Top 10 Hikes for your Vacation to The Adirondacks of Upstate New York
We moved to the outskirts of the Adirondacks 2.5 years ago. From my short time getting to explore what feels like an endless outdoor adventure, I have a few helpful hiking pointers if you’re headed this direction for summer vacation!
The Adirondacks (ADK) are a great destination if you are looking to disconnect. I know that can almost sound cliche, but the phrase stands true in the ADK because cell service is pretty spotty and almost always unreliable. The region is rustic, vintage, and preserved. So going for a hike in the woods is everything you imagine and more. In relation to hiking, the Adirondacks are most famously known for its High Peaks Region - 46 peaks over 4,000 ft. in elevation and a round trip mileage of roughly 6-20 miles depending on the trail you choose. That’s the hype, but I promise you that the thousands of other hikes are worth a gander before you take on the feat of becoming a 46er! There are routes for the beginner and experienced hikers in the Adirondacks. For the easy to moderate hiker, this blog entry is for you!
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First off, a few tips:
- Rest areas: The towns are far and few between when driving in any part of the Adirondacks to your hiking destination, so don’t plan to “stop at the next gas station” because it isn’t there! Most of the trailheads do not have a bathroom at the start, and if they do it’s a privy.
- Water: Our group consisted of two people and a dog, so we always packed four 32 oz. water bottles. Two for the dog and one for my fiance and I. If it’s a hot day, definitely pack more or pack the life straw.
- Footwear: If you’re planning to hike for a few days, definitely get fitted for some hiking boots. My favorite hiking socks are the SmartWool PhD mid-calf.
- Fun things to pack: All of the hikes have a certain difficulty about them whether it is the terrain or elevation, so celebrate at the top with a craft brew (but remember to *leave no trace)! Pack a swimsuit too, because you never know when you’ll pass a natural water pool and need to cool off with a dip!
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Top 10 Best Hikes in The Adirondacks:
Ampersand Mountain Trail
Rated - Hard (5.4 miles)
Location: Between Saranac Lake & Tupper Lake
Terrain: Rocky, steep rocks
Elevation Gain: 1,765 ft
My experience: This hike was a challenge for us. It got a little sketchy at the top for our Golden Retriever to scale the steep, flat rocks but the view was INCREDIBLE! We went near the end of August and the view was green for miles on end with a large body of water in the middle of it all.
Rated - Easy (2.4 miles)
Location: Wilmington, NY
Terrain: dirt, tree roots, some rocks but not much
Elevation gain: 242 ft
My experience: Considering how easy this hike is, you get a great view at the summit, similar to a moderately-rated hike. We’ve taken my mother & father in-law and my pregnant sister in-law and they went out & back no problem! We did this hike in late May - the color was bursting with green - and we went the third weekend in September when the fall colors were just starting to show.
Saint Regis Mountain Trail
Rated - Moderate (6.2 miles)
Location - About 3 miles from Paul Smith’s College
Terrain - Sandy, dirt, tree roots, and rocks. The hike gets pretty steep near the summit, but it is a great climb because there are openings to the “view” on that last push to the top.
Elevation gain - 1,538 ft
My Experience: - A fall favorite hike for experiencing the fall colors! We reached the summit of Saint Regis Mountain at sunset in late-September and it is a full 360 degree view. The “fruity pebble” ADK fall effect was on full display. When you get to the top, you can summit two separate sides of the mountain. We veered left once we hit the fire tower. Each spot is awesome, and it wouldn’t be hard to do both. We hiked down in the dark with our headlamps, which added to the excitement!
Rated - Moderate (3.2 miles)
Location - Near Lake Placid
Terrain - Rocky, trail markers became hard to follow at one point. Narrow path in some spots, more sandy and large rocks, more dirt near the bottom.
Elevation Gain - 931 ft
My experience: A great hike for getting the ultimate “For the ‘Gram” photo on the two boulders at the summit. You can leap between them, with an insane photo backdrop. On the way to the top, there is a short spot where it’s ridge-like, and you can look out to your right and see the waterfall on the other side of the road.
Rated - Hard (5.6 miles)
Location - Near Keene
Terrain - Rocky, steep
Elevation Gain: 2,286
My experience: This is one of the “easiest” of the 46 high peaks if you want to get a start on crossing them off your list! That’s not to say it isn’t a challenge, because it is! At the top, there is plenty of room to pick which direction you want to look and sit to have lunch. You can also decide to cross off another high peak by hiking an additional 2 miles to summit Porter Mountain. We did this hike in early September and everything was green in all directions.
Rated - moderate (3.3 miles)
Location - At Whiteface Mountain Resort, near Wilmington
Terrain - inclines gradually, dirty, rock, tree roots
Elevation Gain - 1,479 ft
My experience: Enjoy the view of Whiteface’s ski runs! Great mid-week hike for getting in a good workout before lunch in Lake Placid. We brought three dog’s with us on this hike and the photos were awesome! We hiked this trail at the end of July and it was a beautiful summer AM hike.
Rated - Moderate (3.2 miles)
Location - near Willsboro, NY
Terrain - Dirt, large gradual inclines
Elevation Gain - 1279 ft
My experience: The first part of this hike was pretty easy. Then it gradually inclined to the point where it felt like you were on a never ending staircase! Although I promise the views near the top were totally worth the leg burn! Near the summit, you start to get peek-a-boo views, and then at the top you can see Lake Champlain in the distance. We went in early October and the leaves were yellow and orange, past peak but still beautiful.
Baxter Mountain Trail
Rated - Moderate (2.9 miles)
Location - Near Keene Valley, NY
Terrain - short, steep, tree roots, dirt, rocky at top
Elevation Gain - 790 ft
My experience: For the most part, this is a short fairly easy hike until the very end which gets rocky and steep. There are good views near the top, but don’t stop there! If you keep trekking upwards, you can walk a small path that will take you to multiple private outlooks. We hiked this once during the third weekend of September, and the color change was minimal. Then we hiked it again in the second weekend of October. Although the colors at that time were just past their peak, the colors were still insanely vibrant!
Black Mountain Summit Trail
Rated - Moderate (5.7 miles)
Location - Near Huletts Landing - overlooks Lake George
Terrain - Walking through creek beds, tree roots, muddy
Elevation Gain - 1,220 ft
My experience: The view of Lake George is unlike any other because the lake is over 30 miles in length! We went the third weekend in October when it was peak leaf foliage in the Lake George Region. The hike was gorgeous but muddy and we walked-up creek beds.
Jay Mountain Trail
Rated - Moderate (6.9 miles)
Location - Near Jay
Terrain - Sandy, dirt, switchbacks. Ridge traverses along the whole summit!
Elevation Gain - 2,401 ft
My experience: ULTIMATE FAVORITE HIKE. The first 6 miles of this hike is like most others in the area, but don’t let this fool you. The summit is unlike all of the hikes we had completed since living here. When you summit there is an amazing view of the high peaks. Then you realize that you can keep hiking the entire ridge heading eastbound for about another mile or more. The hike along the whole ridge is wide open to the North, where you can see miles and miles of the ADK peaks. At the top of the rock face is a view of Lake Champlain and Whiteface Ski Resort, as well as a gorgeous 360 degree view.
*Trail difficulty & mileage was sourced from the app All Trails