Elk Pass is an excellent destination to just get out and enjoy nature. It is loaded with wildflowers and outstanding waterfalls in the spring. The pass itself is also a great spot for wildlife viewing of beaver, mink, deer, bobcat, and even an occasional red fox. Birding opportunities also exist for those wanting to collect birds and take unique photography in a distinctive area. Most of the hike is on the land of the private Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) where dogs are absolutely prohibited in this game preserve.
This hike is accessed through a conservation easement with the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR). A parking reservation is needed from May 1 - October 31. Although it is called a “parking reservation,” everyone will need a reservation to access hikes leaving from AMR, whether you drove yourself, rode a bike, got dropped-off, or walked. These reservations can be made online via the AMR website. For more information, please read these FAQs or contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, follow Route 73 through Keene and Keene Valley and into Saint Huberts. Parking is across the road from the Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead for Giant Mountain.
From the parking area, follow a dirt road that becomes paved next to a golf course. After 0.5 mi., turn left and down between two tennis courts on Lake Road Way. In another 0.1 mi. you reach the gate house and register with a fancy wooden gate just beyond. Then you will continue along a dirt road (Lake Road) for an additional 2.0 miles before you enter a foot trail (Gill Brook Trail). The foot trail starts climbing right away from the Lake Road but on a moderate pace. The footing is a bit tricky in spots under rocky terrain. While you are hiking along the waterfalls to your left on Gill Brook are amazing; snap a photo!
The trail eventually leaves the shore of Gill Brook and starts to climb much steeper through an attractive forest. As you pass by several side trails to destinations like Indian Head, Fish Hawk Cliffs and Mount Colvin, you may be tempted to veer, as many of the destinations are close by. Be sure to see those pages for more details to help decide whether or not you wish to add to the day's hike.
Eventually the trail levels off a bit and enters the pass with three distinctive beaver ponds, which you hike past. At some points you are right next to the pond but actually below the water table. This is a great place for wildlife viewing and birding as well. The trail continues through Elk Pass to the summits of Dial and Nippletop.
By the numbers
- 12.0 miles RT, easy trail with some steep and/or rocky patches,
- Elevation: 3335’
- Ascent: Approx. 1550’ from the Lake Road