Best Guide to Macomb Mountain in the Adirondacks

Chris on the Macomb Silde
Average read time 8 min

Macomb Mountain is the most southern of the Adirondack High Peaks. It is a required climb for the Adirondack Forty-Sixer membership. The summit provides wonderful views over Elk Lake and the jumble of high peaks to the north. It has been thought of as a bushwhack to reach the summit, but since the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack 46ers have brushed out designated herd paths, it is more of an unmarked trail. The summit once had a canister to log your climb; these were deemed non-conforming structures by the DEC and removed. One of its defining features is the Macomb Slide which the herd path from the Slide Brook primitive campsite leads to.

Featured photo: Chris on the Macomb Slide. Above clockwise from top left: Parking sign at the Elk Lake Trailhead; Camping near Slide Brook; Top of the Macomb Slide; Nippletop and the Great Range from the summit; Trail sign with mileage from the trailhead to Dix; Chris on Macomb summit ledge; USGS summit marker; Elk Lake, Boreas Mountain behind; Macomb Slide from herd path.

Geeky Stuff

Elevation:4,390 ft (1,338 m)
Lat/Lon:44°03′06″N / 73°46′48″W
Seasons:Spring, Summer, Fall. Winter for experienced only
Activities:Hiking, backpacking/camping, slide climbing, winter climbing
Nearest higher neighborHough Peak (1.24-miles NNE)
Line parentHough Peak (1.24-miles NNE)
Key-col3806 ft (1160 m) Between Macomb & South Dix
Prominence564 ft (172 m)
RangeAdirondacks > Adirondack High Peaks > Dix Range
Land UnitHigh Peaks Wilderness
Summit forestBoreal in first growth
Maps and GuideHigh Peaks Adirondack Trail Map
High Peaks Trails (14th Edition)
High Peaks Trails Guide and Map Pack (14th Edition)

The Dirt

The lands on Macomb are administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC works with numerous organizations to maintain the trails, primitive campsites, and lean-tos. In the Adirondacks, the maintenance is done by a volunteer force and the Adirondack Mountain Club professional trail crew. I must note that the herd path to Macomb and other peaks in the lower Dix Range is not maintained.

The mountain was named Macomb Mtn in the 1800s. As late as the 1970s, it was unclear whether it was in honor of Alexander Macomb, a land merchant, or his son Maj. Gen. Alexander Macomb.

The mountain was officially named in honor of Maj. Gen. Alexander Macomb in 1979. Macomb fought heroically in the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812, and he was the Commanding General of the United States Army.

According to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the mountain has two name variants; Ma Comb Mountain and McComb Mountain. Both of these were officially “rejected” in 1978.

Hiking Macomb is not usually done as a single climb. Once on the ridge, it makes sense to attempt other peaks in the range via the well-defined herd path. They are commonly done as an overnight.

Related post: Backpacking The Adirondacks Dix Range For An Epic Adventure.

Trail Approaches

Main trails & pathsHunter’s Pass Trail, Slide Brook Herd Path
Shortest approachHunter’s Pass Trail from Elk Lake
Hardest routeBoquet Forks Herd Path over Grace and South Dix; Old Slide on Macomb from Slide Brook
Easiest winter routeHunter’s Pass Trail from Elk Lake (Winter for experienced only)

The main trail, which is used to gain access to Macomb and other nearby peaks, originates from Elk Lake. The Hunter’s Pass Trail connects Elk Lake with Hunter’s Pass just west of Dix Mountain. Its entire length runs 7-miles to 0.4-miles below Dix Mountain’s summit at the junction with the Round Pond Trail.

The Hunter’s path trail will reach the herd path to Macomb at 2.3-miles when the trailhead is open and then another 1.6-miles on a herd path to the summit of Macomb. Add 2-miles one way if the road is closed, usually from December to May. See red tape below.

Macomb Mountain on the Hunter’s Path Trail/Macomb herd path from Elk Lake Trailhead

Distance:7.8-miles RTRoute type:Out-and-back
Total climb:2520′Hike type:Trail/herd path/Slide scramble
How hard?DifficultTrailhead:Elk Lake/Dix Mountain TH

Red Tape

info

Elk Lake Lodge Property


Respect the owners rights.

