Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Adirondacks
By Carly Eisley
A 3-4 hour drive from the Escape Campervans depot in New York takes you to the scenic Adirondack region. This beautiful area of the northeast is home to year-round beauty and recreation opportunities with some amazing lakes, mountains, and trails.
There are a ton of camping options throughout the region. This map by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will help you find a state campground in no time! Interested in other options or want to get an idea of what your fellow campers thought of the area campgrounds? Check out the Dyrt for area campground reviews (and don’t forget to leave your review to help future campers!).
Hiking the Adirondacks
From multi-day backpacking adventures, long day hikes to 4000 footers, family-friendly hikes, waterfall or summit views, hiking the Adirondacks offers something for everyone. Pick up a trail guide and map (I like the Adirondack Mountain Clubs’ High Peaks Guide and the Hiking the Adirondacks Falcon guide.
Many hikes and land areas in the Adirondacks are on private property, so use caution and research where you are headed. Be sure to obey all land use and parking regulations! Here are a few suggestions; there are PLENTY more out there to explore!
What a view!!! I highly recommend this hike. The hike is ~10 miles total, but almost 7 miles of that are on a dirt road to/from the car. The hike is on private property (Owned by the Adirondack Mountain Reserve), but the public is allowed access to the trails from a parking area near the road. The Gill Brook Trail has a series of beautiful waterfalls, and the fjord-like view from the summit is amazing. Don’t expect solitude up there – this is a hike! Going on a weekday will help a little with crowd control.
A great hike for beginner hikers, families, sunset views, or anyone looking for a very nice view without an all-day commitment. The hike starts at the Adirondack Loj and is between 2.2-2.6 miles total, depending on the trail you take up/down. There is some climbing of course and some rocky areas, but the reward of views of the surrounding high peaks and heart lake is worth the (relatively) minimal effort. We hiked this for sunrise and hiked back down via headlamp.
Whiteface is home to a ski mountain, lodge, multiple trails to the summit, and a road to the top for cars. This makes it a crowded peak when hiking, but the views from the top are worth it. For those who can’t manage a 12 mile round trip hike up a 4,000 footer, the road provides access to take in the scenery from the top (plus those auto roads are pretty cool, and make for some great photo ops!)
A 5.5-mile round trip hike with some steep sections (gaining 1300 feet over a mile!) this hike has the reward of an exposed summit with stunning views of the network of lakes around Saranac Lake. Put your climbing pants on and hit the trail here, you won’t regret it!
The highest peak in the Adirondacks at 5,344 feet, this hike is ~15 miles total (7.4 miles out and back) and offers spectacular views of the surrounding range on the exposed summit. Use caution and check the weather forecast closely before heading up – a 60-degree day at the base could mean some ice and snow at the summit, especially in the Fall and Spring. Count on snow and wind in the winter!
The Adirondack and Catskill areas are home to dozens of historic fire towers that have been restored and are open to the public for exploring. Pick up a copy of “Views from on High,” a comprehensive guide to all of the fire towers in the area, and start exploring.
Many of these hikes are short and easy to moderate in difficulty, making them a great family activity or sunset/sunrise hike. The views are stunning and the towers and their associated caretaker cabins are an interesting reward at the top!
Side note: If you’re scared of heights or of climbing multiple sets of rickety stairs up to a skinny tower, don’t fret. You don’t HAVE to climb the tower at the top! But if you can do it, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Lake Placid was home to the 1980 Winter Olympics and is still the training ground for winter sports such as the bobsled. You can take a tour of the Olympic museum, ride to the top of the ski jump, check out the ice rink and outdoor speedskating oval, XC ski, or even ride a bobsled. Have winter sports and Olympic fever? Lake Placid is your place! Stroll the downtown area after you’ve had your Olympic fill for some shopping, food, and beautiful views of Mirror Lake.
Hiking the Adirondacks is not the only thing to do, the Adirondacks region is home to lakes…. and lakes… and lakes… and more lakes. They are seriously beautiful, framed in by mountain views and dotted with quaint towns to explore. Canoe, kayak, paddleboard, fish, swim…. you can even take a river cruise or a floatplane ride. There is no limit to the water sports available (or water to sport on). From the busier (aka touristy) Lake George to the Saranac Lake region and many, many more, there is a whole lot of water to explore.
While Fall is my favorite time of year for adventuring in the Northeast, the Adirondacks has something to offer in every season. Book your campervan adventure and see for yourself!! (And share your good finds with me…. I can’t wait to go back!)