(Indian Head &) Nippletop & Dial Mountain

September 23, 2017

Weather: hot, humid, sunny, hot

Greg and I stayed at the Rooster Comb Inn and let me tell you, it felt looovely to wake up five minutes away from the trailhead. My dad (who unfortunately had to make the drive) joined us for a nice breakfast, then we all piled into the car off to St Hubert’s. It was, of course, already full!! but we got parking close by and were on our way by 7:40am.

Ausable Club Golf Course | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

We had decided not to take the Gill Brook trail since we weren’t sure about time and wanted to be efficient, but we made some new friends and chatting helped to pass the time. (NB: for those of you who walk faster or start earlier – I’ve actually done the Gill Brook trail and it is totally worth it!) It took us about 1:20 to get to the almost-end of the road where we said goodbye to our friends, turned left onto the trail, and started climbing.

Lake Road | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Lake Road | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

The trail switched back and forth some, and was a little steep, but very beautiful! It wasn’t even 10am, and we were already sweating from the work and from the sun. Being totally unfamiliar with this trail, I was pleasantly surprised when we reached Indian Head after just half an hour. There were a lot more people there than when I had been there on Easter Monday and had the place to myself, but it looks like we weren’t the only ones with the great idea to go hiking on a nice, unseasonably warm fall day! We took our time snapping pictures, chatting with other hikers, and enjoying the sun.

Trail to Indian Head | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Steep Trail to Indian Head | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Trail to Indian Head | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Indian Head | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

After about 25 minutes, it occurred to us that we were only at the start of our hike and we’d better get going, so we headed off toward Fish Hawk Cliffs. Immediately, we dropped straight down toward the col; fortunately for our knees it’s only ~0.1 mile. The trail eased off a bit after that, and it took us about half an hour to get back on the main route up to Nippletop.

Trail to Fish Hawk Cliffs | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Fish Hawk Cliffs | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Trail to Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

It was definitely HOT and my dad kept talking about how steep it would be (he actually remembered from when we did it four years ago – I did not), I was not sure I would survive the up since I was already sweating so much (TMI?). We leapfrogged with a couple other groups, but when we reached the junction with Colvin, we sat down for a real food / drink pitstop. I was happy to have my iced tea that day as it helped me force myself to drink more than usual – which I definitely needed.

Trail to Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Trail to Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

As the sun was nearing its highest point, we reached the beautiful, albeit smelly pond(s). The muddy smell erased any ideas I may have had about splashing water on my face to cool down. Unfortunately, as my dad was sneaking around trying to get the best angle for a picture of the pond, I went to sit down on a log and sank right into the mud as soon as I stepped off the puncheon. I asked Greg to pass me a stick to dig the mud out of the top of my boot…and he stepped off the puncheon and sank even deeper into the mud than I had. My dad came back to find us covered in mud and crying we were laughing so hard. Oh well, what the smell!

Muddy Boots | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Elk Pass Ponds | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

So I can confirm my dad was correct when he said that he remembered this trail being steep. We climbed up each steep section of rocks, taking our time, trying not to let the “heat lethargy” take over.

Steep Climb up Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Steep Climb up Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Steep Climb up Nippletop | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

It was a wonderful feeling when we got high enough to see some views, feel a few breaths of wind, and ran into the Nippletop 0.2 miles junction. I remember how long this stretch felt when my dad and I were finishing our 46 and I was so excited to reach the summit! It felt faster this time, and soon enough we were scrambling up that big rock slab and onto the summit (with about 15 other people). Time since St Hubert’s: 5:45.

Views from Nippletop Climb | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

View from Nippletop Summit | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

We found a little spot for ourselves up on a rock, and sat down to enjoy the breeze and some well earned lunch.We finally figured it was time to give up our prime spot to the other groups and continued on our way. We were a little disappointed that in the half hour + we were up there, and after taking pictures for others, that no one offered to snap one for us when we were taking our summits photos, but ah well c’est la vie.

View from Nippletop Summit | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Nippletop Summit | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

The trail to Dial felt a lot easier, the terrain was not as rough or steep, and there were surprisingly fewer people along it. We did meet one guy who was racing along and apparently finishing his 46 on Nippletop!

Trail from Nippletop to Dial | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Nippletop Dial Col | Adirondacks

It took us only about 1 hour 20 minutes before we reached Dial. We weren’t really hungry or in need of a break, but the view was so nice and there was plenty of room to hang out – so, of course, we took advantage! Time since St Hubert’s: 7:55

View from Dial Summit | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Dial Summit | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

We spent about 15 minutes enjoying the mountains before facing the reality that we had to get back to the car. The signs had been a little confusing / conflicting but we were pretty sure we had almost 5 miles left, some up and down, and a burger waiting for us at the Ausable Inn.

The descent was hard. My knees were not doing great and I was actually looking forward to the small bits of up (towards Bear Den and the shoulder of Noonmark) – yes, you are all thinking it and my dad reminded me too – I know that more up means more down! but it still makes for a nice little respite.

