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The Best of the Adirondacks

The Best of the Adirondacks

Journey into the Adirondack State Park, a region that feels untouched by time where nature thrives. Check out the best of the Adirondacks so you can explore, hike, swim, and stay in the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains (ADKs).

Grab your hiking boots and pack your tent, it’s time to dive into the vast wilderness in upstate NY.

Table of Contents

History of the Adirondacks

Landscape

The terrain hosts mountains created 5 million years ago – relatively recently compared to the Appalachians which were formed 480 million years ago. The ADK ancient mountains were carved by glaciers in the last ice age 10,000 years ago, creating a uniquely serene landscape. Freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams connect around the rugged mountains to create a diverse and abundant ecosystem.

 

People

The Adirondack Region provided abundance to the Native Americans since 9000 BC. The majority of our records indicate the Iroquois people in the Mohawk and Oneida tribes occupied the land, and English settlers arrived later in the 17th century. The allure of the roaring waterfalls, picturesque peaks, and diverse wildlife has made the Adirondacks a destination for city-dwellers for centuries. In 1892, the area was preserved and protected as a natural reprise and declared the Adirondack State Park.

 

Industry

The influx of people venturing into the wilderness, paired with the demand for industrial advancements, led to commercialized investments in timber and mining. Rails were built for the easy passage of goods, and the Adirondack State Park’s resources were conserved! Today, logging, mining, and tourism are the dominating industries. 

Towns in the Adirondacks

Lake Placid

The most well-known town in the ADKs, Lake Placid is a must-see stopping point on your mountain adventures. Not only is Lake Placid everyone’s summer camp dream, but it also has its claim to fame as one of 10 places in the world to host the Olympics twice!

Lake Placid is a fun town to try the luge, ski down Whiteface Mountain, just look in awe at the ski jumps, and watch figure skaters train! The main street is a quintessential Upstate town located on the serene Mirror Lake. Its fame has led to its touristy atmosphere, with higher prices and a more luxurious experience. 

Lake Placid and Mirror Lake. view point

Old Forge

Old Forge serves as the gateway to the Fulton Chain of Lakes, a chain of eleven pristine lakes connected by channels and dotted with islands. This interconnected water wonderland offers endless opportunities for boating, kayaking, and fishing. Discover secluded coves and tranquil spots for a relaxing day on the water.

The main street has quirky and iconic storefronts, filled with the famous Adirondack Chair, and plenty of wood-carved tchotchkes. If you have some time to spare, check out the Old Forge Hardware & Furniture Co!

Saranac LAke

Located in the heart of the Adirondack Park, Saranac Lake is a historic town with roots dating back over 200 years. This town was once centered around the Saranac Inn, once owned by former president Grover Cleveland! Although the Inn burned down decades ago, this quaint town is filled with outdoorsy people and history.

Take a walk down the main street and get transported back in time, walking all the way to ‘Berkeley Green’ park to read about the lores around the massive bell that resides. 

Inlet

Located just north of Old Forge, Inlet is a less-touristy but just as cute town that has stunning lake views and amazing places to eat. Grab some food at The Caboose, and then pick up locally-made ice cream and walk along Arrowhead Park. 

The town of Inlet will have you feeling like a kid at summer camp, where you can canoe across Fourth Lake and kick back at an open fire near your cozy cabin. 

Waterfalls

High Falls Gorge

High Falls Gorge is a popular hiking area in Wilmington. Accessible to all, this is an easy stop for anyone looking to feel the intensity of the falls. Owned and operated for over 130 years, the High Falls Gorge is a historic park of the ADK experience. 

This area definitely gets busy, especially with its proximity to Lake Placid. If you’re looking for something less built and more natural, keep exploring the waterfalls below! For a free version of the High Falls, head upriver to Wilmington Notch campground and check out the Wilmington Falls. 

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 mile
Time: <1 hour
Cost: $13-16 entry ticket

Roaring Brook Falls

Roaring Brook Falls is a hidden gem in Keene Valley, offering a quieter waterfall experience. A short but rewarding hike through the forest leads to the base of this towering waterfall. The cool mist and the sound of rushing water create a serene atmosphere, perfect for contemplation and relaxation. 

The waterfall is located in the Giant Mountain Wilderness and is surrounded by lush greenery, making it an excellent spot for nature enthusiasts and photographers to capture the beauty of the Adirondacks. There is limited parking so arrive early!

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.6 miles
Time: ~1.5 hours
Cost: Free

OK Slip Falls

OK Slip Falls is a well-kept secret among Adirondack enthusiasts. To reach this hidden gem, you’ll embark on a moderate hike that leads you through pristine forests and along tranquil streams. 

