The hiking in the Adirondack Mountain Range is some of the best hiking in New York State - no doubt about it. Sure, the state might be best known for the bright lights and urban metropolis of New York City, but honestly, you only have to drive a few hours north to reach some truly stunning hiking trails. For starters, there’s the fantastic Catskill Mountains two hours north of NYC, but drive another two hours further and you’ll get to the truly remarkable Adirondack Mountain Range - where you’ll find 46 high peaks ranging from the 3820ft/1164m Couchsachraga Peak to the highest point in both the Adirondacks and in New York State, the 5344ft/1628m Mt. Marcy.
Climb all of those high peaks and you can proudly call yourself a member of the exclusive ranks of the Adirondack 46ers - but beyond that challenge, the number of high peaks in the Adirondacks really just shows how much hiking there is to be done in the mountain range. Naturally, some of the 46 are pretty challenging hikes, while others are relatively straightforward, and there are plenty of hikes in the Adirondacks outside of the 46 high peaks for those after a gentler walk - plus an array of welcoming, beautiful little towns and communities to explore.
Here, we’re going to look to answer some of the most common questions asked about the Adirondacks, and then go on to suggest some possible hiking routes.
Adirondacks Map | High Peaks
So, the Adirondacks, where are they exactly? The Adirondacks cover around 5,000 square miles in northeastern New York, in a circular dome about 160 metres in diameter, loosely on the boundaries of Adirondack Park.
We thought we’d start off with a map, because all good guides should have a map, and we know a few of you are probably wondering where the Adirondack Mountains are in the United States. Here you can see the rough layout of the high peaks across the Adirondacks, and if you zoom out, the relation of the Adirondacks from New York City, and its geographical position on the map.
It takes about four and a half hours to drive from New York City to the Adirondacks, and unfortunately at the time of writing, there’s not currently a direct train. The mountain range is also within a day's drive of much of the northeastern United States, and also from Ontario and Quebec.
Adirondacks Weather & When to Visit the Adirondacks?
When to visit the Adirondacks really depends on what kind of weather you want when you get there. You get true seasons in the Adirondacks with cold winters and warm summers. Summer runs from May-August, and is the best time to go if you’re looking for good weather and long days, perfect for spending all day in the mountains. You lose a little bit of the light, but you also lose a lot of the crowds if you come in September, and you'll also see that Fall beauty, though some places will be shutting up for winter. Come the snowy season, expect to see the white stuff in abundance, and the ski season take over from November to April.
If you’re interested in local events, check out the I Love Barbecue festival, which we think is fairly self-explanatory, and the Ironman Lake Placid challenge, as well as the stunning Adirondack Balloon Festival, which is usually in September.
For temperatures? In summer you're looking at highs of 29°C/84.2°F and lows of 13°C/55.4°F and in winter, highs of around 7°C/44.6°F and lows of -12°C/10.4°F. Yup. Pack the big coat.
Where to Stay & Local Towns
Okay, so where should you stay? There are an absolute abundance of welcoming towns and communities in the Adirondacks region. Here, we’re just going to very quickly outline a few of the most popular options. Starting with...
Lake Placid: The best known of the Adirondacks towns, Lake Placid is the perfect place for hiking lovers, as it’s right in the heart of the high peaks. It was also the site of the 1932 & 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is the gateway to so many of the great hikes in the Adirondacks, so if you’re visiting for the first time then it’s hard to overlook it, and even if you’re just after gentler hikes, there’s plenty in the area. When you add in the lakes and the Olympic history, there are really no shortage of views nor heritage in Lake Placid.
Lake George: Not just the original vacation spot in the Adirondacks, Lake George can actually lay claim to being the “original” vacation spot in all of the United States. In 1868 a preacher from Boston called William H.H. Murray introduced the Adirondacks to the general public, publishing a book about his travels. Half travel guide, half short-story collection, he inspired people to come from far and wide to visit Lake George and the Adirondacks. It’s still as beautiful as ever now, and is a town where many of the events in the region take place.
