The Dix Range Traverse offers some of the finest hiking and camping in the Northeastern US
The Dix Range is a jumble of peaks associated with Dix Mountain and anchors the High Peaks. As one drives the Adirondack Northway from the south, one can catch a glimpse of these peaks, especially the crown-like summit of Macomb. Situated south and separated from Marcy and the main jumble of high mountains, the Dix Range offers some of the best hiking, overnight, or multi-day backpacking and views in the Adirondacks and possibly in the Northeast.
One can push and “do” the entire Dix Range traverse in a day, including Dix, Macomb, South Dix, Hough, and Grace Peak, making it a grueling 15-mile peak-bagging frenzy. In our opinion, this is a recipe for missing out on the grandeur of this place. If so desired, one could approach the range from RT 73 and climb the Great Slide on Grace Peak; most people begin their adventure from Elk Lake Road Trailhead (44.0209°N, 73.8278°W) as we did.
Be forewarned that parking at the trailhead at Elk Lake is very crowded and many times full. Do not attempt to park your car on the road as your hike may be longer than you think on your return and your trip more expensive than expected. If the main parking area is full, drive to Elk Lake Road’s overflow parking, about 2-miles away.
Trailhead on Elk Lake Road to Slide Brook Campsite
From the main parking area, the trail leaves at the north end with a trail register, please sign it.
The trail in the next couple of miles will climb about 250’ to a height of land at about 1.03-miles, then drop to Big Sally Brook at 1.6-miles, losing 100’ and then reclimbing to the state land boundary at about 1.9-miles.
After the state land boundary, the trail becomes wet and more of a footpath as you’ll reach Slide Brook at 2.3-miles and the first of several designated campsites and the Slide Brook Lean-to right after.
The first set of campsites is the departure point for the herd path to Macomb. Given that, they are generally fairly crowded. If full, you can walk to the next designated sites at Lillian Brook about 1.4-miles up the trail or hike up the herd path and camp at-large away from the stream.
Fires ok, and bear canisters should be used
As the Dix Mt. Wilderness is considered part of the Outer Zone of the High Peaks, fires at designated sites are allowed in the Outer Zone, and all backpackers should use bear canisters to store food in season. Don’t attempt to hang your supplies; bears in this region have become very adept at getting at camper’s food! No camping above 4,000′ anytime of the year and your group size is limited to 8-people. Day hiking groups may include up to 15-people.
Recommended viewing: Bear Canisters Are a Must in the ADK High Peaks
Slide Brook Campsite to Macomb
The approach to Macomb follows near the brook for about 0.6-miles, then climbs away from it, and then returns near it again a few times. The herd path will climb at varied grades with some steep pitches. As you progress, you’ll begin to see increasing views of the slide that you’ll be climbing to the summit until you reach its base at about one mile from the trail.
Views of the slide on your approach
The slide is one of the easier ones to climb in the Adirondacks. Rubble dominates this slide, and it is easy to dislodge rocks. So if there are climbers above or below you, as always, be mindful of falling debris. If you climb the slide during or after rain, expect the landslide to be muddy.
As with most slides, as you approach the headwall, it will steepen, and you’ll have a few choices of how to move around the actual top of the slide (which does not end at the summit).
One thing – as you climb the slide, do not forget to stop and enjoy the fantastic scene unfolding behind you! The views of Elk Lake and the Boreas Mountain Range are inspiring!
As you approach the top of the Slide, you can exit right or left; both will bring you above a large rock ledge with great views down the slide and the surrounding area.
From here, it is easy going to the summit. The summit ledge is not very large but offers excellent views (click image to enlarge), and you’ll have traveled about 1.6-miles from the trail and have climbed about 2100’.
Macomb to the summit of South Dix
From the summit, you’ll make the easy descent to the col between Macomb and South Dix. Once in the col, you’ll be greeted with the beautiful rock face of South Dix. Take your time while climbing this and enjoy the increasing views.
The alpine zone above the treeline
Upon reaching South Dix, you’ll be in an area that has an extensive alpine environment. These places have been here ten thousand years since the last glacial episode. Mostly undisturbed by man, these islands support a rare ecosystem. In New York, we have about 85-acres of this habitat.
Even though much of it appears as bare rock, pioneer communities such as lichens and mosses grow directly on the rock. Please stay on the marked trail, which trail crews have carefully blazed by paint and rock cairns. Stepping on any of the plants will kill or jeopardize their existence, to which they may never recover.
Above treeline, without trees’ protection, the wind increases, and so does the risk for hypothermia. So be prepared to add layers. Also, be ready for conditions to change at any time and visibility to become so bad that it could be hard to find your way to the next cairn.
