We started hiking around 10:30am on Friday. The weather was clear and comfortable, somewhere in the 70's. I was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, hiking boots, and brought a hat in case it rained.
The trail itself is 4.8 miles round-trip from the trail-head, which is right off Route 73. Cascade Mountain is 4098 feet above sea level but the ascent from the trail-head is only around 1950 feet. It took us probably 4-5 hours to get back to the car. The side of the road was lined with the cars of hikers, and we passed and were passed by many people.
From the beginning, I could tell it was going to be challenging (despite the fact that Cascade is the 36th highest peak of the 46). The trail slowly steepened until all we could see were steps made of random stones and rocks leading upward. There were 10 of us, all with varying conditioning levels, so numerous stops were made. This continued for quite awhile, until the treeline slowly changed to evergreens. At this point, the group of 10 had split into several smaller groups based on ability. I was keeping up with the front group and felt good about that, being the fastest big guy and not having seriously hiked in several years.
We eventually reached a peak, which was a welcome break. From there, you could see a great view of the surrounding mountains, which many other hikers had stopped to enjoy. My group decided to wait a bit for the rest of the group. I took that opportunity to get a head start on the summit. Further up, the trail splits: Left to continue to Cascade, right to Porter Mountain. A few 10ths of a mile further I came upon a large stretch of rock face. Thinking this was the summit, I raced to the top only to find that the real summit was a quarter mile further. At this point, there were no trees and hardly any brush along the trail. Just rock.
I climbed and hiked to the summit, taking my time. From the top you could see an incredible 360 degree view of the mountain range. I thought I spotted Mt. Marcy and Algonquin. Because it was so clear, you could probably see 60 miles in any direction. There were many other hikers lounging about at the summit, so I found a convenient chair built into the rocks and took a nap waiting for the rest of the group.
All but 1 made it to the summit from the group, and I only waited about 30 minutes for everyone else to arrive. We took some group pictures, ate some snacks, re-hydrated and began our descent. Half the group took the other fork towards Porter Mountain while the rest of us returned to the cars to make sandwiches (note: bring sandwiches WITH you).
The trail down was quicker, but more stressful on the knees. I highly recommend use of hiking poles, my knees hurt for days afterwords without them.
I highly recommend this one as a good intro to the region. Though it is fairly taxing to climb, the trail really isn't that long for a great payoff.
Ascending the rocks...
always more rocks...
The small rock-slide rest area before the trail splits
Other side of the summit
Relaxing at the top