Table Top Mountain, New York’s 19th highest summit, is yet another Adirondack 46er that lies in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. It is reached by a herdapth that intersects with the popular Van Hovenberg Trail. The trip to this 4,413-foot summit also features a visit to Marcy Dam and the possibility of adding a side-trip to Phelps Mountain.
Start at the High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) Trailhead. The first section of this outing will take you to Marcy Dam, the traffic circle of the High Peaks Wilderness. Crossing the dam is easier and much more enjoyable in winter: The frozen water and snow allow for safe crossing rather than having to backtrack a few hundred feet to a bridge. Make sure to stop in the middle of the pond and soak in the superb views of Mount Colden, Avalanche Mountain and Wright Peak.
Once you’re ready to move on, keep following the Van Hovenberg Trail (blue markers) toward Indian Falls and Mount Marcy. There are five lean-tos around Marcy Dam (all free, first-come, first-served) if you want to extend the outing and take a few days to explore the area’s many trails and mountains. The abundance of activities around the lean-tos and their proximity to the trailhead make them an excellent place to try winter camping.
Back on the trail, there is an intersection for Phelps Mountain 0.7 miles after Marcy Dam. This makes an excellent side trip if you’re keen on tagging another 46er. It is an out-and-back of 2.4 miles with 1,200 feet of vertical ascent; views are excellent at the top. Otherwise, continue on the trail until you reach a sign that reads “Route To Table Top Mt.”. The herdpath starts at this point and is very obvious as it sees considerable traffic over the course of a year.
Some herdpaths that lead to Adirondack 46ers are not easy to find and follow, but that is not the case for this one. It follows a trench that is wet and muddy until the snow covers it, making winter the ideal season to pay this summit a visit. The 0.7-mile herdpath has no technical or steep sections and is quite an enjoyable ascent with some nice views of the MacIntyre Range along the way. A wooden sign marks the summit, which offers decent views to the south, most notably of Marcy, Colden and the MacIntyre Range. The descent is via the same trails.
Note that snowshoes are mandatory in the High Peaks Wilderness when there are 8 inches of snow or more on the ground. Conditions at the trailhead are not an indication of what they will be in the mountains. Remember that winter conditions can linger well into the spring at higher elevations. Wearing snowshoes also prevents postholing and makes the trails more enjoyable for all. There will likely be backcountry skiers out, so don't forget to share the trails with respect and wear snowshoes to avoid postholing.
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.