Bear Den Trail to Dial Mountain and Nippletop

HARD 70 reviews
#26 of 184 trails in

Bear Den Trail to Dial Mountain and Nippletop is a 12.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Saint Huberts, New York that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
12.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4124 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

cross country skiing

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

A strenuous hike via the Leach Trail that will take you over Bear Den, Dial (ADK High Peak @ 4020') and Nippletop (ADK High Peak 4620') returning via Elk Pass. Excellent trail experience and views. This hike is strenuous and can be difficult. It can be done in either direction via Leach (long, steady up) or Elk Pass (short, very steep up). The views from Bear Den are limited although there is an outcrop just past the "peak" that can be climbed and offers some nice views. Dial offers very nice views of the Great Range as well as Blake and Colvin. The trail from Dial to Nippletop follows the ridge and is an enjoyable walk with a very limited decent/ascent. The views from Nippletop into the Great Range and down through Elk Lake are breathtaking. the hike back down Elk Pass is very steep so take your time and then enjoy the walk along the river on your way back out. Beware that no dogs are allowed and this restriction is strictly enforced. The parking is across the highway from the Roaring Brook access to Giant Mt. and is at the southerly of the two junctions of Rt. 73 and Ausable Rd. (not "Ausable Club Rd.") On a busy weekend, you will likely have to park on the highway. From the parking area, walk 1/2-mile up the road past a golf course. Just before reaching he large clubhouse, turn left and down between two tennis courts to the gate house and trail register.

hiking
7 days ago

My family and I hiked this loop counterclockwise, starting up the Gill Brook Trail/Elk Pass to Nippletop then over to Dial and back down Bear Den Mt and the HG Leach Trail. In our opinion this was definitely the way to do it. The Gill Brook Trail is beautiful and very easy to walk, the ground is soft and just roots, no large rocks that are typical of the high peaks until you get up closer to the ascent of Nippletop. The trail from Nippletop to Dial was fairly easy, mostly downhill with a quick ascent to the summit of Dial. Coming back down BDM and the HG Leach Trail was much steeper than we anticipated after seeing everyone say this was the less-steep path. Most of the trail was dry when we hiked, only muddy the top 1/3 of the trail probably. Overall a great hike, we had perfect weather. 9 hours roundtrip.

hiking
13 days ago

Trail has quite a few ups and downs to it. I had gone clockwise which is usually against my better judgement as I like to get my elevation out of the way first if possible. I went in this direction because if I had enough steam and the sky cleared up (as it was raining out), I was going to hit up fish hawk cliffs and Indian Head. I had plenty of steam left after descending Elk Pass but it had begun to rain heavily. I will be back for those on a clearer day.

Trail was a little wet. Near the Nippletop summit it was quite muddy. No views above 3500 ft. due to low hanging clouds. The only view I had all day was from the Noonmark shoulder looking up at Bear Den, Dial, and Nippletop. Elk Pass had some brand new traversing boards to walk over the anticipated mud wallows which were nice.

I keep hearing about how steep the Elk Pass trail up to Nippletop is, but honestly it wasn't too bad. In my opinion: the Seward Mountain Trail (off Seward Mtn), Panther Brook Trail (off Panther in the Santanoni's), Cold Brook Trail (Marshall's shoulder), and the Slide Brook Trail (off Macomb in the Dix) are more notable for difficulty. I'm wondering if this one gets more attention due to the volume of hikers using it vs. the others. This is not to say it is not steep- it is. It is just well maintained, easy to follow, water re-routes off the trail are great, and if you take your time (especially when it is raining) you'll be fine. Big plus in that I did not see any of that slick, red moss that plagues hikers on steep, heavily saturated, sun-soaked ascents/descents!

hiking
2 months ago

Extremely challenging especially in these winter like conditions we are still experiencing in NYS. I would like to experience it again when the weather is nicer. Also, we did the loop trail but AllTrails glitched while we were out there so half of the hike is missing. We did this in 11 hours if you are starting the timing from the registry.

2 months ago

Completed this hike yesterday. Great view on Nippletop! This hike took me 10 hours. I used spikes, snowshoes, and crampons. Came back through Gill Brook trail for as long as I could before getting back to Lake Road. A bit over 15 miles..

hiking
4 months ago

Brutal winter hike if you go take alltrail's suggestion and do Nippletop first, but i imagine its a matter of preference if you want to get most of the climbing done asap. Trail from Elk Pass up to Nippletop is mostly ice. You will need decent spikes for this. Regular microspikes wont cut it as the couple a few dozen feet behind me found out (they had to quit halfway up because they couldnt make it up a particularly icy spot and i didnt have rope to help them). Also make sure to wear snowshoes since whatever isnt ice is 3-4 feet of fluffy snow, and if you stray 3 inches off the narrow packed down trail you will immediately posthole up to your waist. Once you get to Nippletop Summit the views are amazing and definitely worth the strenuous climb. The trail to Dial and over Bear Den is pretty easy from here (but keep your snowshoes on), with a little more climbing up to Noonmarks shoulder. There are also plenty of spots steep enough on the descent that you can literally sit down and butt slide 20-100 feet at a time to save energy (just use an ice axe or trekking poles to steer and stop) and have some fun. The only downside to this hike is the long approach up the access road you have to walk, but otherwise the views and the trail are 10/10

