Are you an ultra mountain athlete looking for a challenge? Or a backpacker looking for a great multi-day trek? Something with 15,000 feet of elevation gain and roughly 40 miles? Try the Bob Marshall Traverse. On July 15, 1932, Marshall left John’s Brook Lodge, tagged Big Slide before breakfast then headed to the Great Range. (It could be argued the traverse begins at JBL for FKT timing purposes. However, I began my watch at the Garden parking area.) After a late lunch on Marcy, he ticked off Skylight, Iroquois, Algonquin, Wright, and ended his ultra day in roughly 18 hours on Mount Jo.
In a day: Begin at the Garden (If you want the exact sequence of Marshall) or LOJ (Just reverse this sequence).
Note: For exact mileage, please refer to your own map. With my experience in the Adirondacks, I’ve found trail mileage varies slightly. Sometimes I’ll provide a rough estimate.
Note: This route is only recommended in 24 hours for those who’ve done similar mileage and elevation gain in that time frame. The Adirondacks have seen a huge increase in hiker traffic. Please be responsible and do not become a strain on already strained resources.
Garden start: Park your car at the Garden or have a friend drop you off. The Garden is a parking area at the end of John’s Brook Lane. It fills up quickly and during the summer it can be hard to get a spot. So, start very early or get a drop off. Also, there’s a fee to park at the Garden.
From the Garden, you could hike Big Slide over the Brothers, however, I hiked towards JBL (3.3 miles) and up the Slide Mountain Brook trail (2.4 miles), because I wanted to replicate Marshall’s route to the best of my ability.
Descend Big Slide via the brook trail and cross over John’s Brook to access the Phelps trail to ascend between Lower and Upper Wolf Jaw. Once you’re on the range trail, go left for the summit of LWJ. It’s roughly .5 to the top, so I fueled up and left my day pack at the junction because you retrace to that spot then continue on the range trail to UWJ. Once on the range, the mountains begin to crank out rather quickly. At Marcy, you’re nine mountains in and have completed the great range but, you’ve only completed half of the mileage. Mentally, think of Marcy as your halfway point.
Note: Be a responsible hiker. If this is more than you can do in one day, there are plenty of places to bail off the range. Summits are your best chance at cell reception to phone a friend for pickup, but do not bank on it. If you’re feeling in over your head, get down and out. Remember, the mountains will always be there.
If you’re feeling sharp on Marcy: Descend to the Four Corners and hike Skylight. Then hike down the Feldspar Brook Trail, stay left at the junction, pass Uphill lean-to and hike around Lake Colden. You’ll have a steep ascent to Iroquois, which will feel amazing on your ultra legs. After you’ve completed the Macintyre Range (Iroquois, Algonquin, Wright) descend to the Adirondak LOJ, Heart Lake area and give little Mount Jo your last burst of energy. One mile up, one mile down.
LOJ start: Mount Jo, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, Skylight, Marcy, Haystack, Basin, Saddleback, Gothics, Armstrong, UWJ, LWJ, and Big Slide.
With camping options: Take a few days to complete the BMT and camp along the way. There are so many great options!
From the Garden: I’d recommend drop offs and pick ups if you want to save money. To get the full backcountry experience, I’d recommend a three night, four day break down of the traverse. But, feel free to adjust however necessary.
Day One: Hike in and set up camp near JBL. There are plenty of campsites and lean-tos in the area. Just be mindful of the time of year. Summers are busy! I’d recommend avoiding weekends to maximize your chance at a campsite. After camp is established, take an afternoon hike up Big Slide and return to camp for dinner.
*If you’re ahead of schedule, you can also drop full packs at JBL, pack day packs, hike Big Slide, then spend your first night at Wolf Jaws lean-to (More mileage, but gets you closer to the range for day two).
Day Two: The Great Range. There is one spot to camp on the range: Snowbird, located between Basin and Haystack. This is your best water source on the range. Make sure you are respecting Leave no Trace ethics.
Day Three: Haystack, Marcy, and Skylight. I’d recommend camping at Lake Colden.
Day Four: Iroquois, Algonquin, Wright and Mount Jo. You’re done!