The Elk Lake Trailhead and the first 2.3 miles of the trail accessing the Dix Mountain area are on private lands. The public has the right to use the trail but is prohibited from leaving the trail and trespassing on private lands. The trail is closed during northern zone regular big game hunting season. After big game hunting season, the trail reopens.

directions_car

Elk Lake Road and Parking

The parking lot is currently closed due to COVID-19. Parking is available about 2 miles from the trailhead.

The Elk Lake Trailhead and parking area are very busy. There is an overflow parking area about 1-mile from the main lot. DO NOT park on the side of the road. This has become a problem in areas of the High Peaks, please don’t add to it.

After Big Game Season, and through the winter and spring mud season, the public must park 2.0 miles back from the trailhead at the Clear Pond Parking Area.

Camping

Closest campingSlide Brook Lean-to and Primitive Campsites; Lillian Brook Lean-to and Primitive Campsites

Camping at the lean-to is first come, first serve, and hikers cannot reserve a lean-to or designated campsite. Lean-to capacity is about 7-8 people. All designated primitive tent sites have yellow and black “Camp Here” markers. Many sites on lakes and ponds are identified by a yellow number against a dark brown wooden plaque typically attached to a tree near the water’s edge.

Related reading: 10 Things to Think About Before Using a Lean-To or Backcountry Shelter

If necessary, at-large camping is permitted as long as campsites are at least 150 feet from any road, trail, waterbody, or waterway. Place your tent on a durable surface, such as hardened soil, leaf litter, or pine duff. Do not place your tent on vegetation.

No camping above 3,500 feet (except at lean-to).

Max group size 8. No permits for larger groups.

Camping for more than three nights or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Area campsites

Slide Brook is 2.3-miles and Lillian Brook is 3.5-miles from the Elk Lake trailhead

Lean-tosPrimitive CampsitesCapacity
Slide BrookSlide Brook1 lean-to / 4 primitive sites
Lillian BrookLillian Brook1 lean-to / 3 primitive sites
Area totals:2 lean-tos / 7 primitive sites

Safety and Wellness

Please sign in at all trail registers, here’s why.

Bears

There are an estimated 4000+ black bears in the Adirondacks. The following are the recommendations from the DEC on bear management:

  • Use bear-resistant food canisters. These are a highly effective means for preventing bears from getting your food, toiletries, and garbage. Use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry, and are required in Eastern High Peaks Wilderness of the Adirondack Park.
  • Pack a minimal amount of food. The less food to store the better. Use lightweight and dehydrated foods.
  • Cook and eat before dark. Bears become more active after sunset.
  • Cook away from your campsite. Choose an area at least 100 feet away from your sleeping area.
  • Be neat and clean while cooking. Avoid spills and drippings. Do not pour grease into your fire pit.
  • Keep food in storage containers. Only take out the food you plan to cook. Keep containers nearby and store food immediately if a bear approaches your cooking area.
  • Avoid leftovers. Carefully plan your meals and eat all that you cook.
  • Never leave food unattended. Bears may watch from a distance waiting for opportunities to steal food.

DEC Fact Sheet on Bear Encounters (PDF)

If You Encounter a Bear at Your Campsite

Do:

  • Use noise to scare bears away: Yell, clap, or bang pots immediately upon sighting a bear near your campsite.
  • Stay calm: Walk slowly and speak in a loud and calm voice.
  • Leave slowly: Cautiously back away from the bear and leave the area.

Don’t:

  • Approach, surround, or corner a bear: Bears aggressively defend themselves when they feel threatened. Be especially cautious around cubs as mother bears are very protective.
  • Run from a bear: They may chase.
  • Throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear: This will only encourage bears to approach and “bully” people to get food. By teaching a bear to approach humans for food, you are endangering yourself, other campers/residents, and the bears.

A note on water

Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets, or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.

Weather

The Adirondack High Peaks are known for extreme changes in weather. A warm sunny day in the valley can mask a cold and clouded summit. Ice and snow are not unheard of ANY month of the year at higher elevations. The mountains create their own weather! Please check the weather forecast as close as you can for your outing. In the winter, forecasts are not accurate until 24-hours before your hike. Sometimes not even that.

Contacts and Maps

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
Email: info.r5@dec.ny.gov
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.

Click map or here for an interactive version of the map

Macomb Mountain Trail Map
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Macomb Mountain Trail Map
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