Boots and Boats in the “Forever Wild” Adirondacks

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New York City and Adirondacks are just five hours away from each other but different like day and night. One is best explored by a subway other by boots and boats. As you drive down the winding road, the wilderness stretches out like a dreamscape – scenic mountain valleys hug the crystal-clear lakes and deep lush forests. The never-ending protected park takes over the reins from the city in motion. Open skies replace skyscrapers. I am the lone driver on the spectacular but sleepy highway. The five-hour drive from New York to Adirondacks has drained me but it is no ordinary journey. I’m making a pilgrimage to the Adirondack Park in upstate New York where History has been written several times.

Driving through Adirondacks, New York

It was here in Adirondacks on the damp night of September 14, 1901, the Vice President Theodore Roosevelt made his legendary night ride from the Adirondack Mountains to the Presidency of the United States of America. The word “vacation” was invented in Adirondacks when the richest and most powerful men in the US started ‘vacating’ their homes in summers to spend time in the clean and soothing environs of Adirondacks. From Emerson, Thoreau, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans, DuPonts to Mark Twain; everyone got gripped by the spell of Adirondacks.

The Great Camp, Adirondacks, New York (Pls enlarge to see the pic in full frame)

“Forever Wild” Adirondacks is a big daddy of Parks

Historically the most important but least known park in the US. At 6 million acres, it’s larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Everglades national parks combined. The Park is incredibly wild with 2.6 million acres of forest reserve land, 3,000 lakes, and ponds, 30,000 miles of water bodies, 2,000 miles of hiking trails, 46 peaks above 4,000 feet, 55 species of mammals and 218 species of birds.

Adirondacks Park, New York

One of the many lakes of Adirondacks, New York

Unlike other Parks, there is no entrance fee, no gates, just endless natural preserve and the promise of adventure in every part. It remains the only constitutionally protected “Forever Wild” forest in America. And the locals here take full advantage of the wilderness they are gifted with.

The Adirondacks is a living playground for outdoor lovers. We don’t go to Gym, we just hike or ski in our backyard. There’s a 6-inch rule we follow – if it snows more than 6-inch, we can officially take half day off to ski.

says Kim Rielly, Director of Communication, Adirondacks USA

Four Seasons Playground

Adirondacks is a region where you’ll find scenic beauty and friendly folks in all Four seasons – from summer days kayaking on Saranac Lake, hiking 46 peaks ablaze with autumn foliage, cross-country skiing on powdery slopes to fly-fishing in Spring. And no matter what type of adventure you crave, Adirondacks satiates it – from Scenic hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, fly fishing, snowboarding, Olympic training or just strolling through off the beaten paths.

Skiing in Adirondacks, New York. . Pic cc: Adirondack Experience

Skiing in Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondacks USA

Morning at Long Lake, Adirondacks, New York

 

The fall beauty of Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc Experience Adirondack

The fall beauty of Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondacks USA

Kayaking in the Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondack Experience

Kayaking in the Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondacks USA

Boot up to hike the 46 High Peaks above 4000 Feet

Usually, if you meet someone for the first time, you invite them for a coffee or a meal. But at Adirondacks, you invite them for a hike. My first meeting with Kim was at Owl’s Head mountain. The hike in the great outdoors rewarded me with pure air, grand scenery and a bird’s view of the region that no photoshopped catalog can match. Hiking or mountain biking is the only acceptable currency here.

Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondack Experience

Adirondacks, New York. Pic cc: Adirondacks USA

Valleys carpeted with multicolored wildflowers in spring or the annual outfit change of autumn foliage is a sight to behold. The view from the 46 high peaks is beyond spectacular. The higher you go better the view. There is no shortage of choice of hiking trails in the Adirondacks. From easy to advance, from an hour to several days.

My first meeting with Kim was on top of the Owl mountain, Adirondacks, New York

My first meeting with Kim was on top of the Owl mountain, Adirondacks, New York

Paddle up to surf the scenic lakes and rivers

When you have 3000 lakes and ponds, 30,000 miles of rivers, streams, and ponds, you can’t stay away from cruising the crystal-clear waters for hidden scenic views and exceptional wildlife. In Adirondacks, you don’t rent a boat you own it. Boating goes on irrespective of rain or shine. I kayaked recently at Scottsdale so I opted for talking to the friendly locals, shooting the golden hour and enjoying the Mirror Lake views from the classic Adirondack chairs.Walking along the shoreline of the lakes is another way to savour the indescribable rugged beauty of the scenic Lakes.

