This loop hike will take you from the Adirondack Loj, to Marcy Dam and through Avalanche Pass, along Avalanche Lake up to Lake Colden where you will start your steep ascent of Mt. Colden. From the summit you will continue over and drop down to Lake Arnold and continue your descent back to Marcy Dam and the Adirondack Loj.
Starting from the Adirondack Loj, follow the trail 2.1 miles to the Marcy Dam. From here, follow the yellow trail toward Avalanche Lake and the Lake Colden Interior Outpost. The trail from Marcy Dam to Avalanche Lake is a mostly flat grade with only a few sections of moderate incline. Along the way, you will hike through Avalanche Pass where you are surrounded by downed trees and sheer cliffs as you make your way toward Avalanche Lake.
One you arrive at Avalanche Lake the fun starts – here you will hike along, what I feel, is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Adirondacks. Here the trail turns more rugged and hugs the west side of the lake. This section is lined with large boulders, ladders and catwalks bolted into the cliffs. These catwalks are known as the "Hitch-up Matildas." It is said that they were named the Hitch-up Matildas after a guide that was carrying a young woman named Matilda through the Pass and as the water became deeper, Matilda was instructed to "hitch-up" in order to stay dry.
The summit of Mt. Colden is visible along the trail, as well as incredible views of the Trap Dike (a steep and exposed mountaineering route to summit Mt. Colden that requires some level of rock climbing skill). Before you know it you will come to the end of Avalanche Lake and continue along the yellow marked trail toward Lake Colden. Hiking along the lake for a brief period, you will then start your steep climb to the summit. From here you will gain nearly 2000 feet of elevation in 1.4 miles. The climb is strenuous with multiple sections of exposed roots and scrambles. Much of this section is eroded/open rock trail that has a nice grip even when wet. Although the climb seems unrelenting, the grade does ease off as you approach the alpine zone. Here you will come out of the tree line and are greeted with incredible views of Lake Colden, the flowed lands and the surrounding High Peaks.
Once above the tree line you will proceed to the 4,714-foot summit of Mt. Colden. Although the actual summit is treed on much of its east side, there are magnificent views of the MacIntyre Range to the west. After taking a break on the summit, you will start your descent toward the false summit and on to Lake Arnold. Once you reach Lake Arnold you will take a left to follow blue marked trail down to the yellow marked Avalanche Lake trail. This section of trail is rocky and drops at a consistent grade as you make your way to the intersection. Once you have reached the intersection, you will have come full circle on your loop hike. From here you will take a right and after a short and mostly flat walk, you will return Marcy Dam to start your final section of trail back to the Adirondack Loj parking lot. After a full day of 14.8 miles and around 3000 feet of elevation gain, you will arrive back at your car.