Adirondack Park in New York State offers vast wilderness, beautiful lakes and ponds, and 46 mountain peaks over 4,000 feet. At about 6 million acres, it is the largest park in the contiguous United States, larger than the entire state of New Hampshire. Where should a visitor start?
I asked Peter Kick, author of the new book, Discover the Adirondacks: AMC’s Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking, and Paddling, for some suggestions. Here are his favorites for families looking to explore the park. The first two trips are near Fish Creek Pond Campground and Rollins Pond Campground, two great places to pitch your tent for an outdoor adventure. The second two are near Old Forge, a popular tourist area.
1. Hiking Coney Mountain
“At 2.0 miles (round-trip) and a scant 500-foot elevation gain, this is the ideal hike for a wide ability group, and especially friendly to first-time-ever hikers,” Kick told me in an email. “If you can walk, you can climb Coney Mountain!”
From the summit, which is reached via a gentle, well-marked trail, hikers are treated with a 360-degree view of the surrounding Tupper Lake region, including such landmarks as Haystack and Buck mountains and Mount Marcy, the state’s highest mountain, which was earlier called Tahawus (“Cloud-Splitter”). Families who want to tackle more in the same day can plan ahead and also paddle on Little Tupper Lake or hike Mount Arab. Those who are ready for a more difficult hike in the area might try St. Regis Mountain or Ampersand Mountain on another day.
The water of the small ponds and streams on this 7.5-mile loop is flat and easily managed, and the wildlife is plentiful. Look for osprey, eagles, herons, and mergansers, as well as trout. Don’t let the “pond hopping” discourage you—the distances for the three carries are short (three tenths of a mile or less) and you can wheel your boat between waterways, if you have a canoe dolly. The carries are marked with signs.
The loop passes through the Rollins Pond Campground, where you can stay for a fee and can rent canoes, kayaks, and rowboats. Rentals of boats, canoe dollies, and camping equipment are available at nearby St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, and you may camp for free at designated campsites along the ponds, including some sites on islands.
“This trip is logistically simple, with not a lot of fussing to get boats, car-topping, or route finding,” Kick says. It is “the ideal guided discovery for youngsters in active outing families or those aspiring to be.”
3. Hiking Bald Mountain
Bald Mountain (also called Rondaxe, after a nearby lake) in Old Forge is “probably the most popular family hike in the Adirondacks,” Kick says. It’s just 2 miles round-trip and the elevation gain is 440 feet, so it’s relatively easy to get to the top, but the pay-off is tremendous: 360-degree views from the fire tower across the Fulton Chain of Lakes, a string of eight lakes connected by straits or short portages. This is also a dog-friendly hike near other tourist attractions, so expect crowds on warm summer days.
4. Bicycling to Carter Station—With Help from a Train
Kick calls this “the coolest bike trip EVER.” To do it, board the Adirondack Scenic Railroad with your bike at Thendara Station, 1 mile south of Old Forge. Leaving at 10 a.m., the diesel-powered train (which carries canoes as well as bicycles and passengers) takes you on a 45-minute, 6-mile ride through the woods and along the Moose River to the Town of Webb’s extensive, well maintained mountain biking trail system. From there you cycle back to Old Forge and enjoy some easy riding on the town’s streets along the paved TOBIE Trail (TOBIE stands for Thendara-Old Forge-Big Moose-Inlet-Eagle Bay). Any fat tire or hybrid bike can make the easy 8-mile trip; Kick estimates the total time for the loop, including the train ride, at about 3 hours. Riders who want to explore more will find lots of loops and side trails, none of them steep.
– You can find more details about these trips, and many others, in Discover the Adirondacks.
Photo of Peter Kick courtesy of Peter Kick.
Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Heather Stephenson.