What Is The 12ster Challenge?

The Lake George 12ster Hiking Challenge.

The Lake George, 12ster Hiking Challenge. This is the 12ster challenge of Lake George, NY. There are three forms of this challenge. There is the common challenge, the winter challenge, and the Ultra Challenge. Located in the Southern Adirondacks is the beautiful town called, Lake George. Here, you can enjoy so many beautiful mountain views.

You can see the summits of mountains shooting up to the sky while enjoying a coffee or cocktail on a patio, walking your dog down the street, or pushing a stroller through Lake George’s Region Park. Dinner with a mountain view? In Lake George, that is easy to find. But here in this article, the people I am about to talk about are usually sipping coffee while covered in dirt and are sitting inside one of those famous mountains about to go on an epic adventure. 

As I tell you about the hiking challenges here, we will hear from some incredible locals who have completed them and are ready to collect their patches. 

The 12ster Challenge:

 A local trail runner, Matthew Haley, created the 12ster hiking challenge in 2016.  One day while he was out on the trails running and searching for some new routes, he came across these undiscovered spots and made them into the 12ster challenge. It was actually soft-launched on August 20th, 2016, when Matthew and one of his buddies completed it. 

The challenge has 12 peaks in the lake George region, which amounts to about 40 miles of trails and 9,000 feet in elevation gain. To become an official 12ster and receive a patch, you must hike 12 of the specified peaks (which I will list below) and submit the registration. There is also a fee of ten dollars for the registration and patch. Anyone can sign up for this; it is actually one of the best challenges to start with if you are a beginner.

 Note: You must go through six peaks as part of the challenge. These peaks are part of the Tongue Mountain Range. These areas are a known habitat for Timber Rattlesnakes. The most giant venomous snakes in NYS. Be cautious. 

The Ultra Challenge

The Ultra challenge is hardcore. Remember the 12 peaks, 40 miles of trails, and the 9,000 feet in elevation we just talked about? To be an Ultra finisher, you must go through all of those in just 24 hours! When you first hit the trails, you have to go to the trail register and sign in as an “Ultra 12ster.” The same goes for when you sign out. Include your finish time on the trail register and provide evidence of it, such as photos, GPS location, and times. 

Winter 12ster Challenge.

 Are you interested in becoming an Ultra 12ster and are a lover of the cold? Or maybe you just  really want to challenge yourself by doing this hike in the winter. The Winter Ultra Challenge might just be the one for you. You will be trekking through snow, going over ice, and being in some pretty harsh weather conditions. You will still summit the same 12 peaks for this challenge, but you must do them on December 21st – March 21st. 

Want to really go all the way with this? You can become a Winter Lake George ULTRA 12ster by doing this in 24 hours during one of the winter months.

– The winter challenge does require a twenty-two dollar fee. (All prices cover the cost of challenge prizes, patches, and stickers.) 

The 12ster is a really great way to not only check out some amazing mountains but explore the beautiful town of Lake George. I spoke with some of the adventurous few and listened to their stories on this fun challenge.

Jake Wilde 

First, I talked with Jacob Wilde. Remember him? In my last article about the Fire Tower Challenge, he was the one that helped write the guidebook. When researching to speak with some outdoor enthusiasts here in the Adirondacks regarding this 12ster challenge, Jake was one of the names that came up first. 


“We are spoiled to grow up in this area of the Adirondacks. The 12ster is an excellent adventure for all experience-level hikers with easy well, marked trails, campsites, hidden waterfalls, hidden ledges with sprawling views, swimming holes, old chimneys and foundations, and wells from early settlers. Also, old carriage roads and revolutionary War history. Heck, you could even stumble across old arrowheads or ax heads from the native Americans that inhabited the area. I did most of these hikes in warmer weather with just a day pack on and with a “sammich” or two in my group of hiking friends, we judge hikes on how many sammiches we’d need to bring… lol…oh that’s a 2 sammich hike for sure or I don’t even know if I’d bring a sammich on that hike (Thomas mountain…20 min hike)” 

Jake told me he did most of these hikes with his buddy Jeremy, but he also did a few with his other hiking partner, his wife. When he is not out hiking the trails solo or with friends, he is with his wife and two boys getting ready to plan their next adventure.

