This approximately 13-mile trek is best enjoyed as a two-day backpack, but is manageable in a day of hiking or running. After a gradual climb out of the Ausable River Valley, the hike completes two of the "46'ers" with many breathtaking views of the Great Range and Keene Valley as you complete the gradual descent of the ridge from Nippletop.
- Beginning in October, the area is prone to rapid Winter weather fluctuations; even if there is no snowpack in Keene Valley, crampons and cold weather gear are a must.
- The Noonmark Diner is a long time favorite of locals and visitors alike. Located just down the road the Village of Keene Valley, they are particularly recognized for their homemade pastry.
Starting from the Ausable Road Parking Area off of Route 73, you follow Ausable Rd., turning left onto Lake Rd. You'll pass by the Ausable Club, a private golf and mountaineering club, before coming to a Ranger Cabin after approximately three-quarters of a mile. The Ranger Cabin is staffed by the Ausable Club's private Ranger force (they patrol the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, a massive expanse of mountain wilderness owned by the Club extending south from Route 73 to the Ausable Lakes). The Rangers will require you to sign you a Trail Register and advise you of any closures/hazards/etc., before allowing you to continue along Lake Rd.
Follow Lake Rd. for just over two miles until it intersects with the Gill Brook Trail
to the left. Following the Gill Brook Trail
, you'll begin a gradual descent out of the Ausable Valley; be mindful on the Gill Brook Trail
as signage can be poor at times until you pass into State Land. For those completing this as a multi-day trip there are several Designated Campsites along the Gill Brook Trail
, with the last of them being at Elk Pass
approximately 2.5 miles in. Elk Pass
, while offering scenic views over the pond, can often be very wet, so it is recommended to stay at one of the earlier sites unless the hike is being completed during the winter months when the area is frozen.
Shortly after Elk Pass
, turn right onto Leach Trail
which will head sharply upward during a quick ascent of Nippletop before delivering you to the peak where you are rewarded with a panorama of the Great Range's East Face. Continuing on from Nippletop, backtrack on Leach Trail
as you enjoy a two-mile ridge hike through pine growth and exposed rock until another steep, but rapid, ascent to the peak of Dial Mountain.
From Dial, on a clear day, you can catch views up Keene Valley. After descending the peak of Dial, you'll complete just over two miles of rolling ridge descent until crossing a small cobble south of Noonmark Mountain and beginning a rapid one-mile descent back to Lake Rd. You'll follow the road back to the parking area.