The Time I Hiked Phelps (& Tabletop)

I can now say that I’ve hiked up a stream bed. What a way to spend your birthday… hiking in the rain.


September 22, 2014

Our day started early, getting up at 5 A.M. so that we could hit the road for our 2 (or more) hour drive north by 5:45 A.M. 

Today we planned to summit both Tabletop and Phelps in celebration of my 26thbirthday. The trial head is located at the Adirondack Loj. We were a little confused as to which trail head was ours, but we made a quick stop into the visitor’s center and headed off into the right direction.

We arrived at the trail head just about 8 A.M. We signed into the Van Hoevenburg Trail to begin the day. It was cold out! We were bundled up with jackets, fleece, hats and gloves!

This has to be my favorite hiking section of hiking in the Adirondacks. The approximate 2.1 mile trek from the trail head to the Marcy Dam is very level and very easy. The leaves were beginning to change on a few of the trees, and the colors were just beautiful.

These trails are very well maintained. In fact, we met a trail volunteer on the way (equipped with a rather large axe). We stopped and talked with him for a while and discussed our plans for the day. When we mentioned we were heading to Table Top his response was a sarcastic “you picked a good day for that.” We would find out his reasoning for that later. We crossed over Marcy Brook on these cool bridges. Some were recent as they needed to be repaired after Hurricane Irene. We were able to keep up a good pace and made it to the Marcy Dam at just about 9 A.M. On a clear day this would be a great view.


But it was not in the cards for us today. The rainy mist was setting in. Marcy Dam Pond was a little dried up, but the colors were beginning to show nicely.

I have been searching and searching for a picture online that will tell me what mountains these are. I am 99% confident the mountain the middle is Mount Colden. The others I’m not sure about. We continued on the trail for about 2 miles and came to the start of Phelps.

We decided to go past Phelps and summit Tabletop first, since that trail is unmarked and un-maintained. (For those of you a little worried about tackling an un-maintained trail, there is a sign as well!)

The herd path was easy to follow, and here’s why: RAIN.  Because of the rain, the trek up was literally as if we were walking through a stream. The trail maintenance volunteer had been right! In some portions we had to maneuver around and through small “ponds.”

They became known to us as the ponds of Tabletop. We reached the summit  at around 11:59 A.M. The view was pretty non-existent. It was cold, wet and cloudy. We took cover in some trees and had a quick snack before heading down the trail back to the start of Phelps.


This is the only way we would have known we made it to the summit.  There’s not much of a view from Tabletop.  And on this day, with the fog…any view there was, was non-existant. Back to Phelps we went. 

When we arrived at the trail head to Phelps we remembered reading that this 1.0 mile trek up Phelps is considered to be the “longest mile” of the 46 High Peaks. We were interested to see if this was the case, or if Marble would remain in our minds as the worst ever. My GPS actually calculated this “1” mile as 1.25 miles. 

The top of Phelps held some more surprises. The clouds were clearing (a little) and we even met a furry friend. He did not stick around long enough for us to take his photo.

We reached the summit of Phelps at just about 2:30 P.M. and B surprised me with a mini chocolate dome cake and a candle to celebrate my birthday.


Don’t worry DEC we didn’t light the candle! This trek I used my Vaude Wizard 18+4 backpack. I’m glad I had this, not only for the extra space for rain coats and layers, but also for the built in rain cover that I used on the summit of Phelps. It wasn’t raining hard, but it began to mist enough that we were starting to get a little wet. We spent a little time snacking, enjoying the (cloudy) view and eating lunch/snacks. Then we decided to head back. Blue sky was in sight!

I think my favorite part of any hike is the trek down. All the hard work has been done, and now I can enjoy and remember the views along the way.

We enjoyed the trek back. We started to warm up and the clouds kept breaking up. Though a bright blue sky was never to be seen, we did enjoy the fall colors.

We passed back through Marcy Dam and took a few more photos.


Then headed back past Marcy Brook and ended at the start of the Van Hoevenburg Trail. We signed out and realized I wasn’t the only one to celebrate their birthday on the summit of Phelps that day. Here’s to hoping Jake had a good birthday too!

Today we had hiked a total of 12.6 miles. It took us around 9 hours. Our ascent was 5041 feet and decent of 5026 feet. This one was my favorite high peak treks to date.


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