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Hiking is the simplest and one of the best ways to experience the outdoors in New York's North Country. Most trails are well maintained and marked by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and many trailheads are along the major routes through the Adirondack area—including Route 28N between North Creek and Long Lake and Route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene.
The most popular—and congested—area for hiking is the High Peaks region, accessible from the Lake Placid area in the north, Keene in the east, and Newcomb in the south. Much ado is made of the so-called Adirondack "46ers"—the people who have ascended the 46 highest peaks in the region. Although the High Peaks area tends to draw the most attention, this is where you find the most rugged hiking. Many less strenuous climbs and hikes offer rewarding views and backwoods experiences, whether for half-day hikes, full-day outings, or multiday backpacking trips. The areas around Schroon Lake, for example, have good hiking with minimal climbing.
The Adirondack Loj, off Route 73 about 7 mi south of Lake Placid, is at the main trailhead to Mt. Marcy, Algonquin, and the rest of the High Peaks core. The lodge is run by the nonprofit Adirondack Mountain Club (aka the ADK), which is a good source for hiking and backcountry information. It publishes a set of regional Adirondack trail guides with topographic maps and trailhead directions. You may buy the guides through the ADK Web site or at its Lake George and High Peaks information centers.
The Adirondack Regional Tourism Council features an interactive map with some North Country hikes on its Web site. You may also obtain a copy of the free "Great Walks & Day Hikes" brochure from the council. 518/846–8016 or 800/487–6867. www.adk.com.
Run by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Adirondack Mountain Club Information Center is a nonprofit group that aims to protect forest, parkland, and other wilderness areas while supporting responsible recreational use. Information about hiking and other recreational activities in Adirondack Park is available here. The center is closed on Sunday. 814 Goggins Rd., Lake George, NY, 12845. 518/668–4447 or 800/395–8080. www.adk.org. Information Center: Adirondack Loj Rd., off Rte. 73, Lake Placid, 12946. 518/523–3441.
In an immense park known for its Olympic-grade mountains, some peaks still manage to stick out. Over the years, hikers have compiled a list of the 46 highest peaks in the park. Although mountain climbers once believed all 46 were higher than 4,000 feet, we know now that the four shortest are not.
They all make for a good climb, though. And if you're ambitious and hardy enough to climb all of them, your feat will get you inducted into Adirondack Forty-Sixers Inc. The 46ers club (www.adk46r.org) promotes conservation and works with the state on projects within the park.
Though many can now claim this accolade, Adirondacks visitors George and Robert Marshall and their guide Herbert Clark became the first to climb the High Peaks in 1925.
According to Adirondack.net, the 46 highest peaks in the park are:
Mt. Marcy, 5,344 feet
Algonquin Peak, 5,114
Mt. Haystack, 4,960
Mt. Skylight, 4,926
Whiteface Mountain, 4,867
Dix Mountain, 4,857
Gray Peak, 4,840
Iroquois Peak, 4,840
Basin Mountain, 4,827
Mt. Colden, 4,714
Giant Mountain, 4,627
Santanoni Peak, 4,607
Mt. Redfield, 4,606
Wright Peak, 4,580
Saddleback Mountain, 4,515
Panther Peak, 4,442
Tabletop Mountain, 4,427
Rocky Peak Ridge, 4,420
Macomb Mountain, 4,405
Armstrong Mountain, 4,400
Hough Peak, 4,400 Seward Mountain, 4,361
Mt. Marshall, 4,360
Allen Mountain, 4,340
Big Slide Mountain, 4,240
Esther Mountain, 4,240
Upper Wolfjaw, 4,185
Lower Wolfjaw, 4,175
Street Mountain, 4,166
Phelps Mountain, 4,161
Mt. Donaldson, 4,140
Seymour Mountain, 4,120
Cascade Mountain, 4,098
South Dix, 4,060
Porter Mountain, 4,059
Mt. Colvin, 4,057
Mt. Emmons, 4,040
Dial Mountain, 4,020
East Dix, 4,012
Cliff Mountain, 3,960
Nye Mountain, 3,895
Couchsachraga Peak, 3,820
Baxter Mountain. A mile-long trek leads you to the 2,440-foot peak of Baxter Mountain, which rises over Keene Valley and affords a view of Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York State. The trailhead begins off Route 9 in Spruce Hill. The hike is about an hour coming and an hour going.