hiking
7 months ago

Great Hike. Hiked Lake Rd to Gil Brook Trail. Lots of little waterfalls along the way. Took the short trip to Indian Head before returning to Elk Pass trail. You walk by a few nice ponds before heading up Nippletop. Fairly steep but not to bad. Great views. Very windy when I was there. Trail over to Dial is easy. Small rock ledge to see some views. Then it Was Bear Den Mt, the shoulder of Noonmark, and some small Mt that didn’t show up on my map. Great views though. After that it was a hike back to Lake Rd and out. The hike was 14 1/2 miles. Including breaks it took about 9 1/2 hours.

hiking
8 months ago

Beware that no dogs are allowed and this restriction is strictly enforced. The parking is across the highway from the Roaring Brook access to Giant Mt. and is at the southerly of the two junctions of Rt. 73 and Ausable Rd. (not "Ausable Club Rd.") On a busy weekend, you will likely have to park on the highway. From the parking area, walk 1/2-mile up the road past a golf course. Just before reaching he large clubhouse, turn left and down between two tennis courts to the gate house and trail register.

8 months ago

This hike has a little bit of everything in it...

Starting out from the Ausable golf club and trekking down Lake road is a nice (but fairly long 4 mile) start to warm you up if you don’t like getting out of the car and immediately inclining.

We looped counter clockwise to get the long road trek out of the way first and took a detour, adding less than a mile, to the loop by checking out Indian Head and Fish Hawk cliffs. It’s 100% worth the effort when you’re so close and you wouldn’t want to miss it.

From there until you get to Elk Pass it’s not too bad but I’ll admit it was a pretty tough stretch to scale Nippletop as you gain over 1,000 feet in a mile or so. However once there it’s totally worth the view. Has to be one of the top in the peaks. We spent a good 40 minutes at the summit and then descended to Dial which was another 3 miles.

The road to Dial was pretty gradual and like Nippletop had a great view. From there we continued our descent and passed over Noonmark shoulder and had a pretty cool time walking through the newer stretch of trees grown after the fire years back. The shoulder also had some nice views and it’s really the only time you’ll have to ascend again.

From there the last 4 miles are pretty steep downhill until you’re back on Lake road with only a mile left to the club.

I personally like to get all the heavy lifting done in a short span and the real challenge here is the 1,500 feet you’ll gain in one area going up Nippletop. The rest of the hike can pretty much be dedicated to great views and enjoyment.

I’d recommend reserving 8-12 hours for this hike. We spent about 1.5 hours on summits and taking pictures and we moved at a somewhat slower pace than we had planned and it took us about 10 hours total.

hiking
8 months ago

Great hike! 15 and 16 for me :) We went up clockwise via Bear Den then Dial and Nippletop. I like getting elevation out of the way first and this was a good route for me. The decent from Nippletop was steep (wet from snow melting) but doable it eventually levels out. The elk to gill brook was pretty flat and I enjoyed a cool but long flatter decent. If going counter clockwise seems you'd walk flat a long way before ascending Nippletop. The hike from Dial to Nippletop was fairly flat, easier ascents and had some snow. Views at Nippletop were spectacular. If I had to do this again I'd go clockwise.

hiking
8 months ago

This trail was my first high peaks adventure, and reminded me that I am no longer a young pup.

It was a blast! We took the "clockwise" loop. From what we experienced, and what the other hikers that went the "counter clockwise" direction looked like climbing the final ascent to Nippletop, I'd say we took the easier route. Our route was a climb right from the get go and got the engine pumping hard, but after the descent from Nippletop to Elks Pass it was a decent hike out with a nice flat road to finish up.

Bring lots of water (I went through 4Liters). The only suitable water source for filtering was Gill Brook on our descent. Elks Pass was kind of stagnant and questionable in terms of use in a filter.

If you have ailing leg joints, be sure to bring your braces. The descent did a number on my knees as well as my partner's knee and ankle.

All in all, it was physically painful on the body, but was well worth the views and exercise.

8 months ago

This trail was my first high peaks adventure, and reminded me that I am no longer a young pup.

It was a blast! We took the "clockwise" loop. From what we experienced, and what the other hikers that went the "counter clockwise" direction looked like climbing the final ascent to Nippletop, I'd say we took the easier route. Our route was a climb right from the get go and got the engine pumping hard, but after the descent from Nippletop to Elks Pass it was a decent hike out with a nice flat road to finish up.

Bring lots of water (I went through 4Liters). The only suitable water source for filtering was Gill Brook on our descent. Elks Pass was kind of stagnant and questionable in terms of use in a filter.

If you have ailing leg joints, be sure to bring your braces. The descent did a number on my knees as well as my partner's knee and ankle.

