After I climbed my first of the 46, Marcy, I never thought I would catch the gotta climb them all fever. The next season I wanted to do Cascade and Porter just to have a nice day in the ADKs. After that I went for Algonquin because I heard the views were even better than Marcy – but when I decided to add in Iroquois and Wright it was a shift in thinking. I pushed myself even harder to bag more peaks. Things became exceptionally clear to me when I decided to tackle Phelps and Tabletop [1002 Adirondack Loj Rd, Lake Placid, NY 12946], that I would love to be a 46er in my lifetime. It definitely won’t happen in a year, probably not even in five years because I just don’t live close enough – but hopefully over time. The hikes will have to halt for this winter anyway because weather on top of the mountain can be severe, but as of this fall I have 8/46. The best way in my mind to bag them all is to combine peaks during day hikes. So at the crack of dawn we got to the Loj, this time on a gorgeous early autumn day it was actually full. I was almost crestfallen, but the attendant told me we could park on the side of the road…AND we didn’t have to pay the $10 fee. What? Can I just do this all the time? Here is the rundown of the hike:
The 32nd highest peak in New York State
*Mileage: 8.2 roundtrip for Phelps alone
From the lot hop on the blue Van Hovenberg trail to 2.1 miles through the woods to Marcy Dam. This was comfortingly familiar as I had hiked these very miles the year before on the way to Mt. Marcy. Continue on the same trail heading in the direction of Mt. Marcy and in approximately one mile there will be a spur for Phelps Mountain.
The trail is one mile up to the summit, filled with roots and rocks, and extremely steep towards the end. You’ll get to a ledge with a gorgeous view, but you’re not quite there yet.
Amble around the edge of the mountain to get to the true summit with equally dazzling views and the added bonus of a nice protected ledge with a cairn.
After enjoying a nice early lunch we went back down the same path. You can return back the way you came for the Loj – or continue towards Tabletop.
The 19th highest peak in New York State
*Mileage: 9.6 roundtrip for Tabletop alone, or 11.4 combined with Phelps
After re-reaching the junction with the Van Hovenberg trail continue on it 1.2 miles (still familiar – continuing the way up to Marcy) until you reach the sign that clearly says ‘Route to Tabletop Mountain’.
If you reach Indian Falls you have gone too far. This was my first herd trail, which means it is not marked by trail blazes, and I was a bit nervous about it – especially because it was later in the day. However, the spur is only .5 up and my worries were for naught because the path is very clearly trodden, plus there were tons of other people heading down which was reassuring. It was very muddy and basically a light stream ran inside the trail, but somehow remained not slippery. After the major elevation gain the trail flattens out, hence the name tabletop. While it’s nice that you’re not fighting gravity, here is where the mud gets real deep! When you do reach the top the view isn’t incredible, but it ain’t half bad either!
It was a little crowded up there so we snapped a few pictures, drank some water, and started making the arduous journey back. Once you reach the dam again – those two last miles are KILLER and seem like twenty. But then you’re back at the car and the ride home is a wonderful time to reflect on the long and amazing day, one step closer to the goal.