The trailhead is in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, which is privately-owned wilderness. Proceed on Route 73 past the first driveway to the Ausable Club to a designated trailhead parking lot.
(The club has strict parking regulations, so you'll need to park at that parking lot and walk to the club, which is where the actual trailhead is located).
Walk up to the club's grounds from the parking lot and pass the golf course on your right. Turn left right after the first tennis court, which leads you directly to the ranger's cabin, and to a gate with a sign made out of logs that reads, "Adirondack Mountain Reserve". This is the trailhead.
The first three miles of the trail is a mostly flat walk on "Lake Road". Arrival at Lower Ausable Lake signifies the end of the road and the beginning of the trail.
From the lake you can take a short sidetrip to Rainbow Falls, which is a beautiful, high waterfall just off the main trail. I suggest you check it out before heading out toward Gothics.
From the lake, the trail begins flatly. The first 1/3 of the climb is moderately inclined as you climb to the col between Sawteeth and Gothics. The trail is very narrow for most of the climb, but becomes even more narrow after the junction of the trail toward Sawteeth (left) and the trail leading to Pyramid (right), which is a sub-summit of Gothics.
A short time after taking a right at the junction, you are let out onto a steeply inclined heavily exposed rock, which appears suddenly and gives the climber their first idea of altitude and their first clear view of some of the surrounding peaks. Be careful on the rock, however, because it is quite steep and any wetness on it may cause you to slip.
The rock also signifies the beginning of some significantly steep climbing. In addition, the trail seems to get narrower and the trees shorter, and before you know it, you are thrusted onto the spectacular ledge of Pyramid, which is argued to be the best view in the Adirondack Mountains. Directly in front of you, in the foreground is Basin with Marcy in the background and Haystack in the background off to the left. To Basin's right is Saddleback, and to your direct right are the sweeping sheer slides of Gothics.
After taking in the views, you have a short hike to Gothics' main summit. Among the tiny trees, you descend the steep ridgeline to the col between Pyramid and Gothics and then, just as steeply, climb back out of the col to to the top of Gothics. A short flat walk to the places you at the apex of the peak. Sweeping views of the conclusion of the Great Range and the Johns Brook Valley unfold before you. Also in view to the South are the Nippletop ridge, the Dix Range, and Lower Ausable Lake (where you started your climb). To the West, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge are the standouts. To the North, Big Slide and Whiteface are prominent, and in the distance to the East is the MacIntyre range, which includes Algonquin, Wright, and Iroquois.
You can complete the "loop" by hiking back to Lake Road via the summits of Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw, which concludes a 12.7 mile, 11-hour loop (those were our times, yours may differ based on weather, physical condition, etc.).
WARNING: The col between Gothics and Armstrong contained a 4-foot deep bog. My hiking partner, in trying to avoid a puddle on the main trail, stepped around the puddle onto seemingly firm mud only to fall in up to his chest. He emerged from the dank black mud only after grabbing for a tree limb and pulling himself out. BE CAREFUL! I have no idea if that bog is still there or if it will be there in subsequent years but you've been forewarned that at the bottom of the col between Gothics and Armstrong there, at least, was a DEEP bog!
Update: Hiked this same route twice in September 2002, and the bog is definitely still there. A thin layer of grass now covers the bog, so it's even more concealed than it was in 2001. Anyway, it probably won't be a big deal, but just make sure you stay on the trail when you are nearing the bottom of the col between Gothics and Armstrong (right before the trail junction)
The summit of Armstrong provides a view back toward the craggy Gothics, which is awesome.
Coming down from Armstrong, you will encounter one of the toughest sections of trail in the Adirondacks. Coming down the trail is very difficult on the knees because it is very steep and requires the use of an improvised step ladder at one point (I believe the ladder was subsequently removed a little after I hiked on account of a few unstable rungs). Again, caution should be exercised on this section.
The view from Upper Wolfjaw is anti-climactic.
The walk down from Upper Wolfjaw seems VERY long, but is not steep. You meet back up with Lake Road after a few river crossings, which leaves only a short walk back to the Ausable Club.
I hiked this in the summer. It was quite hot and humid the day we hiked. Nothing out of the ordinary was required. Bring plenty of food, snacks and water because this is a rather strenuous hike and you'll need to and want to refuel many times throughout the long day. Some bug spray (especially if hiking before July), extra socks (to replace sweaty ones and the bog-vicitmized ones) and a towel to wipe sweat from your face came in handy on our hike.
I won't even begin to guess what is required in the winter as I've never climbed in the winter and I would not want to guess incorrectly. Keep in mind the trail is narrow and the climb steep when deciding if and how to hike these mountains in winter
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