Kayaking at the Saranac Lake, Adirondacks, New York

Whitewater rafting on the Hudson River

I am most excited for my full day adventure on the Hudson River with Adirondac Rafting Company. Starting at 7:30 am from Saranac Lake, I pass through extremely scenic winding road over hills, through small villages, rivers and dozens of lakes. Very rarely I come across an oncoming car. It’s early in the morning, the sun had taken a day off. Occasional showers and gray clouds entertain me throughout my 1.5-hour journey. This is pure joy. Along the way, I drive past several crystal-clear Lakes like Indian Lake, Long Lake, and Tupper Lake. Few have seaplanes parked on them.

Long Lake, Adirondacks, New York

Wild Water Rafting on Hudson, Adirondacks, New York

Wild Water Rafting on Hudson, Adirondacks, New York

As I reach my destination, I am given a complete rafting gear and detailed instructions by Bob and his team. I enjoy the 15 miles of torrential action and dozens of breath-taking class IV and V rapids. We stop over for an on-river snack break. After which we continue our adventurous raft journey along wooded shores, into gentle eddies surrounded by towering cliffs. This is a must do for anyone fond of adventure.

Classic Adirondack lodging at historic Great Camp

As I spend more time in Adirondack, I get more interested in knowing about the 19th century extravagant gilded age Elite. On a rain-swept day along with Carrie, my trip-organizer-turned-friend, I drive down to get a peek into the wealth and charm of Adirondack Rustic. At the end of a two-mile dirt road, White Pine Camp stand surrounded by water on three sides and towering pine trees on the fourth. Cabins painted green and black blend into the woods and there is an eerie sense of seclusion.

The White Pine House, Great Camps, Adirondacks, New York

The historic Great Camp is an assertion of rustic yet luxurious retreat, fitting in with nature. The material used are shingle, stone, wood – all found in the park. Recreation has many forms here – grab a canoe, rowboat or kayak from any of the two boathouses and go boating, swim in the crystal-clear waters of Osgood Pond, hike in the Great trails just minutes away or bowl in the vintage bowling alley used by the President himself. Once called the “Summer White House” of President Calvin Coolidge is now open to the public – you can stay here at as low as $95 per night in winters and $155 in summers.

The Great Camp, Adirondacks, New York

After spending time in Adirondacks, all I can say is – once your boots and boats have got a taste of the life and wildlife of wild east – you’ll always return. That’s the spell “Forever Wild” Adirondacks cast on you.

The famous Adirondack Chairs, New York

Transportation

  1. Train: Amtrak trains run from New York, Albany, and Montreal to Westport Station
  2. Car: 5-hour drive from New York City via scenic byways. For car rentals I highly recommend Priceless Rent-a-car. They really live up to their name. Do check my experience with them in my story – The USA Travel: Things You should know before your visit

    Priceless Rental Company, Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

  3. Bus: Adirondack Trailways from New York City and other New York State locations
  4. Flight: Adirondack Regional Airport at Lake Clear and Plattsburgh Airport

Accommodation

Adirondacks has ample stay options from luxury resorts, independent cottages, Bed and Breakfasts to camping in the park. Few places I highly recommend:

  1. Whiteface Lodge: luxury resort cottages at Lake Placid starting at $548. Read my full review here. It is one of the best places in the whole of Adirondacks to have a luxury experience.
  2. Harbor Hill Cottages, independent Lakefront cottages at Saranac Lake starting at $255. I absolutely loved staying here. Denise, my host was very warm and took great care of me and her two cute dogs gave the best possible welcome anyone could ever get. I had complete privacy in my fully furnished cottage. It was right on the Saranac Lake, which made me enjoy the glorious sunrise and sunset.

    Saranac Lake view from my Cottage, Adirondacks

  3. White Pine Camp, the historic great camp cottages at Paul Smiths starts at $155. It is one place that has got so much character you wouldn’t wanna leave. Even if you stay here for a day, it’s worth it.

10 Must Do Activities in Adirondacks, New York

  1. Hike or ski on the 46 Adirondack high peaks.
  2. Kayak the Saranac Lake chain of three lakes. It’s a crime to visit Adirondacks and not paddle.
  3. Tame the wild rapids of Hudson River with Adirondac Rafting Co.
  4. Watch the rescued wildlife or volunteer at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge Centre. Wendy and her husband are doing a great job of saving the rescued wildlife single-handedly without any financial support. Any help would make it easier for them.

