South Dix, aka Carson Peak, is a beautiful alpine peak in the southern part of the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness. Its west face approach on open rock is outstanding and one of the most remote and exciting wilderness climbs a hiker will make in these mountains. Carson is a serious undertaking as you’ll need to climb over at least one other 46er to get there. Slide climbing will most likely be part of your adventure! But the trip, no matter how you go, will be one you’ll relish.
Featured photo: Chris on the west face of Carson Peak. Above clockwise from top left: Blue Closed Gentian and Balsam Fir on Carson Peak; Looking down the west face, Chris taking a break; Looking SE on Carson; View from the ridge on Carson; Macomb from Carson; Trail sign at the Elk Lake parking area; Trailhead sign for the Elk Lake parking area (middle); Cook kit with required bear canister; Tent near Slide Brook; Glacial erratic on Carson providing protection for a Blue Closed Gentian; View from Carson; West rock face leading to summit; Pough, Hough, and Dix from Carson.
|Elevation:||4068 ft (1240 m)|
|Lat/Lon:||44° 3′ 36” N, 73° 46′ 28” W|
|Seasons:||Spring, Summer, Fall. Winter for experienced only (this includes early spring and late fall)|
|Activities:||Hiking, backpacking/camping, slide climbing, above timberline, winter climbing|
|Nearest higher neighbor:||Macomb Mountain (0.64-miles, SSW)|
|Line parent:||Hough Peak (0.67-miles, N)|
|Key Col:||3904 ft/1190 m (0.41-miles, N)|
|Prominence:||164 ft/50 m|
|Range:||Adirondacks > Adirondack High Peaks > Dix Range|
|Land Unit:||High Peaks Wilderness|
|Summit forest:||Arctic Alpine/Boreal|
|Maps and Guide:||High Peaks Adirondack Trail Map|
High Peaks Trails (14th Edition)
High Peaks Trails Guide and Map Pack (14th Edition)
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) administers the lands on South Dix. 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. It must be noted that the herd path to South Dix and other peaks in the lower Dix Range is not maintained.
Underfoot is a movement to change the name of South Dix to Carson Peak. Along with Grace Peak, formally East Dix, the Grace Peak Committee in 2005 has petitioned the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) to change South Dix’s name to Carson Peak. Russell M.L. Carson (1884–1961) was a writer who wrote Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, publications for the Adirondack Mountain Club, and columns in regional newspapers. He served as the President of the Adirondack Mountain Club and was a charter member. In his community of Glens Falls, besides owning his own insurance company, he was a local board member for Glens Falls Union Free School for 35 years and Rotary Member. Carson was instrumental in the renaming of North Seward to Donaldson Mountain.
Hiking South Dix is not done as a single climb. South Dix must be climbed in combination with at least one other peak in the Dix Range. It is usually done as part of a traverse of the Dix Range.
Unless coming from Dix Mountain, other routes will require a slide climb. In all practicality, any way you go, you’ll most likely encounter a slide.
|Main trails & paths||Hunter’s Pass Trail, Slide Brook herd path, ridge herd path, Bouquet Forks herd path|
|Shortest approach||Hunter’s Pass Trail, Slide Brook herd path, ridge herd path|
|Hardest route||Bouquet Forks herd path OR over Dix which is not a usual route.|
|Easiest winter route||Hunter’s Pass Trail from Clear Pond on Elk Lake Road and Slide Brook herd path, ridge herd path. (Winter for experienced only)|
The main trail used to gain access to South Dix 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 Pass Trail at 2.3-miles will reach Slide Brook and the first spots to camp. This is also the spot for the herd path to Macomb and where many people start the circuit to do the entire Dix Range Traverse. This is also the shortest route to South Dix.
South Dix from Elk Lake
|Distance:||4.65-miles (one way); 9.3 RT||Route type:||Out-and-back (can vary)|
|Total climb:||2821′ to summit||Hike type:||Trail, herd path|
|How hard?||Difficult||Trailhead:||Elk Lake/Dix Mountain TH|
From Route 73 via Bouquet Forks herd path
|Distance:||5.85-miles (one way) 11.7 RT||Route type:||Out-and-back|
|Total climb:||3151′ to summit||Hike type:||Herd paths|
|How hard?||Difficult||Trailhead:||North Fork of the Bouquet River Parking Area|
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 trails from Elk Lake are closed during northern zone regular big game hunting season. After big game hunting season, the trail reopens.
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.
|Closest camping:||Slide Brook Lean-to and Primitive Campsites|
|Other camping:||Lillian Brook Lean-to and Primitive Campsites; Tent sites along the Bouquet Forks herd path|
Camping at the lean-to is first come first serve and no lean-to or designated campsite can be reserved. 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.
If necessary, at-large camping is permitted as long as campsites are at least 150 feet from any road, trail, water body, 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.
Safety and Wellness
Please sign in at all trail registers, here’s why.
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.
If You Encounter a Bear at Your Campsite
- 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.
- 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.
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 to your outing. In the winter forecasts are not accurate until 24-hours before your hike. Sometimes not even that.
Contact and 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.|
Click on the map or here for an interactive version of the map.
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, kayaking, 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.