For the more daring adventurers, there is a rope to descend down the steep falls into the pool at the bottom. Explore at your own risk, prevent natural destruction by staying on paths, and respect nature!

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.7 miles
Time: ~4 hours
Cost

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls is an easy-to-access spot where nature has created a natural playground. The clear, cold waters cascade over smooth rocks, creating inviting pools for swimming and wading. The surrounding forest provides shade and a sense of seclusion, making it an ideal place to cool. 

Located in Long Lake, this stop is on most people’s routes anyway! Just a few minutes off of route 28N between Old Forge and Tupper Lake, this is a perfect spot to take a dip and enjoy the sun! Although not super high, the falls are over 100 feet wide and worth the quick stop.

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.1 miles
Time: <30 minutes
Cost: Free!

Beaver Meadow Falls

This is a stunning curtain of cascading water from 50 feet above. The falls are intense, serene, and captivating all at once. The trail starts at St. Huberts parking lot which can fill up early in the day. The trail starts by crossing through the Ausable Club golf course, which has a strict no-dog policy (sorry pups). There are a few spots to take a dip and soak up the view, so bring your swimsuit!

For a more challenging adventure, continue on to Rainbow Falls & Indian Head (see below), or dive into the High Peaks up Armstrong Mountain! 

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 7 miles
Time: ~2 hours
Cost: Free! However, parking reservations must be made here.

Hikes

Indian Head & Rainbow Falls

If you’re interested in getting outside and seeing some of the best views in the ADKs, Indian Head Lookout is the spot for you. This trail is a loop that starts right on Route 73 near Keene Valley. New York state is known for its rolling hills and lush valleys flowing with fresh water. This hike has them both for a perfect taste of Upstate NY’s charm. 

This view is more widely known, so the trail can get busy! Avoid going during peak season/hours to have a more peaceful experience in nature. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this trail. Keep reading to find a few that your furry friend can join!

Difficulty: Mid-level
Length: 9-11 miles
Time: ~6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet
Cost: Free! However, parking reservations must be made here.

The Adirondacks collect a lot of rainwater and can often turn into a muddy mess. Honestly though, that's half of the fun! Check out Alltrails' recent reviews for trail conditions.

Tupper Lake Triad

While the ADKs are great for a serene exploration into the forest, outdoor recreation rarely comes without some sort of challenge. The Tupper Lake Triad is the perfect easy way to start, combining Mount Arab, Coney Mountain, and Goodman Mountain, into a 3-hike experience that can even be completed in a day! 

Register your hikes and take home a patch as a memory of your hard work and experience. If you’re looking for just a slice of the action, start with Arab Mountain which boasts a fire tower and 360-degree views. 

Mount Arab: 750 feet gained / 2.0 miles total 

Coney Mountain: 548 feet gained / 2.2 miles total 

Goodman Mountain: 581 feet gained / 3.1 miles total 

Mount Marcy

Mount Marcy is a challenging hike that rewards you with stunning views from the highest peak in New York. At an elevation of 5,343′, the rugged trail takes you through a variety of ecosystems, from dense forests to alpine zones, and culminates in a breathtaking panorama of the High Peaks region. An average hiker can accomplish this route in about 9 hours, be sure to pack plenty of water and carry out everything you brought in!

The trailhead is at the Adirondack Loj, a common starting point for many hikes, so parking fills up pretty quickly (before 8 a.m.). There are campsites, lean-tos, and indoor accommodations available, as well as an info center to ask any questions and check your preparedness.

Difficulty: Challenging
Length: 16.2 miles
Time: ~8 hours
Elevation Gain: 3,585 feet
Cost: $15 for parking at Adirondack Loj

Lake Durant at sunset

Cascade & Porter

If you don’t have the ability to commit to Mount Marcy, but still want a bit of the 46er experience, Cascade & Porter might be your best option. The trailhead is located right off of Route 73, and summits at an elevation of 4,098′ and 4,058′ respectively. This is a moderate hike, which takes an average hiker around 6 hours to complete. 

With impressive views, and its accessible location, Cascade & Porter is a perfect first hike for anyone exploring the High Peaks Region in the ADKs.

Difficulty: Mid-level
Length: 5.6 miles
Time: ~5 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,286 feet
Cost: Free!

Campgrounds

Indian Lake Islands Campground

Explore this unique camping option, by getting a remote site on an island in Indian Lake. The 77 available sites are water access only, so be prepared with a canoe or kayak and paddle out to your own private island for a few nights!

This site does book up far in advance, so plan early! Sites start at $20/night and cost $140 for the week. 

Book your stay at Indian Lake Islands Campground through Reserve America.

 

Lake Durant Free Camping

Lake Durant is a quiet and quaint corner of the Adirondack Mountains, and on the map, you’ll easily see the ‘Lake Durant Campground’. However, on the opposite bank of the lake, on ‘Old Rte 28’, there are 2 free-camping sites which are rarely occupied.

