Adirondack Hike: Colvin and Blake
My hiking buddy and I had plans to head out and grab our last two peaks of the season, but wanted to see some of the beautiful foliage with this hike. We had planned to do Colvin and Blake, with a stop by Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliff for an added bonus. Colvin is the thirty-ninth highest peak with an elevation of 4,057 feet and Blake is just below that at 3,960 feet and ranked forty-third of the forty-six peaks.
We also wanted to do the hike during decent weather, so had postponed twice due to rainy conditions over the previous few weeks. The latest we had hiked the previous year in our first year of doing the high peaks was mid-September, and the day that matched both our schedules this year for a final hike, with a decent weather prognosis, was Sunday, October 14th.
The weather forecast was for a high in the low fifties with a ten percent chance of precipitation. All-in-all, a generous forecast for this part of the year. We had a bit of hesitation when facebook reports and photos from the day before were coming back with snow flurries at the higher elevations, but with the sunny weather and temperature projection, we figured we'd be alright. We also knew it was going to be sloppy since we had gotten a lot of rain in the previous week.
For us, we got up early in the morning (4:45 a.m.) and met part of the way to Adirondack Park from where we reside and that was Rome, N.Y. at just after 6 a.m. It was my turn to drive and we headed north and east until we reached route 87 and continued up from there for another thirty minutes. We took exit 30 towards Lake Placid and followed route 9 until it met route 73. We kept left on route 73, passing Chapel Pond and some nice cliffs on the left.
As we came down the hill towards Ausable Road, there were already cars parked on both sides of the road (see video below). When we reached the entrance to the lot, there was a Park Ranger there who informed us that we would have to turn around and find a spot on the road in either direction.
We backtracked and found a spot about a quarter of a mile up the hill on the right and began preparing for the hike. We were all geared up and heading to the signin book by 9:15 a.m.
Ausable Road Parking Area - St. Hubert's
It was down the hill and then across the parking lot until we hopped onto Ausable Road. We walked up a little hill and then the golf course came into view on the right. We went a little further until Lake Road jutted out to the left and turned down it. A few minutes later we were at the sign in book for all the mountains in the Great Range, Nippletop, Dial, Colvin, Blake, and Indian Head.
Just past the sign in book is the big gate and then you are officially on trail. The road is a godsend when you are coming off the mountain and accounts for a nice chunk of the mileage from this hike.
As you head up the road, there's a small incline and you will come to the turn off for the H.G. Leach trail that leads up to Dial about thirty-three minutes after signing in. The Gill Brook trail comes next about about twenty minutes and then the Gill Brook Cutoff is right after that. We reached this trailhead an hour and ten minutes after we left the car at 10:25 a.m.
Once on the trail (blue-marked trail), you head up for a little bit until you reach a sign for the Indian Head turnoff. We stayed straight and about twenty-five minutes later with some more elevation came to the cutoff for Fish Hawk Cliffs. This was an hour and fifty minutes since we had left the car and was 11:05 a.m.
There is a sign there for both Colvin and Nippletop and it tells you the mileage for Colvin is 1.8 miles and Nippletop is 2.4 miles. The trail leads to Elk Pass.
About twenty-five minutes to thirty minutes later and .7 upward miles, there is the turn off for Elk Pass and Nippletop and Dial on the left. The mileage doesn't add up as it says 1.1 miles to Colvin, but still 1.9 miles to Nippletop. The last sign was 1.8 miles to Colvin and 2.4 miles to Nippletop, so we spent a few minutes doing some math before pressing on.
I was pretty sweaty from the hike up to this point, so I took a layer off before heading onto the trail for Colvin. Immediately into the turnoff though, there was a five degree temperature change and I put that layer right back on.
The terrain is pretty steep right away and then mellows out a bit and is more moderate. It's an easy reminder on the way out when you're getting close to the turn off for Nippletop as the steepness will be telling.
The terrain stays fairly moderate until a series of tricky scrambles up near the summit. There are some big steps and steep rock formations that you'll need to be careful on both up and on the way down.
