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Trap Dike Falls – Lake Placid

Trap Dike Falls

If you have already made the effort to get to Avalanche Pass, why not continue then on the yellow-blazed trail until you reach the west side of Avalanche Lake, a body of water named by William C. Redfield (a meteorologist who participated in the first recorded ascent of Mount Marcy and for whom Mount Redfield is named after). The hike along Avalanche Lake is an adventurous one, where ladders and bridges take you across open spaces and around boulders. There is even a section of the trail first built in the 1920s and then refashioned by ENCON in 1976 called “Hitch-up Matilda” where a long, planked boardwalk is bolted to the cliff face, allowing you to continue south without having to wade through waist-deep water. The hike through Avalanche Pass is described in Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peaks Region (edited by Tony Goodwin) as “probably the most spectacular route in the Adirondacks.”

At 2.5 miles from Marcy Dam, mid-way along the west side of Avalanche Lake, look up across the lake towards its southeast corner. You will see a colossal rent —a wide gash that stretches hundreds and hundreds of feet up the northwest side of Mount Colden (4,714’), a mountain named after David C. Colden who was involved with the McIntyre Iron Works. The huge rent is called the Trap Dike, which Jerome Wyckoff described in his 1967 booklet, The Adirondack Landscape, as “The most famous of all Adirondack dikes… the garnet-bearing mass of meta-gabbro marked by the great cleft in Mount Colden…” The dike was first observed by Ebenezer Emmons in 1836. Although no marked trail leads up through this enormous vertical cleft that, to me, looks like a rock-filled chasm stood on its end, people do consistently use the Trap Dike to ascend to the top of Mount Colden, emulating Robert Clarke and Alexander Ralph who made the first recorded ascent in 1850.

Whether the trek up the Trap Dike constitutes a hike or an actual climb continues to be a matter of some debate. Regardless, it can be a dangerous, even potentially deadly climb due to the amount of exposure in some areas. In his 2008 book, At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York’s Adirondacks, Peter Bronski narrates the incident of a young woman who fell to her death while climbing with four friends. I suspect that this is not an isolated incident.

The reason why I bring the Trap Dike to your attention is that a stream goes down through it, producing an upper and a lower cascade; all which can be seen from the west side of the lake, particularly early in the spring when considerable water is flowing down. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars along to improve the view.

For those who wish to get closer, follow the yellow-blazed trail to the south end of the lake and then bushwhack north on a herd path along the shoreline until you reach the base of the Trap Dike where huge jumbles of rock rubble have collected [~44°07.903’N 73°58.053’W]. Although the overall view of the Trap Dike is not greatly improved, you may get a greater sense of intimacy with this geological phenomenon that contains one of the most unique waterfalls in the Adirondacks. – Russell Dunn

Closest Geolocated Address: Algonquin Peak Trail, Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
Location Lat/Long: 44.131721

Trap Dike Falls – Lake Placid

Algonquin Peak Trail, Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA

NOTE: Get Directions uses Geolocator for closest known address. Double check directions prior to the start of your journey.

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