scrambling up.
The classic Jay hiking shot
Looking down at Cairn Plateau
We chose to have lunch at the top of the craggy subsummit. And although technically this was not the true summit of Jay (which is another 600-700 yards to the east), we decided that this would be our turnaround point. We enjoyed the cool (almost cold, really) breeze and lack of bugs, as predicted.
After lunch, we retraced our steps back west, enjoying once again the many interesting locations and views along the way. Back down into the forest at the end of the ridgeline, and then, roughly an hour later, back to the cars.
It was great to get out again, and I thank Stephanie (and Roland's sore back) for helping to make this outing happen. This was a great day to do a hike, and Jay Mountain is such an interesting and rewarding objective for that hike. It is too bad that the Adirondacks doesn't have more trails with the characteristics that this one has.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Jay Mountain - click map to view
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet