Running from the northernmost part of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River to just below the southern edge of the Adirondack Park, the Adirondacks cover approximately five thousand square miles of land. This area hosts a lot of ground to cover and is especially ideal for those looking for amazing hiking trails with breathtaking views. With a rugged terrain permeated in spruce, hemlock, and pine trees, not to mention magnificent waterfalls, stunning lakes and rivers, and breathtaking gorges, there are so many good trails available to the avid hiker. Below are nine of the best nature hikes available while visiting one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in all of America.
Mount Marcy, located near Lake Placid and the town of Keene, is known for having the highest summit in the Adirondack Mountains. With an elevation of over fifty-three hundred feet, whether hikers choose the Van Hoevenberg Trail or the John Brook Trail; this should be considered as one of the most strenuous hikes in Adirondack Park, ideal for seasoned hikers. The Van Hoevenberg Trail is a little over seven miles to the summit, whereas the John Brook Trail is eighteen miles from start to finish. There is camping available at Marcy Dam, for those who wish to stay the night. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed!
Near Saranac Lake, in the center of Adirondack Park, the Ampersand Mountain Trail is a moderately challenging trek, but well worth it upon reaching the summit. The trail is only five and a half miles long (out and back), however, there are some extremely difficult spots along the way, so it is suggested that it not be attempted solo. The summit offers 360-degree views of the tops of some of the shorter mountains in the area, as well as views of the beautiful Saranac Lake as well as portions of the valley floor, revealing the High Peaks off into the distance. Returning to the parking lot, there is only a half-mile hike to Ampersand Beach if visitors are up for some late-afternoon swimming post-hike!
The Mount Arab Trail, just south of the town of Piercefield, in Horseshoe Lake Forest, is a moderately graded trail that is good for novices as well as more experienced hikers. From the just under two-mile trek (up and back) to the 360-degree views available from the fire tower at the mountain’s summit, this hike can be enjoyable for whole families, couples, or even small groups of friends. For folks who want to take a break after finishing the hike, Tupper Lake is slightly east of the mountain and offers some of the best fishing known in the Adirondack Mountains. Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be kept on a leash.
One of several Bald Mountains located in New York, this Bald Mountain, sometimes called Rondaxe Mountain, is located near Old Forge, deep in the heart of the Adirondacks, and is an excellent hiking experience for the whole family. An interesting fact about Bald Mountain is that it is one of the twenty-five Adirondack Fire Tower Peaks, which also includes Mount Arab, Vanderwhacker, and Owl’s Head. While Bald Mountain has a summit of over twenty-three hundred feet, akin to Owl’s Head and Mount Arab, Bald Mountain has an easier trail to hike with younger members of the family. As with most of the peaks in the Adirondacks, dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
Mount Haystack is accurately named, as the summit resembles one of the haystacks you might see in a farmer’s field. For those looking for a slightly longer hike, Mount Haystack Trail is the ticket, being approximately sixteen miles in length (out and back) and is recommended for serious hikers only. This does not mean novices cannot attempt it. Suggestions are that you do not attempt it alone, though. Mount Haystack is the third highest peak in New York, after Algonquin Mountain and Mount Marcy and, as such, offers spectacular views of the entire area once reaching the summit. While not one of the Adirondack Fire Tower Peaks, Mount Haystack is still worthy of being included in a list of awesome hikes.
The Vanderwhacker Mountain Trail is considered a moderately graded hike, six miles (out and back), with excellent 360-degree views when you reach the fire tower at the mountain’s summit. Surrounded by the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, a ninety-thousand-acre tract of land with the mountain sitting approximately at its center, Vanderwhacker Mountain is located southeast of the town of Newcomb and northeast of Indian Lake. Vanderwhacker Mountain is part of the Adirondack Fire Tower Peaks and, as such, promises great photographic opportunities along the way as well as at the summit. This is a good hike for families, groups of friends, or even two or three people. Dogs are welcome, so long as they are leashed.
Another one of the Adirondack Fire Tower Peaks is Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain. Poke-O-Moonshine is accurately named through a rough translation of two Algonquin words, “Pohquis” and “Moosie,” which translates into broken and smooth. This is describing the eastern rock-face of the mountain, a favorite of rock climbers for the difficult challenge and birds of prey for exemplary nesting. Though both trails, the Observer’s Trail and the Ranger Trail, are listed as moderate, do not let the Ranger Trail fool you. While it is shorter than the Observer’s Trail, it is also quite a bit steeper as well. The Observer’s Trail is much newer and leads the hiker through red pine forests and past several beaver ponds.
The Snowy Mountain Trail is approximately seven miles long (out and back) and is recommended for experienced hikers only, as Snowy Mountain has the highest elevation of all the Adirondack Fire Tower Peaks. With an almost four-thousand-foot elevation, the views from the summit of Snowy Mountain are breathtaking, to say the least. The Snowy Mountain Trail is accessible year-round (snowshoes or cross-country skis are suggested for the winter months). If you decide to hike it in the spring, there is a great deal of mud to deal with. This is due to the melting of the snow as temperatures rise. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
Northville Placid Trail
Not for the faint of heart, the Northville Placid Trail is approximately one hundred forty-two miles from start to finish. As the name implies, this trail runs from the town of Northville to Lake Placid, passing several mountains along the way, including Vanderwacker Mountain and Mount Marcy. While trekkers may choose to hike the entire length of the trail, approximately fifty to sixty hours in total, or just attempt a piece of it, this trail is graded as being difficult, mainly due to its length. For those who wish to traverse it from start to finish, there are options for camping overnight along the way. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
The Adirondack Mountains, and the trails available therein, offer some of the most breathtaking, spectacular views of nature in its grandeur and beauty when reaching the summit, but do not forget to stop and smell the flowers (literally) along the way. There are also photographic opportunities along all these trails, so remember to pack a camera along with your sense of adventure! While stopping for the night is not necessarily required, the Adirondacks are great for camping with friends and/or family.