Stone steps leading up through a dense forest

Ampersand Mountain Trail

Trail Details

Region: High Peaks
Town: Tupper Lake, New York
Unit: High Peaks Wilderness Area
Distance: 5.2 miles
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
View the Photo Gallery
View the 2015 Photo Gallery
Wooden plank trail weaving through wetland


Why is this trail so popular? It is likely that the combination of the easy stroll at the beginning through towering old-growth forest, its proximity to a major road and tourist destinations, and the spectacular views all contribute to its appeal.

Trail Overview

Ampersand Mountain sits on the confluence of the flat North and High Peaks regions of the Adirondacks. An extremely popular hike, it offers a varied experience as you transition from a gentle walk through tall hemlocks to a steep ascent over boulder stairs. Passage through enormous craggy boulders takes you to the bald summit, from which the lake sprawls out beneath you to the north and High Peaks can be seen in the distance to the south.


Hiking trail leading into the forest
Beginning of Ampersand Mountain Trail

I set off to hike this trail shortly after hiking Saint Regis Mountain. It was a fine summer day and I was a little surprised to see how many cars lined both side of NY 3. I parked on the south side of NY 3 more than a dozen cars from the trailhead. Though it was slightly overcast when I had been hiking Saint Regis Mountain, it had been clear and sunny when I started along the Ampersand Mountain Trail. When I began the climb, approximately 1.5 miles in, a trickle of hikers began to pass on their way back down from the summit. Suddenly the trail grew darker as cloud cover combined with the canopy overhead began to shade the trail. Soon the trickle of hikers became a deluge of hikers on their way down. When I passed from hardwood forest into softwoods the trail become positively dark and you could feel the presence of severe storm overhead.

Stone steps leading up through a dense forest
Stone stairs leading to Ampersand Mountain

The wind quickly picked up and the shallow rooted firs trees along the trail began to bend and snap back as storm gusts grew in both duration and intensity. As the rain began to pour down, I faced the simple choice to turn back or continue on to the summit. Since I was so close to the summit I thought it silly to head back. Furthermore, descent would mean spending more time amongst the trees that seemed only a breathe away from toppling over. The forecast was for clear skies so I knew that this storm burst was not likely to last long. Furthermore I knew that the trees would be sparser and shorter near the summit and therefore there would be less chance of larger trees falling along the trail. So I donned my rain gear and decided that sheltering near the summit would be the safest course of action.

Near the summit I passed the last group of hikers I would see along the trail. Unlike the other groups I passed earlier, they were dressed in rain gear and looked prepared for this change in weather. I noticed that they were wide-eyed as they warned me of the strong winds that had nearly blown them off the peak. They were obviously scared but considering how severely the trees had bent over while I climbed, I didn’t doubt that the wind had indeed been quite fierce at the summit. With this in mind, I waited a while in the lee of some of the craggy boulders that line the trail near the summit. They said they had watched the storm roll in and it look quite large. This explained why so many people had been in a such a hurry to descend earlier on. Thunder and lightning soon joined the wind and rain and again I considered turning back. After a short while the wind died down a bit and though it continued to rain I decided to finish the trail to the summit. When I made the final scramble to the summit I noticed that not only was the bald peak awash with rain (the bedrock literally had a 1/4″ of water sheeting over it) but the peak was shrouded in fog.

Original scene
Rocky summit seen from below and covered by a storm cloud
Nearing the summit
Peak in 2015
Bald peak of Ampersand Mountain
Peak of Ampersand Mountain – 2015

Visibility dropped to mere feet ahead and I soon realized that I was in fog but a cloud. Lightning flashed and the wind picked up again, pushing strong enough against me that I had lean into to remain afoot. I knew I had not reached the true summit yet and saw painted arrows on the bedrock indicating the direction of the trail. Unfortunately with limited visibility I couldn’t tell whether the trail crossed a wide area or a narrow trail with shear drop offs. As I considered finishing the trail lightning flashed again and I decided the final feet/yards were not worth the risk of being the tallest point atop a bald mountain.

Mountain peak obscured by thick storm cloud
Ampersand Mountain Peak covered by storm cloud

The descent was slick but easier than I suspected while climbing. When I reached the flat section of the hike the storm seemed to abate and when I reached the final 1/4 mile, the skies were clear again. Indeed though I had not passed anyone else along the trail, people were either just starting or signing in on the trail. Most of the cars along NY 3 had cleared out but as I took off my wet clothing and gear, cars were already lining up again. In moments the road appeared dry again and there was little evidence of the passing storm burst. It was a stark reminder of how weather changes without notice and often in contradiction with weather reports.

Ampersand Mountain Panoramic View

Ampersand Mountain
Ampersand Mountain
Ampersand Mountain Panoramic Photo Viewer

For more information including directions to the trailhead, a trail elevation profile and in depth trail descriptions and detailed directions buy the book!

More Trail Info
Photo Gallery
Narrow passage between a cleft rock
Ampersand Mountain
2015 Photo Gallery
Hiker atop Ampersand Mountain with Northern Adirondacks in the background
2015 Gallery
GPS Data

McKenna Brook Crossing
UTM Zone(WGS 84): 18T
Easting: 0561948.3
Northing: 4899192.6
Latitude: N 44° 14′ 36.00″
Longitude: W 74° 13′ 26.94″
More GPS Data Coming soon!
Additional Resources
Current Trail conditions for the High Peaks region on the DEC website. Unit Mangement Plan on the DEC website.