Check out this hike to Indian Head and Rainbow Falls in the Adirondack High Peaks Region for some of the best views of the park. Known for its autumn colors, this view is no less fascinating with a cover of snow in winter.
History of the Ausable Club
The trailhead for this hike is located at the famous Ausable Club, a privately owned seasonal club.
The club was founded in 1886 when it became public that a timber company that owned 25,000 acres of land would begin removing trees for lumber.
The founding members secured funds to purchase the land from the timber company by forming a corporation called the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). The land sat directly behind the Beede's Hotel, a famous hotel catering to wealthy summer guests looking to escape the city.
In 1890 the members of the AMR made plans to purchase the hotel but before the deal closed the hotel burned down. The members then purchased the land and built a new hotel which is the clubhouse that stands on the property today.
The AMR at its peak held over 40,000 acres of land in the region. Today their holdings are at 7,000 after selling off much of the land to the State of New York. The 7,000 acres still holds over 100 miles of trails, several High Peaks, and the Upper and Lower Ausable Lakes.
The hike to Indian Head and Rainbow falls can be done in a variety of ways but typical round trip mileage will be in the 10-12 mile range.
Using Lake Road to get to the Ausable Dam is roughly 3 miles of easy walking on a dirt road.
The AMR does have well-maintained trails through a great section of wilderness crossing rivers and marshes which is my preferred route, see All Trails link below.
This route uses the West River Trail to get to the dam and also passes Beaver Meadow Falls on the way. From the dam it's only a short side cut to Rainbow Falls, a large waterfall cascading from a high cliff.
After Rainbow Falls it's time to climb some elevation to get to Indian Head. The climb begins across the dam off of Lake Road and does about 700 feet of elevation gain over the next mile.
The climb is totally worth it and Indian Head is one of the most iconic vistas in the Adirondacks and the entire northeast.
This massive rock ledge has multiple levels and plenty of spectacular angles to take in the views and snap some fun pictures. Autumn has become something of an Instagram sensation with this area having some of the best fall colors.
Above the lake you also have perfect views of some of the High Peaks. Looking outwards to your right is Sawteeth and also Gothics which is pictured below. To your left is the Blake, Colvin, Dial, and Nippletop Range.
If you're looking to combine this with a summit hike, Colvin would be the closest in range. Another great option is to take the scenic route up Sawteeth which has some equally stunning views on the opposite side of the lake.
Getting There and Important Information
The parking lot is located off of Rt. 73, shortly past the Giant Mountain trailhead on Ausable Road (not Ausable Club Road). There are strict parking rules for the lot, road, and along Rt. 73 so be sure to adhere to no parking signs or pay the price.
From the parking lot, it's a half-mile walk up the Ausable Road and veer left once approaching the clubhouse to get to the trailhead register.
Parking on weekends especially in the summer and autumn months fills up quickly and you may be left without a spot if you don't arrive at the break of dawn.
The AMR has certain restrictions on their land including a heavily enforced no dog policy, no hunting policy, and no camping policy. However, for the no camping policy there is public land adjacent to the AMR which has lean-tos and tent sites.
Doing this hike during the winter? It's a requirement to have skis or snowshoes with you while hiking in winter months in the Adirondack backcountry.
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