A quick trip to the Washbowl
The Roaring Brook trailhead for Giant Mountain is often packed full, but for good reason. From there, a number of pleasant hikes begin, including up the 12th-highest mountain in New York, the top of Roaring Brook Falls and the lone named pond in the wilderness area, Giant Washbowl.
During weekends, the parking lot at Roaring Brook is mostly full, but there’s parking across state Route 73 on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve property. Weekdays also tend to be quieter in terms of visitors.
While the hike up Giant is an unrelenting climb for well over 3 miles, a moderate hike to the Washbowl offers the chance to see a high-elevation pond while not having to endure a leg-burning climb.
From the trailhead, the first 500 feet are flat before the trail splits. Going straight will take you to the base of Roaring Brook Falls, while going left offers a few options.
From this point, the trail begins to climb, following red state Department of Environmental Conservation trail markers. At a little over the half-mile mark, there’s a campsite and short trail to the top of Roaring Brook Falls. In the last few years, people have died at both the top and bottom of the falls, so despite the short hike and picturesque views, the areas around the falls should be approached with caution.
Turning left at the campsite, the trail continues to climb until it crosses the upper reaches of Roaring Brook. In very late August, this was an easy crossing with no need to get your feet wet, but earlier in the year it may require a bit of rock hopping.
After crossing the stream, the trail reaches another junction at 1.1 miles. Left will take you up Giant, while going straight leads to both Giant Washbowl and Nubble. From here, the trail follows yellow markers for about 0.15 miles to yet another junction.
From here, going left goes up to the Nubble, a small shoulder of Giant mountain that offers views of the High Peaks, the Washbowl and of Giant itself. Going right, the trail continues to climb for a bit, but then levels out and begins to descend toward the pond.
From the junction at Roaring Brook, the pond first comes into view at just over 0.8 miles, and a small sandy area at the far end of the pond is reached at right about a mile, making the hike from the Roaring Brook parking area to the far end of the pond about 2.1 miles. While much of it is climbing, it’s really only the first mile that is merciless and the second half of the hike is far more moderate.
The pond is remarkably scenic, dotted by lily pads and with a large sheer cliff at one end. According to the DEC, there are fish in the pond, but native species have been wiped out by non-natives.
“Survey data is available for one pond in the GMWC, Giant Washbowl. The two other ponds are smaller than one acre each and probably support minimal, or no, fishery resources,” the DEC’s unit management plan for the area says. “Two known nonnative fishes, golden shiners and fathead minnows, are present in Giant Washbowl. Thus, even this relatively high elevation pond, isolated from roads and other waterbodies, did not escape the massive fish introductions by humans described above for the Adirondacks in general.
“Giant Washbowl was first netted in 1960. At that time brook trout were netted, and golden shiners and creek chubs were observed. The observation of golden shiners indicates a known
nonnative was present at the time of the first survey. By the time of the next survey, 1984, white suckers, northern redbelly dace, and fathead minnows were collected in addition to the previously reported species (brook trout, golden shiners, and creek chubs). White suckers are very vulnerable to gill netting, so the failure to collect them in the 1960 netting indicates they were introduced after that date.”
The DEC last stocked the Washbowl with brook trout in 2016, when it put in about 200 2.7-inch fish. It was stocked with a similar amount and size of brook trout in 2014 and 2015 as well.
In the early summer of 1963, the area around Roaring Brook Falls and Giant Washbowl changed dramatically after a massive dump of rain one afternoon.
According to a 2013 Adirondack Almanack article, as much as six inches of rain fell in and around the summit of Giant, and the effects were felt well below the mountain.
At that time, Roaring Brook Falls, which are clearly visible from state Route 73 now, was shrouded by trees, but the mass of trees, boulders, earth and water opened the view up to the one we now know.
While the storm opened up new slides high up on Giant, the landslide also closed and damaged about 4 miles of Route 73. Even though the landslides closed the road on June 29, the road was reopened before the Fourth of July Fourth, according to a news brief in the July 5, 1963 Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Chapel Pond trailhead
There is another route to the Washbowl that is shorter, and with the crunch of parking at Roaring Brook, the trail from Chapel Pond could be a better choice on some days.
According to the DEC, the Washbowl is just 0.7 miles from the Zander Scott trailhead near Chapel Pond.