The sites come with a fire ring, lake access, a picnic table, and a level ground for sleeping, making it a unique and affordable sleeping option! I found this site listed on iOverland, one of many helpful apps for travel. 

Wilmington Notch Campground

A perfectly located campground with 48 available sites located north of Lake Placid on the Ausable River, Wilmington Notch is in proximity to many highlights of the area. Just down the road is High Falls Gorge which you can explore for $15. However, the campground is located right next to Wilmington Falls, a massive waterfall you can view from above and just as impressive as High Falls!

This campground does book up far in advance, so plan early! Sites start at $18/night and cost $126 for the week. Book your stay at Wilmington Notch Campground through Reserve America. 

Forked Lake Campground

Forked Lake Campground hosts 77 sites offering options for every outdoors person. Hosting a few typical drive-in sites, this campground also offers hike-in and boat-in options! So strap on your boats or tie up your kayaks for an unforgettable experience at Forked Lake Campground. This campground does book up far in advance, so plan early! Sites start at $18/night and cost $126 for the week. 

Book your stay at Forked Lake Campground through Reserve America.

Rollins Pond Campground

With over 240 sites with water access, yet separated from the crowds of Lake Placid, Rollins Pond is a great blend of naturally serene and bustling outdoor activities. This is a perfect campground for people wanting to kayak, canoe, fish, or cycle, with most gear available for rent!

The large body of water, connected with streams and rivers offers an aquatic playground for every explorer. Sites start at $20/night and cost $140 for the week. Book your stay at Rollins Pond Campground through Reserve America,

Accommodations

Adirondak Loj

A perfect lodging place for outdoorsy people looking to get into the raw terrain (even if you don’t want to sleep in a tent). The Loj is a major starting point for many of the High Peaks trails, and a lot of hikers use the area to stay overnight and get off to an early start up the mountains. 

The Loj has campsites, lean-to’s, and indoor accommodations suitable for every type of traveler. The Loj also hosts a High Peaks Information Center, the best place to ask your hiking questions!

Adirondak Loj is at the heart of the High Peaks Wilderness in Adirondack Park
Photo from It's More Fun Outdoors

Ausable Inn

As a personal favorite lodging option, the Ausable Inn is perfectly cozy for a night or 2 to get the Adirondack experience. With warm food, a fireplace, and decor that is as rustic and timeless as the mountains, you will feel like wrapping up with a bug and a mug of hot cider. 

*Google Maps lists the inn as a liquor store, but it is in fact a restaurant and inn! 

TMax-n-Topo's Hostel

If you are traveling on a budget, this lesser-known hostel is a perfect option for you! TMax-N-Topo’s Hostel is comfortable and accommodating for the many guests it holds. It is a great place to meet fellow outdoors people and a great place to start an early morning hike from the Adirondack Loj.

You can get a bed starting at $32 a night, which is unbeatable given the location and ease of staying here. The facilities are clean and comfortable and I definitely recommend staying here!

 

 

Paid Things To Do

Adirondack Experience Museum on Blue Mountain

Immerse in everything ADK at the ADKX Museum on Blue Mountain Lake. See local artists’ representations of natural beauty, dive into immersive exhibitions, and learn the history that has defined these parks. For only $20 admission, you can explore the exhibits inside the museum, join in the current programs and activities, or explore the nature trails and fire tower while learning along the way!

Cloudsplitter Gondola

Lake Placid and the whole High Peaks Region are better appreciated with a view. If you have a day to spare, I highly recommend one of the 46 high peaks, however, if you only have an afternoon then the Cloudslitter Gondola in Lake Placid is the best option. This cable car takes you to the top of Whiteface Mountain, the symbol of the Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid.

If you’re up for an adventure, check out mountain bike rentals at the base and ride down this steep mountain!

Garnet Tour - Gore Mountain Gem & Mineral Shop

There is a lot of history in the Garnet gems found in the Adirondack Park – mostly because they are the hardest Garnet gems you can find in the world! Head over the Gore Mountain Gem & Mineral Shop to take a tour and create jewelry from the gemstones you find yourself!

This is only open between July 1 – Labor Day, costing $18 for adults and $15 for kids. This is a unique offering that you shouldn’t miss out on!

Summary - The Best of the Adirondack State Park

Dive into the natural wonders of the Adirondack Park, a true untouched gem in the Northeast. An old-growth forest teeming with life, where water cascades down shale ledges and the stars illuminate the night sky. The ADKs are a true gem of nature that has been conserved and treasured for over 100 years. 

Get outside into raw mother nature, and see what is waiting for you in Adirondack Park!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in North America, United States, 0 comments