Hiking through the Adirondacks is not the easiest course of trails to trek. With summits that tower above 5,000 feet and many that hover above 4,000 feet, the trails in upstate New York are moderate, at best. Therefore, it's quite unusual when a hiker finds a mountain summit that's less than 5,000 feet, still offers great views and is not ranked as 'difficult' in regard to its terrain. This mountain does exist, and it goes by the name of Phelps.
While it might be a vastly underrated hike, it's one that offers great views of the surrounding Adirondacks. It's also located right next to the famed Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York State. For those seeking a moderately-rated summit hike that still promises an incredible sweeping view, the Phelps Mountain hike is the one.
What To Know About Hiking Phelps Mountain
For starters, it's important to know that even though this mountain is rated as 'moderate,' that doesn't mean that it's an easy one. It should serve as a disclaimer that the hikes in any mountain range, particularly, those that lead to summits, are bound to come with their technical challenges. What makes Phelps Mountain so unique is that while it will still give hikers a great workout, the technical merits needed are not as high for this hike. Some of this trail is relatively flat, with rock scrambling that lands on the lower end of the spectrum.
The steepest point in the trail can be found at the junction roughly a mile from Marcy Dam. This is where hikers will likely feel the brunt of the ascent but overall, it's doable for the average hiker. If nothing else, the views that appear around the 4,000-foot elevation mark will surely be enough to keep a hiker going until they've reached the summit.
- Summit Elevation: 4,161 ft.
- Total Distance: 8.2 miles round-trip
- Length: ~6 hours
- Rating: Moderate
Finding The Trailhead To Phelp's Mountain
The trailhead is relatively easy to find, as well. Coming from the north, hikers can follow Route 3 through Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. From there, take Route 73 to the east; Adirondack Loj Road will be coming up on the right-hand side.
For those coming from Lake Placid, hikers should follow the intersection of Route 73 and Route 86 toward Keene. In just over three miles, the sign for Adirondack Loj Road will be coming up on the right-hand side. Hikers will follow this all the way to the until, where they will find the end of the road along with Heart Lake. At the parking lot, there's a fee.
Hiking Phelps Mountain & Why It's One Of The Easier Summits
Upon arrival, there will be a sign-in book at the trailhead where hikers will need to write down their names and the date they've started the hike. For safety reasons, do not skip out on doing this! To start, the trail is fairly wide, allowing two people to walk side by side as opposed to the Adirondack's narrower trails which only allow one. This wide trail continues almost all the way up to Marcy Dam, which is where the trail also becomes steeper and somewhat more challenging than it was.
While hikers will notice a slight increase and decrease in elevation along the trail following Marcy Dam, it's not to the point where hiking should be too difficult to continue to the summit. Along the way, hikers will pass various trails and blazes, including some that point the way back to the Adirondack Loj - these are helpful for those making the descent down. On the way up, hikers will also cross over two bridges, each well-maintained and wide enough to make for comfortable and steady hiking. The small streams here make for tranquil stops, especially for those who enjoy the scenery on the way up as much as they do on the way down.
Marcy Dam is easily recognizable thanks to the clearing that surrounds it on the trail, and there will usually be hikers congregating there during the mountain's busiest season. This is a great point in the hike to take a break and eat, especially with more challenging terrain ahead. From here, hikers only need to follow the signs for Phelps (and ignore the signs for other mountains). The trail will begin with the challenge of thick tree roots, and then gradually becomes rocky, encouraging some small rock scrambles to continue on. If the stream ahead is higher than usual, hikers should anticipate some wet-shoe-hops to reach the other side. Following that, the trail will branch once again - continue hiking toward Phelps.
From this point until the summit, hikers will find larger rock scrambles, but nothing that would be ranked past moderate. While these require a bit of extra finesse, the trail is steady in its incline - which is one of the reasons it's considered a much easier trail than many others in the Adirondacks. Hikers who take their time to the summit will be happy they did, as they'll also conserve energy for the hike back down. There will eventually be a scenic overlook, but don't be fooled - these are great views, but the summit is still ahead! After what's roughly a ten-minute hike, the summit will allow for nearly panoramic views of the surrounding Adirondacks and neighboring Mount Marcy.