Wide, worn, fairly graded and well marked, one can almost call it the Van Hoevenberg highway. On a good summer weekend, hundreds of hikers will reach mount Marcy’s summit via this trail, while even in the middle of winter, snowshoers and skiers will attack the Adirondack’s highest point following the same route. However, it should not be underestimated, as the 15 miles return and 3740 total vertical feet are no easy feat except for the seasoned hiker.
Get to the Adirondack Loj, I-87 to 9N to 73 to Adirondack Loj road. Park there (10$ in December 2016), and should you want to stay there for the night, you have the choice between the lodge, lean-tos and campgrounds. Car camping is forbidden there.
Sign the register and, from the common trail head (0 mile, 2208 ft), follow the signs for mount Marcy and the blue markers all the way to the summit. It is nearly impossible to get lost. Distances and elevations are from my GPS.
Loj to Dam Marcy Dam
The first section to Marcy Dam is fairly level and very traveled. Five lean-tos and a few designated campsites are available at the Marcy Dam (2.3 miles, 2362 ft), which is a common place to overnight on 2-day attempts of mount Marcy. You can still find your own campsite for a mile or two after the dam, but good spots will be rare.
Wet in winter too Lots of wet areas
Sign another register. The trail crosses and follows the Phelps Brook and will be wet and muddy. Moderate climbing will only start after you cross the Phelps Brook the second time (3.6 miles, 3068 ft).
Marcy Brook New High Water Bridge
The Marcy Brook (4.5 miles, 3665 ft) is the next crossing and there is no bridge this time.
Indian Falls Mud or rock, pick your poison
Soon after you will reach Indian Falls, which provides a nice view to take a break. The mud will become rocks, but it may still be wet.
Tight quarters for skiers Alpine Zone
At the junction with the Hopkins trail (6.2 miles, 4505 ft), you get the first sight of the summit, and a toilet. Just past the Phelps trail (6.8 miles, 4888 ft), there is a good viewpoint on your right.
Getting Up There Summit view
Soon you will get above tree line (c. 7.2 miles, c. 5100 ft). Stick to the cairns to save the alpine vegetation.
Mt. Marcy Thin snow on summit
Enjoy the large flat summit, in the crowds or alone (7.4 miles, 5344 ft).
General hiking gear, bear barrel if camping. Water sources are plenty if you have a filter.
Marcy 360 Panorama
Snowshoes or skis are the footwear of choice from mid-December to mid-March. Traction devices may be helpful in the lower sections. Ice ax and mountaineering crampons will be overkill most of the time, but there may be a few days every year where skins or basic snowshoes will not suffice.
Above treeline, feel free to find your own trail. Below it, the slopes never get much steeper than an intermediate ski run in a resort, but the trail is much narrower and rescue is further.
If you are willing to summit in whiteout conditions, bring a compass or GPS to retrieve the trail from the summit.