Nippletop is most often climbed with Dial Mountain – due to it being along the same ridge. Nippletop is named for its characteristic profile as seen from Elk Lake. The views are not 360-degrees, but it has the impression of a solid tract of wild land, which the brothers Marshall rated as third best in the High Peaks.
How to get there
Leave Lake Placid on Rte 73, follow Rte 73 through Keene and Keene Valley and into Saint Huberts. Parking is across the road from the Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead for Giant Mountain.
By the numbers
- Nippletop is High Peak #13
- Elevation: 4,620 feet
- Distance, via the Elk Pass trail: 6.6 miles, one way, from the parking lot to the Nippletop summit
- Ascent, from Lake Road and via Elk Pass: 2,760 feet
- Distance, via the Henry Goddard Leach Trail: 7.2 miles , one way, from the parking lot to the Nippletop summit
- Ascent, from Lake Road and via the Henry Goddard Leach Trail: 4,000 feet (this route is much more because it climbs and descends a few peaks on the way to Nippletop)
The approach to Nippletop and Dial is on the private land of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. While hiking is guaranteed by virtue of an easement, NO DOGS are permitted in this 100+ year preserve. For informational purposes, we will describe the hike that includes both peaks and ascends via Elk Pass and descends via the Henry Goddard Leach Trail. (This is the most popular route for those who prefer to ascend steep and have a more gradual decline. Plus, approaching the loop this way places hikers closer to their vehicles once off the footpath and back on Lake Road.
The hike starts along a road for 0.5 miles to a left turn down between two tennis courts onto Lake Road Way which soon reaches an entrance station. Just past the entrance station is a wooden gate, where you will continue along a dirt road for an additional 2.5 miles before you enter a foot trail. This is the route to Elk Pass. The foot trail starts off very moderate but continues to get steeper in sections. You will pass by a trail for Indian Head and then another for Fish Hawk Cliffs before finally reaching the trail for Colvin and Blake. As you pass by this trail you will be on a somewhat mellow climb to Elk Pass. Elk Pass is a gorgeous destination is itself. As you pass through the three beaver ponds you will some to the base of a very steep ascent. From the beaver ponds, it is very steep 1.7 miles to the summit of Nippletop. After a steep climb up the Pass, you'll find yourself at an intersection 0.1 miles from Nippletop's summit. Turn right and you'll shortly find the summit.
After summiting, return to the intersection and continue down the footpath. It's 2.1 miles to Dial from here. The trail travels up and down several bumps. The summit of Dial is a large boulder facing the Great Range. From the summit of Dial, it is 3.8 miles to Lake Road, where you will find yourself 0.7 miles from the Gate. Between Dial and Lake Road you will continue to rise and fall along the trail, passing over the summit of Bear Den Mountain and the site of a large forest fire that happened in 1999. You'll see a "new" forest on the shoulder of Noonmark Mountain. In 1999, 92 acres of the side of the mountain burned, with flames reaching 100 feet high. Nine days after the fire started, it was still smoking, and it wasn't until Hurricane Floyd dumped 6 inches of rain on the Adirondacks that the fire was finally extinguished, over a week after the fire started.
Parking is the same in winter as summer, and the trail/access should be the same. Due to the steepness of Elk Pass, we highly recommend trail crampons for this hike. There isn't a ton of exposure, compared to other High Peaks, but elevation and winds can still create arctic conditions. Please be sure to carry all essential gear, including: wind and cold protection, balaclava, mittens are preferred for added hand warmth; goggles would be good to have just in case you need additional wind protection.