The Adirondack Mountains are one of three major mountain ranges in New York state, joined by the Catskills and a section of the Appalachians.
The mountains and the land surrounding them, comprised of more than six million acres, make up the Adirondack Park. Formed in 1892 and spanning an area bigger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smokies National Parks combined, it’s the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States.
The state-owned land within the park is designated a “forever wild” Forest Preserve, aimed at safeguarding the region’s rare and sensitive forests, waters and wildlife. In 1963, the Forest Preserve was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
Situated in northeastern New York state in an area roughly the size of its neighboring state of Vermont, the park is full of hiking trails, waterfalls, ponds, lakes, mountains, museums, wildlife, nature centers, farms, historic towns, small businesses, ski lodges, snowshoeing trails, fishing spots, and more.
The Adirondack Park is not a national park, nor is it a state park. There is no fee to enter and it never closes. You’ll know you’re there when you start seeing the region’s trademark brown road signs with yellow writing.
My favorite thing to do in the Adirondacks is go hiking. But as you may be starting to understand – this is a huge park! And while its southern border is located just an hour north of where I live, I’ve barely scratched the surface of trail options. In fact, there are more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails to choose from in the Adirondacks. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Here are 10 beautiful hikes in the Adirondacks.
The distances I’ve included with each hike are estimates to give you a general idea of what to expect. Some routes vary based on trail spurs and multiple routes to the summit. I’ve also included the best elevation info I can find for each peak, but some have varying stats.
Porter Mountain in Lake Placid | 4,059 feet
My very first major Adirondacks hike! Porter Mountain is one of the Adirondack 46: a group of 46 peaks reaching a height of 4,000 feet or more. The original list was created by brothers Robert and George Marshall, who spent the years between 1918 and 1924 climbing all 46 peaks with their guide, Herbert Clark.
Newer land surveys have since found that four of the peaks – Blake, Cliff, Nye, and Couchsachraga – are actually just shy of 4,000 feet. Regardless, they are still considered part of the group, and there is even a Forty-Sixers club for climbers aspiring to summit the whole list.
Cascade Mountain in Lake Placid | 4,098 feet
Porter Mountain and Cascade Mountain are a bit of a two-for-one – they’re often paired together as their summits are close to one another and can be reached from the same trail. The full hike including both peaks is about 7.5 miles round trip.
Porter and Cascade were recommended to us as a good high peaks starting point. We had a lovely day, but I honestly felt a little intimidated knowing that these two are only considered beginner hikes!
Rocky Mountain in Inlet | 2,225 feet
Not sure about the high peaks yet? Never fear. The rest of the options on this list have lower summits, but still offer stunning views.
The summit of Rocky Mountain is just a half mile from the trailhead. This is a great spot for sunset overlooking a beautiful panorama of Fourth Lake.
Bald Mountain in Webb | 2,350 feet
Many Adirondacks hikes have fire towers at their summit, and Bald Mountain is home to the region’s most popular. This two-mile round-trip hike leads you to beautiful views over the Fulton Chain of Lakes (a collection of lakes named after the inventor of the steamboat). Climb to the top of the fire tower for a 360-degree vantage point.
Click here for a full list of ADK fire towers and click here to learn about the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge.
Indian Head and Fishhawk Cliffs in Keene | 2,667 feet
Indian Head is the longest hike on this list, but the summit has one of my favorite views. Clocking in somewhere between 10 and 12 miles depending on your exact route, you’ll definitely want to get an early start for this one – and bring snacks. (A given, no?)
One of the reasons the hike to Indian Head is so long is that the trailhead is located on a private reserve and access is only available through a hiking easement. This means that you can’t park at the actual trailhead. That said, the extra miles are low-key and flat – and the views from the top will be worth it!
Indian Head – and the nearby Fishhawk Cliffs detour, which I recommend tacking on as well – may make you wonder if you’re in New York or Norway. There’s a definite fjord vibe happening here, and it’s very dreamy.
We did this hike in late summer, and I’d love to go back in the fall sometime to see the view with the changing leaves.
Goodnow Mountain in Newcomb | 2,690 feet
Coming in at just over four miles round trip, this is another summit featuring a historic fire tower; but this one, you have to climb. Whereas you’ll enjoy great views at Bald Mountain from the summit or the fire tower, at Goodnow you really need to climb the tower in order to see anything.
I won’t lie, climbing this one on a windy day was a little freaky. But the 360-degree views from the top are stunning, so it was worth it. Just don’t look straight down!
This trail is part of land owned by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF).
Anthony’s Nose Preserve in Putnam Station | 1,265 feet
Anthony’s Nose Preserve is a protected area on Lake George that serves as a peregrine falcon breeding spot. Peregrine falcons are endangered in New York state, so despite the name of the trail, you won’t actually hike all the way to the preserve – just to a viewpoint overlooking it.
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This is a quick one, just about one mile round trip, but it’s very steep. When you’re navigating to the trailhead, make sure you’re heading to 181-259 Schwerdfeger Road – there is more than one trail with this name in New York!
Black Mountain in Clemons | 2,665 feet
This trail is about six miles long round trip. Black Mountain’s summit offers beautiful views over Lake George, one of the most iconic lakes in the Adirondacks. There is yet another fire tower at the top of Black Mountain, but it is not open to the public. Regardless, the views from the summit itself are stunning.
A note on this one – when we hiked it this summer, it was extremely muddy and wet. We spent a lot of time veering slightly off of the trail or sticking right on the edge of it to avoid the waterlog. Not a huge deal, but it did slow us down a bit. Definitely opt for a waterproof footwear option and bring an extra pair of socks to change into after, just in case.
Castle Rock Mountain in Blue Mountain Lake | 2,480 feet
This is one of the most recent hikes I’ve taken in the Adirondacks and I absolutely loved it. The trail is between three and four miles round trip depending on your route. Be prepared to do a little rock scrambling near the top. The view from the summit overlooks Blue Mountain Lake, dotted with a collection of lovely little islands.
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After your hike, stop by Blue Mountain Designs, a shop showcasing Adirondack makers, and grab a coffee from on-site Schoolhouse Grounds (so named because the building, built in 1895, was originally a schoolhouse).
Panther Mountain in Arietta | 2,415 feet
Another short but steep climb, the hike to the top of Panther Mountain and back is about a mile and a half. The view at the top looks over Piseco Lake and the southern Adirondacks. For my local Central New Yorkers, the location and length of this hike make it a great day trip option.
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Have you ever visited the Adirondacks? If you’re familiar with the area, what hike should be next on my list? Let me know in the Comments!
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