By: Yukon Charlie’s Trailblazer, Meghan Izzo
Indian Head is located in Keene Valley, Adirondack Park, New York. From the summit you can see Upper and Lower Ausable Lakes and the peaks of the Great Range and Pinnacle Range. It’s truly an incredible sight. This trail is rated as easy/intermediate, as the beginning of this trail is relatively flat. But, for the winter season, I would rate this trail as intermediate/hard as it has some very dangerous and tricky spots.
Before starting this hike, I would recommend packing the following items:
- A daypack
- high energy food
- hand warmers
- 2 pairs of gloves (1 backup)
- 2 pairs of wool socks (1 backup)
- a face cover
- a hat
- snow boots
- warm base layers
- a wind and water proof jacket
- aluminum snowshoes (I use Yukon Charlies Pro II snowshoes)
- trekking poles
- SLIPNOTS traction aids
- a camera
We arrived at the trail parking lots at 10am on a Saturday and both were already completely full, if I didn’t have a 4×4 vehicle to make myself a spot, we would’ve had to park in the road. The reason for the high volume of people parking in these parking lots are for about 7 trailheads that are all connected to Lake Road. So my advice is to get an early start at about 8am or 9am.
Once parked, it’s about a half mile walk to Lake Rd, located between 2 tennis courts. There you will see a large intricate wooden gate, and the hiker registration to the right. I don’t care if you’re John Muir, you should always register for a hike!
The beginning of this trail is relatively flat, in fact most of this hike is only a small incline. For the first part of the trail we attached our snowshoes to our backpacks and wore our SLIPNOTS, then changed to snowshoes about a mile in. Although the trail isn’t steep at first, it is long and tiring. Make sure to pace yourself.
The first 3.3 miles are located on Lake Rd until you reach a sign for Indian Head, Fish Hawk Cliffs, and Colvin on the left. This is the third entrance sign you will see to reach Indian Head and is located towards the very end of Lake Road. Though there are ways to do this trail as a 10 mile loop, the easiest is to go in the Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs trailhead at the end of Lake Road and back out for a total of 8 miles. Give yourself at least 6 hours to complete this hike, take into consideration you will be making stops to change into your snowshoes, to eat, to rest, and to take pictures.
From there, it’s a tough but rewarding .07 mile climb to the summit. Along the way, you will see beautiful views of the Gothics and Lower Ausable Lake, frozen waterfalls, and an icy ladder. Take your time ascending and descending, this trail is very thin and steep at time and the ice can be very slick. It is important to use you snowshoe spikes to grip the ice and your trekking poles to balance you.
The summit of Indian Head is extremely windy, so secure any belongings before stepping out from the tree coverage. I also recommend using a face cover to prevent wind burn. Use you snowshoes to grip and keep you balance against wind gusts. The views are absolutely breathtaking here. Take advantage of the solitude and soak up the wonderful view you worked to get to. Follow the trail back to lake road and to the parking lot. The parking lot is about a half hour drive from Lake Placid and you can grab some great food there.