Getting to Marcy Dam
The Adirondac Loj vs South Meadow
Turn South Onto Adirondac Loj Road
Heading East on Rt. 73: It's the right before the Ski Jumps
Heading West on Rt. 73: It's a left turn after a big left curve past the Olympic Center at Mt. Van Hoevenbergan Hoevenberg. If you see the Ski jumps you have gone to far.
For the Adirondac Loj: Go Straight, the road ends 4.8 miles at the Adirondac Loj
For South Meadow: About 3.8 miles make a left on to a dirt road. There are trail signs. At the end of the road there is a parking lot. There are many parking spots before the lot where you can park and camp. The road forks, the right fork is gated. Park and Walk a short distance on the Right fork to the start of the truck trail.
Marcy Dam is 2.8 mile from South Meadow and 2.4 miles from Adirondac Loj. Both trails aren't flat and have their ups & downs.
The Pluses of South Meadow & The Truck Trail
Note: Even though it's called a truck trail, you can't drive on it; It is gated. Only in an emergency will vehicles use it. It is a dirt road through the woods and little of the "Wilderness Experience" will be lost.
Camping: There are plenty of camping spots at South Meadow. You can pull up in the evening and pitch a tent and leave in the morning. There are less at the Adirondac Loj and you need a reservation. And if you are worried about being harassed by park rangers unlike the Loj there are none at south meadow.
It's Free: There is no cost at south Meadow to park or to Camp. Adirondac Loj is $7 a day to park and more to camp.
* Before I get any Nasty E-mails on this one. I will say the Money that the ADK Collects does go to good causes, they do many good projects to improve the trails and mountain conditions and etc.
It's less crowded: Along with the Marcy Dam trail there are three other popular trails at the Loj Parking or camping could be limited.
It's a easier Walk: Even though Marcy Dam is farther from South Meadow, The Truck trail is an easier walk and can be hiked in nearly the same time as the Loj trail. There is no mud and no rock hoping across streams. It is a smooth dirt road and it's easier to keep a good pace.
It can be hiked at night: It's so easy to follow you can easily hike it at night. With the Moon out you don't even need a flashlight. Good for getting a head start to marcy dam the night before or getting out (i.e. If your hike took longer then you thought) after dark. I wouldn't recommend hiking the Loj trail at night.
The Pluses of Adirondac Loj
It's Closer: It may not seem like much at the start of your hike, but coming back from a long hike the extra bit of hiking on the Truck trail may seem like a lot.
The Road: To Adirondac Loj is Paved. The dirt road to South Meadow is very bumpy and has many large pot holes. And the road to South Meadow is not plowed in Winter (People driving to it leave "tracks" you can follow.) If you have a low riding car you might want to avoid South Meadow.
Theft: Even though it is Very, Very rare, theft from vehicles has been known to happen (I never heard of a whole car being stolen). If you are worried about leaving your car behind while you are in the woods for hours or days the Adirondac loj with the ranger station and bigger crowds is a bigger deterrent to thieves. At either place (or any trailhead) you should never leave valuables in your car.
Hunters: The first mile of the Adirondac Loj trail is on private ADK land (The truck trail is all on state land) and they prohibit hunting on their land while South Meadow is a heavily hunted area and recently (2002) a hunter shot someone there he mistaked for a deer so you definately want to avoid South Meadow during hunting season. Note as a group Hunters are not exactly known as ones who respect private property so they could end up at the Adirondac Loj but the popularity and the ranger station near by should be a deterrent to them.
Camping at Marcy Dam
There are 5 lean-tos and many camping spots at Marcy Dam. They are on a first come first serve basis (there is no fee). It is Always very crowded on weekends and Holidays. There is a ranger station there but other than that you are on your own. And bears have been a problem so hang your food up. You are looking at Mt. Colden to the south across the pond from the bridge and Wright Peak across from the East Shore.