After hiking throughout the Northeast on standard hiking trails, I was craving a little bit more excitement for my weekend outings. I wanted hikes that added a little adrenaline without being dangerous to the point where technical rock climbing gear and skills were always necessary. That’s where rock scrambles are the perfect fit. For experienced hikers in good physical shape seeking something a little different for their next challenge, look no further than these epic scrambles in the Northeast.
I’ve organized this list of scrambles based on my own opinion of their difficulty and risk. Keep in mind that even the scrambles in the “beginner” category are no joke, and hikers attempting them should be prepared for steep, rugged terrain and potentially dangerous hiking. Introductory level scrambles are expert level hikes.
My write-ups for each scramble definitely won’t provide all of the info you’ll need to plan your trip, rather, they are meant to give you an idea of which ones are worth researching further using the links I’ve included in the “more info” section included with each route.
I’d like to continue adding to this page, so if you have any suggestions for routes to add, please leave a comment below!
North Slide of Mt. Tripyramid, NH – 2 Stars
This trail brings you to the top of Mt. Tripyramid by means of scrambling up the path of an old landslide, where you’ll be fighting your way up and over loose scree and crawling up exposed slabs. A good introduction to scramble hiking, but the approach is horrendous along a boring dirt road. You may consider bringing a bike for the approach and leaving it in the woods until you come back. I’ve given this one 2 stars because of the boring approach and sub-par views at the summit. This hike can be fun in the winter, but you’ll need to have, and know how to safely use, crampons (real crampons, not microspikes) and an ice axe, as well as being aware of a potential avalanche danger. (You’re hiking up a landslide, after all.)
Breakneck Ridge Trail – NY – 3 Stars
An extremely popular (crowded) trail in the Hudson River Valley area of NY that brings you straight up Breakneck Ridge to beautiful views of the Hudson River. This is a short trail that can be done alone, or used as the start to a longer loop that includes the fire tower on Mt. Beacon. This is an exciting hike and very accessible (thus the crowds).
Huntington Ravine Trail – Mt. Washington, NH – 4 Stars
The best introductory rock scramble trail, in my opinion, is the Huntington Ravine Trail of Mt. Washington. This steep and exciting route climbs straight up through the Huntington Ravine, with incredible views the entire way up. This trail is not only the perfect introduction to rock scramble hiking, but it’s also a great route for those who have already hiked Mt. Washington before. When I first hiked Washington using this trail, I had already hiked the mountain 6 times from other routes, and this trail made me feel like I was climbing an entirely new mountain. Due to the fact that this trail turns into an ice climbing route in the winter and early spring, this is a summer to early fall only hiking route, and it should not be climbed during inclement weather. It is also very rare to see people descending on this route due to the added danger of down climbing the steepest sections. Most people will summit, and then descend on either the Lions Head Trail or Tuckerman Ravine Trail back to the Pinkham Notch parking lot. This trail is a bit more serious than the other scrambles in the beginner category, but still suitable for the first time rock scrambler provided you’re in good shape and take extra care on the steepest sections.
The Knife Edge Trail – Mt. Katahdin, ME – 5 Stars
Though there isn’t a ton of actual scrambling on this trail, I’m including it here because it’s so unique and has the same adrenaline inducing effect. This trail follows the extremely narrow and rocky ridge that connects the summit of Mt. Katahdin with Pamola Peak. At certain points you’re walking along the top of a 4ft wide rock fin with the ground vanishing on either side of you. This is one of the most incredible sections of trail that I’ve ever hiked, and I will never get tired of hiking along this trail. My personal recommendation is using this trail as part of a loop to summit Katahdin. Start at the Roaring Brook Campground trailhead, summiting Pamola, traversing the Knife Edge, Summiting Katahdin, and descending the Chimney Tops trail to Chimney pond and then back to the Roaring Brook parking lot. This is a long, but amazing loop. Make sure to do your research before setting out for this hike, Baxter State park has strict permit policies for hiking seen nowhere else in the Northeast.
The Beehive – Acadia National Park, ME – 2 Stars
The Beehive is a short but exciting hike in Acadia National Park. Metal ladder rungs have been drilled into the rock in the steepest sections, so it’s not too challenging, but still a fun and unique hike with great views that make it well worth doing if you’re in Acadia.
The Precipice – Acadia National Park, ME – 2 Stars
One step up from The Beehive is The Precipice. Similar in the sense that there are metal ladder rungs, the Precipice is even more exposed and exciting. The exposure and views to the ocean make this one well worth doing, but you’ll only be able to hike it from late summer to fall, as it’s usually closed from March 15 to August 15 for Peregrine Falcon Nesting.
The Trap Dike, Mt. Colden, Adirondacks, NY – 5 Stars
Perhaps the most famous and classic scramble hike in the Northeast is the Trap Dike of Mt. Colden. This isn’t actually an official trail, so don’t go looking for trail markers, but it’s a very popular route and you can’t miss the massive gash in the side of the mountain that forms the dike. This trail is a class 4 rock route, and it’s definitely not suitable for beginners, with certain sections essentially being unroped easy rock climbing, with deadly consequences if you were to fall. This trail is not safe during inclement weather, or even after a recent rain, because the trail climbs past multiple waterfalls that make the riskiest sections of this trail even worse if it’s wet. This route is the definition of a 5 star scramble, from the exciting climb up the dike to the wide open views you gain making your way up the slab to the summit. Definitely do your research on this one before setting out to hike it, but once you do it, you’ll remember it forever.
Expert Level Rock Scrambles
*The routes in this section are for EXPERTS ONLY. Essentially, these are for rock climbers that want a rest day for their arms. When I climbed these routes, I wore rock climbing shoes, and had rock climbing equipment in my backpack ready to use in case it was needed. These routes aren’t really scrambling anymore so much as they are climbing, as they often feature easy 5th class sections. (If you don’t know what that means, you’re not ready for these routes yet!)*
The Cruciflyer, Little Colden, Adirondacks, NY. – 4 Stars
A little known and rarely climbed route that ascends Mt. Colden’s neighbor, Little Colden. The approach is easy, with the start only 50ft off the trail through Avalanche Pass, and this would easily be a 5 star route except that there isn’t really any good way to descend besides bushwhacking for an hour to the trail that runs over little Colden, unless you just down climb the whole thing, but that seems a little silly to me, personally. If you’re interested in this route, read my post specifically dedicated to this route, here.