ApproachThe trailhead is in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, which is privately-owned wilderness. Find directions to the AMR from anywhere at this address: (http://www.adirondackjourney.com/AMR.htm ). Park on Route 73 near the entrance to the Ausable Club (the club has strict parking regulations, so you'll need to park on the road and walk to the club, which is where the actual trailhead is located).
After walking to the club, turn left immediately after the first tennis court and continue on to the rangers cabin where you will be asked to register then walk 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" which is basically a dirt road going up to Lower Ausable Lake. Just before you arrive, a sign on your right will indicate Gothics and Sawteeth: this is the beginning of the climb.
Route DescriptionWhen you get to the lake, you are striken by a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. The water is truly encased by the mountain walls and the dam that retains it. After the bridge, there begins the climb. Shortly after getting into the forest, a side trail leads to Rainbow Falls, a high waterfall a couple hundred feet just off the main trail. If you choose to keep going, you will at least be able to admire the falls from the ledge above at some point.
After crossing the brooke, the trail is moderately inclined as you climb towards the col between Sawteeth and Gothics. You soon start to see the landscape around as you approach the junction between Sawteeth (left) and the trail leading to Pyramid (right), which is the first open view before Gothics.
At the junction, make it right. You now have a mile to go and 1200 feet elevation before Pyramid. In this section, you find yourself on a much more difficult trail made of exposed rock and some slab climbing. Now, all the way up, the trail is very steep and narrow with sub-alpine vegetation. You get extraordinary views of the valley below and a sense of altitude. Be very careful under wet conditions in this section as there is no ropes to help.
When you suddenly emerge on the ledge of Pyramid, the wind catches you and a breathtaking view awaits you.Directly in front of you in the foreground is Basin with Marcy in the background and Haystack off to the left. To Basin's right is Saddleback, and to your direct right are the sweeping sheer slides of Gothics.
After getting dressed a little bit warmer and taking a few pictures you now have a short hike to Gothics' main summit. Among the tiny trees in alpine vegetation, walking in a deeply grooved trail , 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. The flat and very windy summit is conquered. A benchmark on the highest rock marks the spot. 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.
Going down Gothics you again encounter a few slabs which might be a bit hard to go over. Then at the end of the col, you will find the famous bog of eternal stench another hiker described in his route. You can complete the "loop" by hiking directly back to Lake Road. You need to keep going on the trail at the junction of Armstrong. Do not turn left and keep following the signs for Lake Road. This descent will take you from this point on to a heavy moutainside trail portion with ladders and then later to a small eroded bouldering trail for quite a bit. Keep an eye open for the gigantic overhanging rock to your left in the middle of this section: a zillion tons boulder dropped in equilibrium over another one by the ice, thousands of years ago. It is quite an extraordinary sight. Then when you are approaching the bottom of the mountain, the trail will go on in a slow slope wooden area which indicates the proximity of the valley where the climb began. An opening to the neighboring brook is worth a little detour since at the far end of a litlle pond, a 10 feet deep cave is hiding under the waterfall. If you are willing to get yourself wet, it is quite fun. You can refresh yourself or sit in the sun on the smooth slab. Then the water drops and becomes Beaver Meadows Falls, which you can admire a hundred feet down the trail.Shortly after, you hit Ausable river, cross the bridge and 10 minutes later, you are back on the road, about two miles uphill from the AMR gate.
Essential GearI hiked this at the beginning of August with my girlfriend and her kids, age 7 and 9. It was quite hot and humid the day we hiked and neither Stephen or Alyssa complained about thirst but we adults were sweating freely under the demand of the climb. Nothing out of the ordinary was required but plenty of water is needed especially for the last ascent from the junction of Sawteeth. This is a 1200 ft. ascent in less than a mile, very heavy. Also a polar fleece and/or windbreaker is required when you reach the summit of Pyramid. There is often high winds up there and getting there all sweaty will get you into hypothermia fast. 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. Extra socks and a towel to wipe sweat from our face came in handy on our hike.
I have never hiked the trail in winter but the climate up there must be freezing cold with the winds. I do not see any problems on the way except for the portions of very inclined slab on the way up to Pyramid. I would recommand hiking this loop in reverse in winter so you only have to slide down the slab sections.
Miscellaneous InfoThe last water source on this loop was at the crossing of the brooke above Rainbow Falls which is about 2 miles below the summit. It is highly suggested to fill up there. Then, the next water source is about a mile down descending from Gothics.
So make sure you get plenty in preparation for those demanding sections.