Hiking Dial & Nippletop
On Thursday September 24th, I woke up at 3:30 am, got dressed and headed out the door at 4 am to Keene, NY. We reached the St Huberts parking lot by 5:40 am and started our trek passed the Ausable Club to the AMR gate /lake road junction. This was my first time hiking with a headlamp and I can't lie - was definitely something I need to get used to. It's a bit eerie hiking in the dark, your senses are just so heightened that when a chipmunk crosses the trail it even makes you gasp!
By the way - Thursday at 5:40 am and the main St Huberts parking lot only had 5 spots left. This is why, if you are hiking the high peaks - I can't stress it enough that it's so important to get there early. Parking is almost always an issue and you never know if a hike is going to take you longer than you expect.
This walk from St. Huberts to the AMR Gate is approximately a .7 mile walk in. After you sign in, you begin the hike on Lake Rd. Honestly, I know a lot of people despise the Lake rd walk because it's flat and a road vs a wooded trail, but I sort of welcomed it in the dark and I don't mind the little warm up before I hit the real trailhead!
The plan was to take Lake Rd to the HG Leach trail to the summit of Bear Den Mountain, where we would then head up to Dial Mountain and over to Nippletop. This is the "counterclockwise route" suggested by most. Things to consider when you are picking your route:
Do you mind steep downhill sections? (for me - no)
Do you prefer to get your majority of elevation accomplished early on? (for me - yes)
Lake Rd - would you rather hike your long section of this flat road at the beginning or end of your day? (for me - I'd prefer at the beginning of the day but I'm flexible)
These were the questions that helped me choose this route. We started out on Lake Rd and it was about another .8 miles to the HG Leach Trail sign on our left hand side. Once we started on this wooded trail, it goes RIGHT up. It's not a technical section of trail, but boy does it climb. And it feels a bit relentless, especially so early in the morning.
I started off my hike in a coat and by the time I had hiked a .25 mile on the HG Leach trail up to Bear Den Mountain - I was already stripped down to a tee shirt.
The HG Leach trail is really something I think every aspiring 46er should experience. It offers really REALLY neat vegetation like aspens, cedar trees, as well as awesome views of the Great Range.
After a steep couple hours on this trail you will reach the "summit" of Bear Den where you'll see a sign that points you to Dial & Nippletop. Bear Den summit is a wooded summit with no views. We reached the summit around 8:30 am and sat there for a minute on a rock and had a snack to fuel us for the next peaks of the day.
From Bear Den to Dial Mountain was a little over a mile. This follows a beautiful look out section by Noonmarks Shoulder which offers amazing views.
Lots of tight trail sections with cedars and the smells of Christmas trees.
The summit of Dial is easily missed - or at least it was for me! We saw a cool boulder rock that you could climb that offered beautiful views and we checked it out for a minute, but after about a minute I was ready to continue to the summit but plot twist- we checked the map and that was the summit! So when you see the boulder, you're there!
We reached the summit of Dial right around 9:30 am, about an hour from Bear Den - hung out for a little, had a snack and we were on our way to Nippletop!
The final ascent from Dial to Nippletop wasn't challenging, but it was definitely a longer stretch than I was expecting. It was about 1.8 miles from the summit of Dial to the summit of Nippletop.
Some minor rock scrambles, muddy spots and sections of climbing roots, but nothing too difficult to mention here.
We reached the summit of Nippletop around 11:30 am, two hours from Dial. The summit of Nippletop is again - boulders of rock, but a bit larger than Dial. We sat here for a while and had some lunch and were soon joined by 6 other people - so as you can imagine, this got crowded quite quickly.
We stayed here until around 12-12:15 pm and then started our descent down the mountain. From here we back tracked to the junction where it splits to return to Dial or down the Elk Pass (this is the steep section).
As stated previously, I knew I don't mind climbing down steep sections so I knew that this route I would prefer to come down vs climb up and boy was I happy I chose the route I did.
Elk Pass is about 1.5 miles of straight vertical rock slabs. Coming down was fine because it was dry - but I probably wouldn't have chosen this route down this pass if it had rained or was icy etc, so make sure to consider environmental factors prior to picking your route as well!
This definitely takes longer than you would expect because you have to be careful of your footwork, slide on your butt in sections etc. So make sure if you take this route to give yourself time down Elk Pass.
After descending for what felt like quite some time, we reached the bottom of Elk Pass which was marked by a campsite and a trail marker that led us by some ponds. We stopped again at the ponds for a snack and to relax for a minute and it's a beautiful spot to do so!
Once we finished our short break, we continued our trek to the Gilbrook Trail, which we would take all the way back to Lake Rd and to St Huberts. The Gilbrook Trail is still one of my favorite trails- highly scenic with little waterfalls, streams, its a very enjoyable path to take at the end of the day.
We were back to the car right around 3:30 pm, clocking us in at 10 hours, 15.5 miles, and I had recorded 32,000 steps. Our third and fourth ADK high peaks were done and I felt great - other than the blister on the back of my ankle!
Another great trip in the ADKs - Dial and Nippletop Mountain. Until next time!