To the east is Death Mountain. South of that is Slip Mountain. North of that is Bluff Mountain. So slip off bluff and find death.
Furthermore, without any official trail, and off any main road, these peaks are far off the radar. But after a visit last weekend — free of slips or deaths — I am proud to report that the Jay Mountain Wilderness is not only a lot more user-friendly than one might assume from its blank space on the map, but also that it’s well worth the visit.
To reach the trailhead — yes, there is one, though it’s unmarked — we drove through Keene Valley, passing hundreds of cars. Hikers were here by the flockload, it seemed, eager to take advantage of a sunny Saturday during fall color peak.
We passed these overflowing parking lots and headed north on Route 9N. Before reaching Upper Jay, we made a right turn on Trumbulls Road, which we took to Glen Road. Glen becomes Jay Mountain Road, which we took just past Upland Meadows Road. On the left, about 3.3 miles from Route 9N, is an unmarked trailhead with a red stake in the ground. When we arrived, it was easy to find — there was a big group of Canadians ready to start hiking. Apparently the secret is out.
It’s a round-trip of about seven miles, with a steep ascent at first and a total vertical gain of nearly 2,000 feet.
Since it’s a short trip, there’s no reason to rush and plenty to take your time. Once we reached the first peak in a series of rocky ridges, we could see that much of the trail went along bare, jagged rock. There were views a plenty, and fun cracks for the more daring hikers to scramble up while those less fleet-footed could take the easy way around. To the south, the High Peaks bore a bright plumage of orange, yellows and reds.
One part of the ridge even displayed that most rare of summit species — rock people. Some clever hikers built an Adam and Eve, made of rocks, lying prone along the ridge. Anatomically correct, too.
It was a brisk day, with more clouds than sun, but we took our time, savoring the view on each of the many ridges we ascended. For those who would like a more challenging adventure, plenty of nearby peaks are available to bushwhack. The more superstitious might want to take a pass on Death Mountain.