Trail to Bear Den | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

I’m not sure we ever confirmed for sure when we were on Bear Den, it might be more obvious from the other direction. We went over a little bump that I named Baby Bear Den, but Momma Bear Den was elusive.

I was looking forward to Noonmark shoulder, though! I remembered the amazing views we got there 4 years ago and was excited to see them again. We made our way down at a decent pace, for us, and then started back up Noonmark in a quaking aspen grove (Greg identified this – I just said “ouu pretty trees”) It was absolutely beautiful in the late afternoon sun and the yellowing leaves.

Bear Den | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Trail from Bear Den to Noonmark Shoulder | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Quaking Aspen Grove on Noonmark | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

We emerged to a stunning view of the mountains behind us. We wanted to stop for a quick snack, so we went a little further on, thinking we would get to the more open views, but stopped after a few minutes when we realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. Over our last PB&J sandwich, we marvelled at how much the landscape had changed in just 4 years.

View from Noonmark Shoulder | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

The trail down from Noonmark was this perfectly inclined, cushiony dirt trail with few obstacles. For Greg and my dad, knee pain means that they want to walk very slowly and carefully. I am the complete opposite. I like to go down quickly, I find it hurts less than the pounding of a slow pace. I was in a fair bit of pain, so after a bit I ended up going on ahead – with promises to wait for them at the Lake Road. The sun had disappeared around the surrounding mountains, the trees were far apart and there were some fallen leaves so staying on the trail did require a bit of attention. Once or twice I did have to stop to look around and make sure I was heading down the right track.

H.G. Leach Trail | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Finally, the Lake Road came into view and I rushed down to take a seat next to the sign. I have to say it was really nice, I was only there for like 10 minutes but every group who passed by made sure to check I was okay! It’s nice to know our fellow hikers are looking out for us!

When the guys caught up, we all headed back together! Within 20 minutes, we were through the gate and signing out at the register. We caught a few last views as we walked through the golf course and were back at the car just after 7. Time since departure: 11.5 hours

Ausable Club Golf Course | Nippletop & Dial | Adirondacks

Nippletop: 4,620 feet, elevation gain: +3,400 feet

Dial: 4,020 feet, elevation gain: +800 feet

Round trip: 14.4 miles

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8 thoughts on “(Indian Head &) Nippletop & Dial Mountain

  1. Lol I don’t know if my first comment went through, I don’t normally comment through wordpress. Anyway, I love your blog! I just finished my 46th yesterday on Allen. What a great adventure!

    • Thank you! & congratulations!! What a hike to finish on!
      It does take quite a bit of time to write them / remember to take pictures during the hike but it really does help me remember the details and relive it. Sometimes, when work is particularly annoying and I haven’t been hiking recently, I go back and reread some posts.
      Are you onto a new challenge now, or just hiking for the fun of it? My dad and I have had the NH 4000 footers at the back up our minds for a while now but we’re in nooo rush.

      • Thanks! Yea it was pretty great, we ended camping (illegally?) near where the path to Marcy & Colden splits off to the left. I still have the McNaughton bushwhack to do, my first attempt was unsuccessful. I only made it like 2/3 of the way up and turned around because it was close to getting dark and I did not want to be stuck up there at night. I want to do Colden via the trap dyke (loved your post on that one). The Whites are on the radar, so are the Greens. I just did my first Green Mountain hike this weekend. It was really desolate. Have you ever hiked there?

      • (sorry I’m so late responding, things get lost in my inbox) The only Vermont hike I’ve done is Mansfield, my parents somehow got my siblings and me up when I was 5 and they were 8 and 9 and I did it again a few years ago, which got me back into hiking! My dad always wanted to do the Long Trail so we might try to section hike it together next year. At some point I’ll get back to the Whites too, I really wanted to get back there this year but every single planned trip fell through. I like winter hiking just to hike but I don’t do well in the cold so now I’m in planning / daydreaming for summer 2018 mode. Green Mountains & White Mountains are definitely in the plans! And possibly back Katahdin. (so basically everywhere possible!)
        I completely understand your MacNaughton story – I wanted to turn back from that one when we were bushwhacking, but we had plenty of daylight and my dad reasoned with me saying we’d have a much easier time rejoining the herdpath from the summit. Not sure if you were bushwhacking on purpose or not but we weren’t! I absolutely recommend the Trap Dike!! I was terrified on the slide but we picked the perfect weekend for it (no rain that day or in the last week +).

  2. which way did you like better? I am hiking this with my kids and I am not sure which way to take and debating about stopping at Indian Head. Love your blog and use it all the time for notes. We have done 12 peaks and so excited to do more (if only the weather would cooperate more!)

    • That’s awesome! Ya, the forecasts have not been great this summer and with such beautiful views to be had, you want to go out in nice weather! Hopefully August and fall will bring nice hiking weather 🙂
      I think it was easier to go up by Bear Den > Dial > Nippletop and then down by Elk Pass. That way you’re gradually working your way up, and you can decide if you have the time / energy for the detour to Indian Head on the way back. I guess it really depends if you prefer going up steep or down steep though.
      Hope this was somewhat helpful.. Happy hiking!

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