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Giant Mountain Wilderness Area

State Land Master Plan February 2014 Description

This area lies in Essex County, in the Towns of Elizabethtown and Keene, and is roughly bounded by Route 9N on the north; by Route 73 on the west and south; and Route 9 on the east.

During 1903, one of the major forest fires of the Adirondacks swept over the
greater part of this area, burning the topsoil down to bare rock and leaving the two dominant mountains of this area, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge, practically bald. A few pockets on the lower slopes escaped the intense burn and are easily distinguishable as they now contain old growth white pine and hemlock stands with some mixed hardwoods.

The topography of the area is steep and rocky with a considerable number of vertical or near vertical cliffs. A number of landslides have occurred on the west side of Giant Mountain, exposing bare rock. Numerous small brooks cascade down from the upper slopes.

The tops of the higher mountains are still bare rock but aspen, white birch, balsam and spruce are slowly filling in the upper slopes.

From the eastern boundary of Route 9, a few miles south of Elizabethtown, to the top of Giant Mountain, the elevation changes about 4,000 feet in a horizontal distance of approximately six (6) miles. This represents the greatest differential in elevation per horizontal mile of any Wilderness area in the Park.

Because of the great difference in temperatures and soil conditions between these two elevations, the forest cover type ranges from stunted spruce, balsam and white birch near the mountain tops, to excellent quality oak, maple, basswood and white ash at the lower elevations. There are also some excellent stands of hemlock on the Keene Valley side near the AuSable River.

Two of the three small ponds are rather unique because of their location and attractiveness. Giant's Washbowl lies in a small depression near the 2,300 foot level on the lower south slope
of Giant Mountain and has a surface area of slightly over five acres. A lovely little tarn near the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, known as Lake Marie Louise, is reminiscent of the subalpine lakes of the western United States. The sharp col between Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge, referred to as Gusty Gap, is another attractive feature of the area.

Many small brooks cascade down from the upper slopes. One in particular, Roaring Brook, has a scenic waterfall and can be seen from Route 73, about one mile north of Chapel Pond. A number of similar brooks in the area provide scenic spots as well as trout fishing pools.

The primary users of the area are hikers who frequent it during all seasons of the year to enjoy the excellent views from numerous vantage points on the tops and sides of the mountains. Hunters also make considerable use of the area.

Access to the State lands around the perimeter is excellent, with trailheads available on each of the four sides.

A 2002 addition to the area in the Town of Keene created a 1.25 acre inholding with an access road.

A Unit Management Plan was adopted for this area in 2004.

Mapping Resources:
(Not from the State Land Master Plan or Unit Management Plans)

Recreational Opportunities Map

View larger map with additional options

Soils and Wetlands

View larger map with additional options




Giant Mountain area statistics:

State Lands 23,528 Acres
Private Inholdings (1) 1.25 Acres
Bodies of Water (3) 7 Acres
  (minimum) 580 Feet
  (maximum) 4,627 Feet
Foot Trails 33 Miles
Lean‑tos 1
Non‑conforming Uses:  
0.23 Miles of Private Road


DEC Unit Management Plan Link


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