These three peaks are the some of the more remote in the High Peaks. No official trails lead to their summits; it's all herd paths here. The three mountains are: Couchsachraga, (46th highest at 3820 ft.), Panther Peak, (18th highest at 4442 ft.), and Santanoni Peak (14th highest at 4607 ft.). Technically, Couchsachraga, is not one of the 46 highest peaks in NY, because it is under the 4000 foot requirement, but due to an early measuring mistake, it is still required to do to become a 46er. It's tradition! "Couchsachraga" is based on an Algonquin or Huron name for the area, meaning "dismal wilderness". It is known for swampy trails, so pick the right boots and stay on the herd path.
From I-87, take exit 29 and follow the Blue Ridge Road (CR84) toward Newcomb. Continue for roughly 18-miles to the Tahawus Road (CR25) on the right. Follow this road 6.3 miles to a left marked by a sign for Mt. Marcy and the High Peaks. At 2.0 miles from this junction there is a parking lot on the left for the Santanoni Range.
Hikers can enjoy a loop option when hiking this range or out-and-back; either way, it's a challenging hike over rugged terrain, but with spectacular views and tremendous rewards. We recommend purchasing a map and guide book before setting out on this hike. There are no trail markers for much of this trip; navigation by map and compass will be useful, but there is a herd path that traverses the range.
We'll start with what's known as the Santanoni Express Route. From the parking area this route follows a gravel road that leads to a private hunting camp. After 1.8 miles, a sharp and somewhat obscure right leads you along a foot trail. The first bridge is out and you will need to ford the branch of Santanoni Brook. The second bridge is in poor shape but can still be crossed. Be very careful as it is slippery and quite high off the ground. The handrail is missing and the stairs on the opposite side up the steep embankment are slightly angled and equally as slippery. This trail has been notorious for being the wettest trail in the Adirondacks and for good reason. However, work is in progress to remedy this. Several small re-routed sections have been developed, wet areas closed off, and stringers have been laid out for easier passage. There is still much work to be done, but this is a wonderful start. At 3.4 miles from the parking area, the trail comes close to the brook and some beautiful cascades. Just beyond the trail flattens out and there is a cairn at the end of the flat area marking this spot where the herd path begins on the left. A tiny way in there is a crossing of Santanoni Brook which can be complicated in wet weather. Past this point you will come to a beaver area where a re-routed path to the left has alleviated much of the wet situations. From here it gets a bit steeper and then very steep over eroded terrain. As you ascent higher, the steeper it seems to get and more eroded under foot. You will pop out on the ridge just north of the summit of Santanoni. On the ridge you will meet a T-intersection which is the ridge trail explained below. Take a left here and hike moderately for about 0.1 miles to the summit. Path right leads to Times Square and Panther Peak.
After leaving Santanoni, you'll arrive at Times Square, an affectionate name for the intersection with the herd path to Couchsachraga. Turning left on the Couchsachraga path, follow the herd path that consistently descends for quite some time to a shallow col. The descent isn’t too steep but it is long and you will lose a bunch of elevation that you will need to climb to get back to Times Square. There is one steep drop over a small ledge that brings you to the "Couchy Swamp." Caution: in long periods of rain, crossing this can be muddy. The climb on the opposite side is very mellow up to the final pitch that is steep and short. Once on the summit, you'll have to turn around and retrace your steps back to Times Square.
Once back at Times Square, continue down the herd path to Herald Square. This is where the trail to Panther Peak branches off. The views from Panther Peak are simply stunning and the summit is just a few minutes from the herd path (probably 15-20 minutes for the average hiker). From Herald Square, the trail to Panther goes right for 0.4 miles to Panther's summit.
From Panther, hikers can descend the way they came (up the Santanoni Express) or via Bradley Pond. A herd path will bring you just over a mile from where the Express branched off the main trail. From here, it's a easy walk back to the car.
For those who are working on their Winter 46, there is not too much different during the colder months. Due to terrain steepness, the trail may be icy, so snowshoes, microspikes, or crampons are highly recommended. Snowshoes are required when there is 12 or more inches of snow. This route would probably not make for a good ski due to terrain. Parking should not be an issue in the winter.
Camping is available in a lean-to at Bradley Pond on a first come, first serve basis. Camping between 3,500 feet and 4,000 feet is limited to designated campsites. Camping above 4,000 feet is prohibited.