This is a kick-ass (and ass-kicking) hike.
Oh, you want pictures?
Once again, this hike starts out from the Ausable Club property. We seem to be spending a lot of time there lately. This is a loop hike that takes you up a long and steep ascent over Bear Den Mt., up Dial, over to Nippletop, and down a shorter and steeper descent through Elk Pass. It’s a really varied and interesting hike that wanders through new growth forest, up and over two summits with fantastic views, and past a sun-dappled pond and numerous waterfalls. At 14 miles it’s a long and strenuous day hike, but it’s worth every step.
Unfortunately, there’s also a decent amount of roadwalking involved in this hike – a little more than a mile at the start of the loop, and just over 3 miles at the end. The road begins just after the AMR gate on the Ausable Club grounds.
Once you enter the woods, the trail gets right down to business, climbing pretty steeply for about a mile. After you cross over into state land, the trail levels out and winds through an interesting section of fire-damaged land on the shoulder of Noonmark. The sparse, new growth allows for lots of open views.
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this tree made me. Bright red bark and new green leaves against the brilliant blue sky. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
The trail then climbs up and over Bear Den Mt, which has a wooded, viewless summit. And then dips down before reaching the col between Bear Den and Dial. Then comes the final push up Dial.
When we arrived at the summit there was another couple already well into a game of “Name That Peak.” I joined in for a round and promptly lost. I suck at that game.
We chatted and fueled up on the summit and then began the two miles over to Nippletop. It was a pleasant couple of miles and before we knew it Nippletop appeared right in front of us.
What a great summit! The views of Colvin and Elk Lake can’t be beat.
We watched the birds flit about and chase each other. And simply sat and enjoyed being rewarded for our efforts.
But we couldn’t hang out forever, we still had almost 7 miles ahead of us.
The descent via Elk Pass was interesting, at best. It’s very steep and the trail is overflowing with debris, but we made it without incident. Dave declared, however, that it had been the “worst hour of his life.”
Thankfully, not 10 minutes later, we happened upon a beautiful sun-dappled pond. We sat down to enjoy the sunshine and THEN he declared, “I love being out here, everything about it is awesome.” Really? Just 10 minutes ago you were saying that… Oh, nevermind. He’s a man of extremes, that’s for sure.
The next few miles took us by several beautiful waterfalls along the Gill Brook Trail.
Unfortunately, we were in no mood to stop and enjoy them. All we could focus on was, “Where’s the road? Seriously, where is it? Shouldn’t we be on the road by now? Ok, this isn’t funny. SHOW ME THE ROAD.”
And then we got to the road. And all was right in our world. Except not because we still had 3.5 miles to walk.
Where: The Adirondack Park, near St. Huberts in the High Peaks
Directions from Lake Placid: Take Rt. 73 south. The parking area is a ways past the center of Keene Valley off of Ausable Road across from the Giant Mtn/Roaring Brook Falls parking area. To get to the start of the trail, head up the road towards the Ausable Club and hang a left onto Lake Road. You’ll have to pass between two tennis courts. Don’t make eye contact.
Difficulty: A strenuous day hike. A 14 mile loop over three summits (2 high peaks and 1 lesser peak).
Summary: This is a classic Adirondack loop that reaches two beautiful summits. The most popular direction is to ascend up and over Bear Den via the H.G. Leach trail, reaching Dial first, and descend through Elk Pass and the Gill Brook trail. In icy conditions, however, it is recommended to ascend via the Gill Brook trail and Elk Pass since the terrain is much steeper.
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Runners – Dave’s favorite trail running shoe (they work fine in light snow/ice)
- La Sportiva Women’s Sandstone GTX Shoe – Jess’ favorite hiking boots
- Osprey React Daypack – A near perfect casual daypack
- REI Peak UL Women’s Trekking Poles – Jess’ hiking poles
- Leki Hiking Poles – Dave uses a pair of Leki’s similar to these
- Adirondack High Peaks Trail Guide – Amazon.com
- Trails Illustrated, High Peaks Trail Map – Amazon.com