The Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trailhead is used to access over a dozen trailed peaks in the Adirondacks, including nine 46ers. Two of those, Nippletop (4,620 feet) and Dial (4,020 feet), can be summited from that trailhead in a nice lasso loop. This hike gains serious total elevation, but it offers several fantastic views, and the ridge between Nippletop and Dial makes for great fun in winter.
The walk along the Ausable Club golf course and on the Lake Road is the inevitable first step of many hikes that originate at the AMR trailhead. After about 2.5 miles on the Lake Road (bring traction), the Gill Brook Trail starts. It follows the brook and has two water crossings that can pose a challenge after thaws. It climbs very gradually at first, but it progressively steepens. Along the way, there are junctions for Indian Head Mountain and Fish Hawk Cliffs; both make for a great separate outing. Eventually, the trail reaches the junction for Elk Pass.
Leave the Gill Brook Trail at this point and take the Elk Pass Trail. It climbs over 1,000 vertical feet before reaching an intersection on the ridge, from where Nippletop is a short hike away. As the snow cover is usually deep on the ridge, there are excellent views all the way to Nippletop. The summit, New York’s 13th highest, also offers views in all directions, provided hikers move around a little between the few trees. The Dix Wilderness as well as the Colvin Range and the Great Range around the Lake Road are prominent, most notably Gothics Mountain.
The Leach Trail on the ridge leads straight to Dial Mountain and can have deep snow drifts in winter due to the wind. Dial Mountain offers nice views toward the Great Range from a large boulder that conveniently sits directly on the summit.
The trail descends again to Bear Den Mountain – no views – and the shoulder of Noonmark Mountain. This area was burned by a fire in 1999, but it is beautiful with vegetation made up of young trees and bushes. The trail goes over a rocky bump from which the views of the Great Range are simply stunning, especially at sunset. The Leach Trail eventually makes it back to the Lake Road near the AMR gate. The trailhead is a little over a mile away.
Note: This outing can be done in either direction. It really depends on whether a steep ascent or a steep descent is preferred. Going up Dial Mountain first means a more gradual ascent and a steeper descent.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.