The views from South Dix are some of the finest in the range. One of the best is of The Hogback (aka. Pough), Hough, and Dix all in a row! Notice the dead conifers which succumb to the rigors of the killer climate above the timberline—the one on the right shows flagging due to sustained high winds.
From the summit of Macomb to the summit of South Dix, you’ll have traveled about 0.7-miles (2.3-miles from the trail) and dropped about 600′ from Macomb, and climbed just under 300′ to the summit of South Dix.
South Dix to Grace Peak
South Dix to Grace Peak is an easy out-and-back walk. Your departure point for Hough and Dix is on South Dix. Keep this in mind as you’ll need to return to South Dix from Grace to head to Hough; watch your time!
The round trip from South Dix and Grace is about 2-miles with a loss and gain of about 800′ RT. On this day, we opted to head for Hough and wait and climb Grace from the Great Slide another day.
South Dix to Hough
The hike to Hough from South Dix is more difficult as you’ll climb a knob known as “Pough.” From South Dix to Pough is about 0.27-miles (2.57-miles from the trail) with a loss and gain of 150′ elevation.
From Pough, you’ll drop .18-mile and about 200′ to a col where one could bivouac in lousy weather. Additionally, this is the col where the “Lillian Brook” herd path comes in from the red marked Dix trail. This is a rough herd path but may be used to get off the ridge when climbing above the timberline is unsafe.
In the next 0.33-miles, you’ll climb about 500′ to Hough’s summit on an “airy” ridge. Given this, you’ll get some views of the summit ahead. Once on the summit, you’ll have traveled 0.51-miles from Pough and 3.08-miles from the trail. The views from the Ridge and summit are lovely!
Once on the summit, more views are had including the incredible ridge you’ll be ascending to the Beckhorn.
Hough to Dix
The next section between Hough and Dix may be one of the most exhilarating hikes in the Adirondacks. The ridge between the two peaks is open, with many views along the way. Given this, it will probably take you longer than you think.
The narrowness of the land is felt as the hiker will see the landmass drop away on both sides in many places.
From the summit of Hough, you’ll make a quick 0.2-mile drop to the col losing about 400′ elevation. In the next 0.7-miles to the Beckhorn, you’ll be teased with wonderful views preparing you for what is arguably the most stunning mountain in the Adirondacks, Dix Mountain. By the time you reach the Beckhorn, you’ll have traveled about 0.9-miles from Hough and 3.98-miles from the trail.
Once reaching the Beckhorn, you will be greeted with some of the best views in the Northeast, period. From the Beckhorn, it is another 0.18-miles to the summit of Dix. Unless you return via Hunters Pass, you will need to return to the Beckhorn, making it a 0.36-mile round trip making your day’s total 4.43-miles from the starting point Slide Brook.
Return to camp or trailhead
If you return to the Beckhorn, you’ll drop off Dix via the Yellow marked Beckhorn Trail. This trail will lead steeply down to the red-marked Hunter’s Pass trail. The trail is reached in about 2.1-miles from the Beckhorn or 6.53-miles from your start at Slide Brook. This section of trail has fine views of Elk Lake and the Slides on the ridge you hiked up to Dix from Hough.
At the junction, you’ll see a trail sign indicating the mileage back to Elk Lake Road, which states it is 3.8-miles (really 4.3-miles). Hopefully, the sign has been updated besides the distance scratched in. The hike back to the campsites at Slide Brook is about 1.9-miles making your days total from the camp about 8.43-miles.
As you hike the last section of the trail back to the campsite, you will pass Lillian Brook, an excellent spot to refill your water. You can also take some time to visit Dix Pond and rest.
Between Dix pond and the Lillian Brook campsites, you will be “graced” with a final couple of climbs with a total of about 400′ ascent. Of course, what goes up must come down, so does this trail. So you will lose the elevation you gained.
If you were to hike all the peaks in the Dix Range traverse in one push it would be a long day of about 15-miles.
Adirondack Dix Range map
Click the map or here for an interactive version of the map.
|Dix Mountain Area|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 5 Ray Brook Office: 518-897-1200 (M-F, 8:30 AM to 4:45 PM)
Backcountry Emergencies: 518-891-0235 (24/7) or dial 911
|Location:||Towns of Keene, North Hudson & Elizabethtown, Essex County|
|Map:||Dix Mountain Wilderness Map|
|Amenities:||Dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies, can be found in the nearby communities of Keene & Elizabethtown.|
|Weather:||Dix Mountain Weather|
|Cell Service:||Never count on your cell phone for rescue. Cell service in the Dix Mountain Wilderness is sparse at best and one may have problems gaining a signal.|
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, and exploring the wilds of the Catskills and Adirondacks in New York. A Catskill 3500 Club Member and Adirondack Forty-Sixer. Climbed Mount Rainier. Professionally an Exercise Physiologist.