Saranac Lake: Sensing a theme here yet? A lot of the towns in the Adirondacks are based around lakes, and Saranac Lake is another which is simply fantastic for hiking. The Saranac 6er is a challenge which asks anyone who's keen to try and climb the six mountains which surround the town in one 24-hour period. It’s a hell of a challenge, but showcases how much there is to do around the town. The town is also home to an iconic winter carnival.
This is just a snapshot of three of the many wonderful towns in the Adirondack region. There are plenty of other beautiful spots, from Speculator to Long Lake and Cranberry Lake to North Creek and Inlet, which is home to the Fulton Chain of Lakes . We hope this gives you an idea or two over where you might start!
Planning to get out the towns and spend some nights beneath the stars in the mountains? Then you’re probably wondering if you’re allowed to camp in the Adirondacks. Good news: you are.
There are certain spots for it - New York State designated tent sites, which you’re encouraged to use, but in general though, you can camp anywhere on Forest Preserve lands as long as you're more than 150ft from the nearest body of water, road or trail. Some sites are marked as prohibited for camping. Obviously don’t camp in those and make sure you leave no trace, and camp mindfully and sustainably, with care for nature, the environment and the wildlife within it.
What Kind of Wildlife is in the Adirondacks?
There are over 50 species of mammals in the Adirondacks alone, ranging from black bears and enormous moose to moles, white-tailed dear, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels and chipmunks. Adirondack Park is actually home to more than 50% of all the black bears in New York State. They're commonly sighted in the Adirondacks, though of course, you can never guarantee a sighting of any animal. You should also keep your eyes open for porcupine, raccoons and beavers.
The rivers and lakes of the region are also packed with fish, and the forests, hills and mountains are a birdwatcher’s dream. Bluebirds, chick-a-dees, sparrows, robins and red-headed woodpeckers are common, and the rare Bicknell's Thrush is often sought out by birders. If you look to the sky you might see raptors from the American kestrel to the bald eagle, or hawks, peregrine falcons or ospreys. Great horned owls and barred owls are also commonly spotted.
Best Hikes in the Adirondacks: 5 Routes for a Variety of Abilities
To finish, we’re going to list a few hikes in the Adirondacks region which give you an idea of the variety of hiking trails in the region, and what to expect if you head out on the trails. It’s also worth checking out our feature on the best hikes in New York State, where we go into a bit more detail on a couple of those included here - namely the Great Range Traverse and the three-summit hike on the MacIntyre Range.
1. Hike the Great Range Traverse
Looking to summit Mt. Marcy? It’s the highest point in both the Adirondacks and in New York State. Getting up there is no mean feat, but if you’re really looking for a challenge, and you really want to see what the Adirondacks have got, take on the Great Range Traverse. Not only will you summit Mt. Marcy, you’ll also summit seven other peaks about 4000ft. It’s not easy, but this is one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks for sure - just think of all those panoramas!
2. Climb Mount Arab
A simple hike near Tupper Lake, the trek up Mount Arab might only stretch out for a mile but it's one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the entire state when you get up to the top. Not so much effort... lots of reward! Up the top you'll find a fire tower and a museum too, so it’s a great spot for a day out with family or friends.
3. Auger Falls Loop
Near Inlet, this hike is a short one along the Sacandaga River to the beautiful Auger Falls, and shows that you don't have to go up a hill or a high peak in order to get some natural beauty in the region. You’ll feel more remote than you actually are, hear a lot of wildlife in the woods and see some beautiful waterfalls too.
4. Hike the MacIntyre Range
A 15-minute drive from Lake Placid you’ll find the Adirondack Loj, a historic lodge and the starting point for so many great hikes in the mountain range. This one will take you up through some forest, and to the summit of Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak, which is the second highest mountain in the Adirondack mountain range at 1559m / 5,115ft, and Iroquois Peak. It’s a beautiful route with rugged views and a great loop trail that will take you back via a lake.
5. Climb Baker Mountain
Remember we mentioned Saranac Lake and the Saranac six challenge? Mount Baker is one of those six mountains, and is right in the village of Saranac Lake. It's an out and back of 1.8 miles with 900ft up and down, and it might be the most straightforward of the 6ers to climb, but it's real beautiful, with views of McKenzie Mountain, Lake Flower and the High Peaks from the peak.
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