The Dix Range, peaks associated with Dix Mountain anchor 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 peaks Dix offers some of the best hiking, overnight or multiday backpacking and views in the Adirondacks and possibly in the Northeast.
One can push and “do” the entire Dix Range traverse which includes Dix, Macomb, South Dix, Hough, and Grace Peak (which is named in honor of the longtime forty-sixer (#8) and the club’s dedicated historian Grace Hudowalski), it makes for a grueling 15-mile peak-bagging day and in our opinion a recipe for missing out on the grandeur of this place. Is 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 the overflow parking on Elk Lake Road 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 a must
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 must use bear canisters to store food between April 1 and November 30 (read more here). 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.
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.
The slide is not your typical Adirondack Slide as it is dirt-filled and “Sloppy” to climb. Scott VanLaer, DEC Ranger, tweeted about the slide below.
Went well. The slide is different from most here in that it was never scoured all the way to bedrock. Rubble
— ADK Ranger (@ScottvanLaer) January 15, 2020
Views of the slide on your approach
The slide is one of the easier ones to climb in the Adirondacks. Having said that, it is filled with rubble and it is very 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 slide 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 awesome 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 of the surrounding area.
From here it is easy going to the summit. The summit ledge is not very large but offers great views (click image to enlarge) and you’ll have traveled about 1.6-miles from the trail and have climbed about 2100’.
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 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. Largely 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 is 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 the protection of trees 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 timberline. The one on the right showing 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 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 bad 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 timberline is unsafe.
From the col, you’ll begin the steep and steady climb to the summit of Hough. In the next 0.33-miles, you’ll climb about 500′ to the summit of Hough 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 wonderful!
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 are going to 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 at Slide Brook.
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 campsite about 8.43-miles.
As you hike the last section of trail back to the campsite you will pass Lillian Brook which is a good 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
|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.|
Last Updated on June 11, 2020