 More than 200 people have earned the badge for the 12ster challenge since it was created in 2016. And I got to speak with two lovely females who checked this challenge off their bucket list. 

Melissa McGonigal

 Adirondack local Melissa and her husband are a hiking team. They do most of their hikes together, and this year, they got to finish the 12ster challenge togther. She tells me what she liked and what she disliked as far as the trek itself.


We started in February when it was pretty cold but did most of it through the summer. My husband and I are both huge wildlife fans, so we were definitely on the lookout for some. We looked for rattlesnakes on the Tongue Range, but unfortunately, we only saw your typical birds and squirrels. As far as what we liked… this challenge really does put you all around the lake. Whenever I went to lake George in the past, I’d always go to where the outlets were. I had no idea the village was so beautiful. I’m thankful that the challenge really took you all over. We also liked the giant windmill on top of black mountain. I didn’t do much research on the hill before hiking it, so while we were hiking up the trail, it sounded like a train or plane was circling around. So once we made it to the top, it was the first summit we’ve been to with that sorta thing. We also really loved the tongue range. It’s beautiful. I just did not appreciate the very long hike back out. And from what I gather from reading other stories that’s a fairly common theme. 

Melissa and her husband are still ready for some more adventures together. While I continued to speak with her after the interview, she asked me if I knew of any more difficult challenges that I could reccomend to her so she could get started. I laughed and thought to myself, “ I like a woman that is always ready for a new adventure!” 

Ashley Pasco 

When I first spoke with Ashley, she was getting a frozen skating rinkready to put in her yard for her family. She used to play ice hockey, and she is now ready to get her family on the rink! You can keep up with her latest hiking adventures on her Facebook page. When I asked her to tell me about her time on the 12ster challenge, and this is what she told me: 

Ashley:“The feeling I had during my last hike of the challenge was, “hell yes, finally” I’ve made unforgettable memories on these summits especially Sleeping Beauty Mountain, where I watched the comet Neowise with my son and hiked it with my daughter. Buck Mountain trail was with friends, and we also climbed during a sunset and with some wintery weather mixed in there. I honestly forgot about the challenge. Erebus Mountain was never a “gotta get there” mountain, so it was always on the back burner. My least fav hike, I don’t have one, but if you made me choose, it would be Erebus; nothing is exciting about it but anytime in the woods is a good time for me! My favorite hike. I enjoyed them all, really; they all hold so many amazing memories. It’s hard to choose because I have done all of those mountains multiple times.

My hometown is full of outdoor enthusiasts, and I enjoy getting to know them. I think I can speak for most of us who live here when I say that we are so lucky to live in a place where beauty and adventure are all around us, whether you hike, bike, ski, or just like to sit on your back porch and watch the sunrise. With 2,000 miles of hiking trails, 3,000 lakes and ponds, and a park that covers 2.6 million acres of land, you will never get tired of the outdoors.

Here is a list of the 12 peaks that you must complete in the challenge: 

  1. Black Mountain –  2640 feet in elevation
  2. Erebus Mountain – 2527 feet in elevation
  3. Buck Mountain – 2334 feet in elevation
  4. Fivemile Mountain – 2256 feet in elevation
  5. Sleeping Beauty – 2242 feet in elevation
  6. Huckleberry Mountain – 2232 feet in elevation
  7. Thomas Mountain – 2031 feet in elevation
  8. Brown Mountain – 1966
  9. Cat Mountain – 1956
  10. Fifth Peak – 1813 feet in elevation
  11. French Point Mountain – 1756
  12. First Peak – 1586 feet in elevation

Only 50 people have completed the Ultra Challenge in this community. I’m on the hunt to find some of them and hear about their experiences to share with you. Stay tuned my fellow readers, and get out there to find your next big adventure.