All in all, it was physically painful on the body, but was well worth the views and exercise.

hiking
9 months ago

This was my first high peak and it was tough but so worth it! You do have to park and walk down a paved road through a golf course for a
Few miles which was interesting. Trails were pretty clear and dry. I don't have much to compare it to but the view was breath taking. It took us about 4 hours to get to the top of dial. We were pretty slow getting up there So I'm sure a more experienced hiker can get up quicker. Can't wait for my next one !

hiking
9 months ago

Really cool hike. Ascent begins immediately on way up Noonmark shoulder to Bear Den to Dial, gradual fairly easy meander to Nippletop, fairly steep descend down Nippletop to Elk Pass and beautiful views of Gills Brook on the way back to the road. Summit was in the clouds on both peaks but great day hiking otherwise! From parking lot to parking lot took our group of three 9 hours and 40 minutes with multiple rest stops along the way.

9 months ago

great hike, beautiful views. We did the counterclockwise loop, taking the third left from the road in ausable club and going up through fish hawk cliffs. We stopped off at Indian head 1st, a tiny but very worth it detour. then up the steepest section to nippletop first, and finally down to dial and bear. this way is great because if you get an early start you don't run into many people and there is less road time at the end. super enjoyable!

9 months ago

Muddy but spectacular views.

backpacking
9 months ago

Super awesome, challenging hike. Granted, we did it with the intention of camping, so the weight of our packs made for an additional challenge. Going up Bear Den to Dial to Nippletop felt like the best way to go, getting the steep incline out of the way, and camping in along Elk Pass, so that all we had for our second day was the descent.

We could have done it all in a day if we didn't have huge packs, and if we did it again, we would do the loop as a day hike.

The views were 100% worth it, but the trail conditions were super muddy and slick.

hiking
10 months ago

Incredible hike -- but so steep until the top of Dial

hiking
10 months ago

Dial and Nippletop was a nice fun day, lots of uphill, and a dozen great views. We started by heading up over Bear Den Mountain. Lots and lots of bear tracks so keep a watchful eye. No markers that I could find for Dial or Nippletop. But the views were great. From the intersection near Nippletop, it says .2 miles, just keep in mind its a long .2mile. The day I went it was extremely muddy. Heading down Elk pass was steep but fairly easy. Once getting back onto Lake Rd it was an easy return. Overall time was 12 hours from car to car.

hiking
10 months ago

Reasonably challenging hike. I made two wrong turns as the GPS trace witnesses: one in the beginning - started on a wrong trail (to Noonmark) and then after the beaver ponds. Great views from both Nippletop and Dial; from the Noonmark shoulder too. I have done it counterclockwise: steep climb to Nippletop and then gradual descent for the rest of the loop.

10 months ago

what a challenge!

This is a long one, and it was tougher than we thought. We did the loop and walked the road back, which was surprisingly difficult on the knees after all of that hiking. Bring lots of water and do the loop!

hiking
11 months ago

Did it clockwise. Steady climb right from lake road. Not very rocky. U get to Dial 1st. Then go down a bit a further up to Nippletop. Further on the loop the next mile is the thoughest as u hit big slides of rocks and a good decline. Easy after.

hiking
11 months ago

This hike was the real deal. I have hiked 18 out of the 46 ADK high peaks. We hiked this counterclockwise, Nippletop to Dial and I would highly recommend this route. I have 2 bad knees, so the decent was very strenuous for me. The view from Nippletop was outstanding! If you don't want to be a 46er, skip Dial mountain, you're not missing much.

hiking
Thursday, June 15, 2017

This was an amazing trail. We hiked the Gill Brook trail which had nice waterfalls. The trail was quite muddy. We hiked the loop counter clockwise starting with nippletop then going to dial. So glad with the decision we made! There are great views at the top and the trails we're marked very well!

hiking
Friday, October 14, 2016

I was a beginner hiker when I climbed these mountains and although it was challenging at times, I had a blast. The summits were well worth the challenge. It took us about 12 hours, including the hour break at the summit. Bring plenty of water, we brought 3 liters and a few water bottles and ran out.

hiking
Saturday, October 08, 2016

This was a nice loop to do that hits 2 high peaks. I did the loop counter clockwise and climbed Nippletop first. I took Lake Road and the Gill Brook Cutoff to Elk Pass. The trail was muddy in places but you could navigate around it. The ascent up to Nippletop wasn't bad as you got good views of the Great Range. There was overcast and windy at the summit of Nippletop, so the views weren't the best. The were nice views from the summit of Dial of the Great Range. By hiking Nippletop first, you'll have the steep climb done and then you can cruise your way out through Dial. Bear Den summit was ok and Noonmark shoulder gives you great views of the Great Range. I would recommend doing the loop counter clockwise as I found it to be easier.

Friday, September 30, 2016

We took the gill brook trail to elk pass to nippletop then hit dial and bear den. It was a long beautiful day! I recommend counterclockwise loop!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Long challenging trail with amazing views. So worth it!

hiking
Wednesday, July 06, 2016

step in the beginning. View is amazing.

hiking
Monday, January 11, 2016

Great loop that hits two high peaks. Nippletop has one of the best panoramas of all the 46.

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