Trailhead location: Garden parking area
Johns Brook Rd, Keene Valley, NY 12943
You'll start the hike at the Garden Parking Area. We suggest getting there early as we heard it gets crowded fast. We also heard there is a $7 fee, but there was no one at the booth when we arrived - but I would be ready to pay either way.
Once you park and get your gear ready, head straight towards the trail head. Once you sign in, you will end up going to the right. From here, you will follow the blue the entire way to the top. You'll see a few signs along the way - but keep following the route towards Big Slide. We will divide the description of this hike in two sections as they are clearly distinct.
Section One: This first, rocky half
This section starts with a casual incline and mild rocks. At about a half a mile in, the true rocky areas will start. This will be challenging throughout this entire part, and you will gain a lot of elevation here. Not too long after you start feeling the rocky sections get steeper, the views will begin. Every so often the trail will open up to beautiful views of mountains like Dix, Gothics and Marcy. These climbs are called "The Brothers", and there are 3. We had a beautiful clear day at the beginning of the hike, so these views were pretty amazing.
Section Two: Are we out of the woods yet? The second, snowy half
This is where you start heading into the woods and those open expanses disappear. When we did this route, it was mid-April and there was still plenty of snow on the ground, specifically in this wooded area. This part was pretty tough for us, even with micro spikes. The snow was deep but packed on the path - but between the extra effort of hiking through snow, plus the steady elevation gain - it was tough. We imagine in the summer is a bit easier, but don't take our word for it. The section was named after the question we kept asking each other over and over again.
Section Two A: The very steep summit push
When you have about .3 left in the woods, you'll notice it gets significantly steeper. In the snow this was near impossible to climb and even harder to get down. We did see a ladder peak out of the snow, so we are making the assumption that without snow, you'll have a kind ladder assist up this last leg. Once you pass this, you'll go through a very short flat section before reaching the summit.
The summit is beautiful, and from the top you can see the peaks of Giant, Rocky Peak Ridge, Lower Wolf Jaw, Dix, Upper Wolf Jaw, Nippletop, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin and Haystack. It's a small area, but enough space to take a breather.
If you want to add 1.5 miles to your trip down, you can make a loop that starts after the steep incline and straight on a trail that crosses Slide Mt. Brook a few times before reaching John Brook Trail and then to the Garden Parking Area. We choose to take the same route down to save time. Overall it took us about 7.5 hours in total. We imagine in the summer (without the snow) it would be a bit quicker.