Cascade Lake Trail: Although the trail is a somewhat lengthy 4.6-mi round-trip hike (about 2½ hours), the going is easy and the views of the waterfall near the end are more than enough payoff. There are also swimming and fishing opportunities. To get to the trailhead, head north on Big Moose Road at Eagle Bay and drive for about an hour. Look for the parking area to your right.
Fly Pond Trail: Located right across the road from the Bald Mountain Trail parking area, the Fly Pond trailhead leads to an easy half-hour hike (one way) that is 8/10ths of a mi. Along the way, hikers can take in Fly and Carry Mountain ponds.
Severance Hill Trail. A short trail, Severance Hill winds uphill, leading to views of Schroon Lake and vast tracts of untamed land beyond. The trailhead is located on Route 9, just north of Schroon Lake.
Azure Mountain. This 2-mi (round-trip) hike leads to fabulous views atop Azure Mountain, plus two bonuses: a restored fire tower and, most days, a volunteer guide. To get to the trailhead, take Route 458 to Blue Mountain Road, then putter about 7 mi down the road.
Bald Mountain Trail. One of the more frequented trails, this moderately difficult trail measures about 2 mi round-trip and rewards hikers with magnificent views of the wilderness and the Fulton Chain of Lakes. To get to the trailhead, located in the Old Forge area, travel about 5 mi past the tourist information center on Route 28. Turn left on Rondaxe Avenue and look for the parking lot.
Blue Mountain Trail. At 3,759 feet above sea level, Blue Mountain towers over the waters of Blue Mountain Lake, and this well-maintained, 2.2-mi (one way) trail leads to the summit. At the top, you're greeted by spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and mountains. The trailhead is on Route 30/28N, 1.3 mi north of the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. Look for a parking area not far past the Adirondack Museum, also on Route 30/28, in Blue Mountain Lake.
Cathedral Rocks and Bear Run. This 1.6-mi (one way) trail leads to small waterfalls and some of the more interesting rock formations in the park—your reward for the sometimes-steep gradients you'll climb on the way. The trailhead is off Route 73 a couple of miles south of Keene Valley.
East Trail to Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain. This 16-mi round-trip trail ends at the Giant Mountain summit, passing spectacular views at Blueberry Cobbles, Bald Peak, and Rocky Peak Ridge. When you get to the Giant Mountain summit, you'll have reached an elevation of 4,600 feet, and you'll also have scaled one of the highest of the 46 peaks in the park.
Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain Trail. Climbing another of the highest mountains in the park—Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain, at close to 4,200 feet—is a 13.5-mi, six- to seven-hour endeavor. Here are some of the most beautiful views in the park. The trailhead is located at the parking area opposite the Giant Mountain trailhead on Route 73.
Van Hoevenberg Trail to Mt. Marcy. If you're an ambitious hiker, it would be a shame to leave the park without reaching the top of Mt. Marcy, at 5,344 feet the highest point in all of New York State. Although there are many approaches to the top, we find that the trail from Adirondack Loj, off Rte. 73 in Lake Placid, is one of the simplest to follow. It's 14-mi, round-trip.
Whiteface Mountain Trail. This steep 10.4-mi round-trip climb leads up the slopes of one of the most prominent and well-known peaks in the park, Whiteface Mountain, which looms over Lake Placid and is one of the highest peaks in the park. By the time you get up the steep trail, you'll have reached 4,867 feet. Follow Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway from its intersection with Route 86 about half a mile and look for a Department of Environmental Conservation sign on your left.
The DEC posts important advisories about the many trails located throughout the Adirondacks. For important information, such as whether you're required to wear snowshoes or if a bridge has washed away, check www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html.
High Peaks Information Center, 5 mi south of Lake Placid, is run by the nonprofit Adirondack Mountain Club. It sells camping and hiking gear as well as regional guides and has information about hiking and other recreational activities in the area. 518/523–3441. www.adk.org.
The Adirondacks have a rich guiding tradition that dates back to the early 1800s. Whether you're going fishing, hiking, canoeing, or white-water rafting, a guide can make your trip more enjoyable. Guides, which are licensed by the state, know the best routes and are well versed in the proper safety precautions, and they also can make light work of the cumbersome preparations and logistics necessary for any outing.
You may obtain a list of licensed guides from the New York State Outdoor Guides Association. 1936 Saranac Ave., Lake Placid, NY, 12946. 866/469–7642. www.nysoga.com.