View from the top of Algonquin.
Doug Haney takes on a steep section near the summit of Algonquin.
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Algonquin Peak is one of the most popular summertime hikes in the Adirondack High Peaks, but it’s difficulty is often underestimated.

On the map, the state’s second highest peak looks like a shorter alternative for those who arrived at the trailhead at Adirondack Loj, just outside Lake Placid, with plans to hike Mount Marcy — just over 4 miles one-way versus 7.4 miles.

The distance may be shorter, but the elevation gain is comparable to the trip up Marcy (roughly 3,000 feet), which means it’s steeper. The last mile in particular, from the junction with the spur trail to Wright Peak, is one of the steepest sections of trail in the Adirondacks, and includes a long stretch of open rock slabs that can leave even the fittest hiker’s calves burning.

In fact, most of trail above McIntyre Falls (2.6 miles in) is rock, largely because the soil has slowly eroded due to years and years of use by hikers and backpackers. Adirondack Mountain Club trail crews have been working this season, as in years past, to try and prevent additional erosion by building rock staircases and setting wooden waterbars across the trail.

Nevertheless, the rocky trail forces you to keep your eyes on your feet, and sturdy footwear is recommended.

The weather is one other factor to consider in planning a trip up Algonquin. It may be partly sunny and 75 degrees at the trailhead, but mountain weather can change rapidly. It could be cold, rainy and windy by the time you break out above treeline. It’s also best to avoid the summit during a thunderstorm because of the threat of lightning strikes.

Those disclaimers aside, the hike up Algonquin from Adirondack Loj is one of the most spectacular trips in the Adirondacks.

That was the case when my friend Doug Haney and I took advantage of a warm, clear day and were treated to 360-degree views from Algonquin’s summit, despite a band of haze along the horizon.

The view of the rockslide-scarred western face of Mount Colden, with Mount Marcy towering behind it, the jagged rock wall that gives Wallface Mountain its name, and the placid waters of Lake Colden and Flowed Land nestled at the base of the McIntyre Range made all the huffing and puffing up the trail worth the effort.