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Jess On Phelps

Phelps Mountain, an Adirondack Day Hike

Revenge is sweet.

I don’t know if you recall my failed attempt on Phelps from a few months ago, but I’m pleased to say that I finally tagged it. It’s only one of the easiest 46’ers to get, so what took me so long, right? Excellent question.

The short excuse is that there hasn’t been a whole lot of High Peaks adventuring going on around here lately, due to a number of reasons. Puppies, sprained ankles, and work – to name a few.

But when the sun finally came out last week, I knew I had to throw all of those excuses out the window and go for it. So I left Dave at home to nurse his hangover watch the puppy and took off for a little solo hiking adventure. (Don’t worry, he’s had Phelps in the bag for many years now, so I wasn’t leaving him in the dust.)

It was SUCH a beautiful day. And it was the start of the holiday weekend. I cruised over to one of my favorite places to grab some snacks and couldn’t help but smile at the number of people milling about, enjoying the weather and fueling up for adventures of their own.

I arrived at the Adirondack Loj around 11:30. I was surprised to see that while the parking area was more crowded than usual, it was far from full. I took that as a good sign that the trails wouldn’t be completely overrun.

I wasted no time getting down to business. Though I wasn’t on a strict timeline, I didn’t want to give Dave a reason to worry by taking too long. So off I went.

The hike to Marcy Dam is totally routine by now, though I always stop and admire the view for a few minutes. It was here that I began to run into the crowds. And as I glanced at the trail register, I saw that I was not the only one headed up Phelps. Oh well, that’s the risk you run when hiking on a gorgeous Friday before a holiday weekend.

From the dam, it’s an easy mile to the trail junction at the base of Phelps. I knocked it out in no time, considering I had to navigate around a family of six along the way.

I passed the section where the old High Water bridge used to span over Phelps Brook and was happy to see that they had started construction on a replacement. Lookin’ good.

After the junction, the trail begins to climb in earnest. It’s only another mile to the summit from the junction, but it’s up, up, up. And it was a little wet and slippery from all of the rain we’d had during the prior couple of weeks. But it was no big deal and I enjoyed it. The only minor annoyance was having to pass a family of 15. 15. I kid you not. They were nice, though, so I didn’t get too grumpy about it.

Just below the summit, the trail opens up along a ridge line. It’s a pretty neat approach and you get awesome views behind you and to the east.

The summit does not offer 360 degree views, but it’s got spectacular views of Marcy and the Great Range. It would be a really cool place to catch a sunrise.

And looking south-ish you get a great view of Colden, Algonquin and Wright.

On my way down I started chatting with a nice couple from Toronto who offered to take my picture. I love meeting nice folks on the trail. And it’s not a horrible picture of me so I hope I run into them again soon.

The hike out was uneventful – one foot in front of the other back the way I came. But uneventful is good as hiking goes. And I made it home before Dave called search and rescue. I really wasn’t gone that long, he just has no concept of time.

The important thing is I got my revenge.

Where: The Adirondack Park, Adirondack Loj in Lake Placid

Directions from Lake Placid: Take Rt. 73 south. Turn right onto Adirondack Loj Road. Go about 5 miles to the parking area. There is a fee to park – $10/day or $5 after 1:00.

Difficulty: A moderate day hike. 8.5-ish miles over moderate to easy terrain, with less than a mile of steep climbing. It took me about 4 hours and 45 minutes from start to finish, with a couple of short breaks and some lingering at the summit.

Summary: Phelps is one of the easiest of the 46’ers to climb. It has excellent, though limited, views. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, climb up early and catch the sunrise.

Gear Used

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  1. William

    very good report!

  2. Joe

    My wife and I are working on our 46er badge too. I was wondering if you could throw me some ideas on what it would be like to hike Phelps and Marcy in the same day – some things I have read on the internet have led me to believe this would be eminently doable. I’d like to do it in one day if possible.

    I would characterize myself as an experienced hiker; I just finished the Presidential Traverse in NH this past weekend. Just to give you an idea of my ability/fitness level.

    Thanks very much.

    • Dave

      Hi Joe,

      Phelps is definitely doable as part of a Marcy trip – assuming you are starting/ending at the ADK Loj and Marcy Dam area.

      It amounts to a 1.2 (2.4 round) side trip off of the Van Hoevenberg Trail to Marcy.

      I personally find it to be one of the easiest High Peaks to summit, and there are some fantastic views of Marcy from the top. So it would be nice to sit up there in the morning and get a good look at where you will be going… or to enjoy it at the end of your day and reflect on where you just were. Either way, should be a fun day. Please let us know how you make out.

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