We made the summit of Colvin at 12:30 p.m. and it's not a very big area up there (about 15' by 15'). When we arrived, there must have been about a dozen people there and it was standing room only. All of the people had plans to progress on to Blake, so we grabbed a quick bite, took a bathroom break further along the trail, and nabbed our summit shots. This was peak number thirty-two for us and a French hiking duo was nice enough to help us with our pictures.
We were only on the summit of Colvin for about fifteen minutes since it was so crowded and then we followed the trail out along the ridge toward Blake. It was pretty flat for the first part and there is a nice lookout up and over a little ledge on the right that my buddy said was worth the time it took him to climb up and out to it.
It didn't take long to get to the steep descent part coming down the backside of Colvin. We ran into a couple of hikers that told us this was the fun part of the hike because of the wetness and steepness of the descent. So, we dubbed this section the 'Fun Zone.'
It took us a good forty minutes to get down before it flattened out. There are some good views of Blake as you descend and it gives you an idea of how much further you have before starting the climb back up. It reminded me of coming down the backside of Giant before going back up to Rocky Peak Ridge.
Once down, it was a bit sloppy on the trip up Blake, but the ascent only took about another forty minutes minutes and we hit the summit at 2:05 p.m. We were the only ones there, but the Frenchmen arrived a few minutes later.
I say summit of Colvin, but it's Blake
Since it was an enclosed summit, we ate a snack and then were off after about ten minutes. It took us only thirty minutes to come down off of Blake, passing many of the groups we saw up at Colvin. The trip back up Colvin was pretty rough on my legs since it had been about two months between hikes and I felt both quads tightening up.
It was still way easier going up than it was coming down since slipping was more of a concern when you're descending. We made it back to the summit of Colvin an hour later around 3:15 p.m.
From Colvin back down to the split for Nippletop only took us an hour as we were moving pretty good and arrived at 4:15 p.m. We then came to the sign for Fish Hawk Cliffs twenty-five minutes later.
We had some gas left in the tank and figured the sun being close to setting might give us some good shots at Indian Head so we turned to head up to Fish Hawk Cliffs (orange section of route map).
Thirteen minutes later and one little steep section and we were there at 4:52 p.m.
There was a couple there when we arrived, just finishing up photos, so we dropped our gear, grabbed a snack and waited for them to head out. I changed out of my wet clothes and into a new dry base layer and warmer top since most of the elevation was done.
Then we went over to the edge and grabbed some shots of the foliage and lake below.
After ten minutes at Fish Hawk Cliffs, we took the trail heading to Indian Head. It's pretty moderate until the end where there is one hellacious incline just before your reach the top. It took us about fifteen minutes to ascend that last section and then had twenty minutes to admire the views from Indian Head.
The wind was blowing pretty good so we left Indian Head at 5:25 p.m. and made the choice to head down towards the Boat House at the end of Lake Road. We hadn't done that trail the first time we visited, so we thought we'd see what it was like.
It was a series of moderate descents and switchbacks that took us about twenty-five minutes to navigate before reaching the Boat House and damn that leads across to the trail for Sawteeth and Rainbow Falls. It was 5:51 p.m. when we started the death march back to the car.
We started walking along Lake Road and were joined by a bunch of other hikers. We met up with the pair we had seen at Fish Hawk Cliffs and talked with them for about twenty minutes. Around 6:30 p.m., the sun started to dip and many people broke out the head lamps.
We arrived back at the sign in book just after 6:50 p.m. and then made it to the car around 7:15 p.m. We drove back to the parking lot now that it was cleared out and changed into fresh clothes there before finally getting on the road for home.
Both of our fitbits said it was 46,000 steps, 21 miles, and ten hours since we left the car.
All-in-all, this was a great hike. We got good weather for so late in the season and met some nice people on the trail. The views from Colvin are worth the hike and Blake offers some interesting shots back to where you came from. Being able to grab Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs again was nice too since we have completed all the peaks from the St. Hubert's parking area and won't be back unless we decide to repeat something.
In ranking the peaks, I'd have to put Colvin in the upper third, on par with the Dix Range. Blake would be in the lower groups, similar to Street and Nye where it was an interesting hike but with little payoff at the end in terms of views.
Thirty-three down though, only thirteen to go (Marcy, Skylight, Gray, Emmons, Seward, Donaldson, Seymour, Marshall, Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, Esther, and Whiteface).