The upper part of the Stimson trail becomes steeper and craggier, signalling the approach of the summit. A small amount of freezing and a faint dusting of snow from the night before required us to exercise some extra caution in a couple of spots, but mostly it was a fun scramble to the summit blocks of Noonmark Mountain. We arrived at the top at about 12:30pm, almost exactly two hours after setting out.
Although the skies were mostly cloudy, the [cloud] deck was sufficiently high that none of our views were obscured. An excellent panorama of the Central High Peaks was laid out before us. It was clearly past the peak of autumn colors, but even so there were still enough yellows, oranges, and reds to create a nice fall scene.
Giant from near the summit
Despite the beautiful views, the temperature and the winds did not encourage lingering, and we soon sought refuge on the southern side of the summit - the lee-ward side - and behind some low scrubby trees. We set up for lunch here, enjoying the relatively still air and the views towards the gentler terrain of the Southern Adirondacks.
Andy and Lower Great Range
After eating, we discussed our options, which were threefold: return down our ascent route, descend via the south-east trail and return via the Dix trail (which would describe a circuit), or descend via the south-east trail and also climb over nearby Round Mountain for a bit of extra excitement. We chose the second option, and further reserved the right to add on the third if we so chose.
South off of Noonmark
We quickly left the biting winds behind and returned to the forest, descending along the trail that led south-east off of Noonmark's summit. Unlike the Stimson Trail, the upper portion of this trail is almost entirely in the trees, and as a result, it was immediately calm. And, although this trail was not as steep as the Stimson trail, there were still some bits along its upper stretch that required some caution with today's somewhat slippery conditions.
We soon returned to lower elevations, where deciduous trees once again became prominent. The sun frequently broke through the afternoon clouds, and in combination with all of the recently-fallen leaves, created a bright, russet-colored fall scene.
Beautiful Fall Foliage
After descending more than a thousand feet (300 metres), we reached the valley floor and the four-way junction with the Dix Trail. Here we turned left, heading north towards our trailhead.
The next section of trail was quite moderate in terms of grade - a very gradual uphill, passing through the notch between Noonmark and Round Mountains. It wasn't a completely easy walk, though: recent rains had made some of the ground wet, and the thick carpet of leaves made it necessary to watch out for hidden pebbles and stones, lest one risk a twisted ankle.
The height-of-land between Noonmark and Round Mountains marked the spot where the side trail leading over the top of Round Mountain branched off, and we had a brief discussion about whether or not we wanted to tackle this extra challenge. Some in our group did, and some did not, and there was talk of splitting up. In the end, in the interests of time and of keeping the group together, we decided to skip Round Mountain, and continued straight on the Dix trail.
Sloping down towards the Golf Course
Once past the height-of-land, another 45 minutes of easy downhill walking brought us back to the AMR golf course, and soon after, the parking lot. We had achieved a very good pace for such a large and mixed group, covering a 9.2 kilometer loop in only four hours and a half.
Post-hike, we drove back north on Route 73 and stopped at the Noonmark Diner - a very appropriate spot to stop after climbing Noonmark Mountain. However, there was a contingent in our group that craved beer, and unfortunately, the Noonmark diner doesn't serve alcohol. So, we decided to push on, stopping at the Tail o' the Pup Barbeque restaurant between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, where we had an enjoyable meal (and, of course, a round of beers).
So... well done, everyone! As encouragement to anyone who thought this hike was a bit strenuous, I'll add that we usually go several ticks slower on these sorts of hikes; that would have made things feel much more relaxed.
Thus marks the end of another successful group hike. Many thanks to all who attended, and especially to Brent, for suggesting and encouraging this outing.
Interactive trackmap with photo-points
Hike Data - Noonmark Loop
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet