Ampersand Mountain's open summit provides breathtaking 360-degree views, but you'll have to work for it. The first half of the trail is fairly easy, but once it starts going up it's relentlessly steep until the top. Give yourself plenty of time to complete this hike, especially if you aren't an avid hiker.
- Distance: 2.7 miles to the summit
- Elevation: 3,353 feet
- Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet
From downtown Saranac Lake, turn right onto Route 3, heading west. The parking area is on the right after about 8 miles. The trailhead is across the road on the left— be very careful crossing the main highway.
From the parking area, carefully cross Route 3 to get to the trailhead. The path descends slightly to a brook crossing before starting an easy hike that gently rolls up and down through a mature forest. At 0.8 mile there is a long boardwalk across a wet section; soon after that the trail begins a slow ascent, then it gets steeper as it approaches the location of the old fire observer’s cabin, on the right at 1.7 miles — rubble is all that remains of the building.
Past the cabin site, the grade increases and eventually becomes very steep as it reaches a stone staircase, which was built to alleviate the heavy erosion caused by water runoff and heavy foot traffic. The trail remains rocky from this point on. Take note that footing can be slippery along this stretch, especially during wet weather.
The path reaches a ridge and levels out at 2.4 miles, and soon after that it enters a spectacular section with enormous, jumbled boulders the size of small houses. Take a few minutes to explore the narrow passageways here, then swing right to climb over open rock to the summit at 2.7 miles.
Ampersand Mountain in winter
This is a challenging snowshoe to a fantastic view. Snowshoes are necessary to avoid post-holing through the snowpack, and snow spikes are required to ascend the mountain's steeper sections. Extra layers of non-cotton clothing, a windbreaker, emergency blanket, first-aid kit, headlamp with extra batteries, and plenty of food and water are essential items for any winter excursion. The extra layers and windbreaker are especially important on the exposed summit, which will be much colder than the lower sections of the mountain. Start early and set aside an entire day to complete this hike in the winter.