    A rescued owl at the Wild refuge, Adirondacks

  5. Visit the Winters Olympic Museum. Lake Placid is the only place that holds the distinction of holding the Winter Olympic games twice (1932 and 1980). It’s a great nostalgic journey to visit the museum and the facility.
  6. Stopover at the Wild Center, a natural history museum
  7. Chase the labyrinth of waterfalls at High Falls Gorge. A well marked easy walk along the stream that gives you gorgeous views of several waterfalls.
  8. Drive on the scenic byways of Adirondack
  9. Buy locally made maple syrup and cheese
  10. Visit micro-breweries, wineries, and distillery

Food & Drinks

  1. The Breakfast Club at Lake Placid: try their signature bloody marys and mimosas
  2. Blue Moon Cafe at Saranac Lake: try their seasonal specials
  3. Adirondack Growl and Grub at Long Lake for Draft beer and Fresh Deli. Ally and her husband are passionate travelers who moved to Adirondacks because of their love for nature and adventure.
  4. The Cottage Cafe at Mirror Lake Inn for spectacular Lake view and delicious food
  5. Bitters and Bones at Saranac Lake for local brews and chili maple wings. They have probably the best staff in the area. Your food can finish but not your conversations with them.

    The beautiful host at Bitter and Bones

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Disclaimer

Thanks a lot, Adirondacks USA for hosting me. As always, the views are mine and based on my personal experiences. The pictures used are either mine or provided by Adirondacks USA.

This the story was published in the Hindu as well as Go Nomad

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21 Comments

  • Anne Slater-Brooks says:

    I have to confess I have heard of this place but don’t really know where it is. It looks absolutely stunning though and a fabulous place to explore.

  • Hugo Cura says:

    I have never heard about Adirondacks but knew that upstate New York had some incredible sights. What a beautiful place to visit! Just my kind of place, with plenty of incredible nature and outdoors activities.

    Will definitely try to visit next time around!

  • Simon says:

    Hi Archana, this place looks pretty amazing… quick question though, is it a national park? Or a state park (or something else)? I’m surprised to hear it’s bigger than Yellowstone and all those others combined!

  • Anna Johnston says:

    HOLY WOW… Adirondacks is totally the big daddy of national parks. 55 species of mammals and 218 species of birds, this little nature loving lady would be in heaven. Your photos are seriously postcard perfect too, fingers crossed one of these days soon I will be able to hike up a couple of those 46 peaks above 4,000 feet, or better yet, take a flight in that sea plane. 🙂

  • I’ve smiled when I read your words that the one is best explored by subway and the other by boat. 🙂
    But what an amazing landscape! Love the view from the Owl Mountain, those clouds look surreal!
    You’re so right, it’s so different that the city, lovely!

  • Lovely! I have been to the New York state but never heard of this place. It was fun knowing how the word “vacation” was invented in Adirondacks. I personally love hiking and glad to know that the park is open in all four seasons. The place is gorgeous and the views are breath-taking. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rishabh & Nirali says:

    Wow, the place looks like a beautiful forest, is it a National Park? The pics are stunning and it looks like you’ve had a wonderful time there. Will have to bookmark this as well for our trip to the region! Sigh so many places to visit and so little time!

  • Barb says:

    Your photos are incredibly beautiful! I lived in NY for 9 years, but never heard about this place. I feel like I will have to go back to visit these undiscovered places.

  • Stevo Joslin says:

    Stunning photos. I had no idea the Adirondacks were so huge! It seems like the perfect vacation spot any time of year. Hiking, kayaking and skiing, oh my!

  • Suzanne says:

    Thank God New Yorkers have an escape like this! That city can get crazy! It’s also fantastic that the park’s free (as God intended)!

  • Joanna says:

    I can’t believe how close this place is from the hustling and bustling New York. Adirondacks looks like a proper nature lover’s paradise! Kayaking on the lake must be so relaxing and peaceful, especially if you do it at sunrise or sunset. Hiking the 46 high peaks sounds like a great way to explore the surroundings as well, especially with those stunning views! I would love to try the rafting as well, I only did it once and it was so much fun.

  • Bhusha says:

    As someone who hasn’t been to USA at all, all of these places look new and interesting! 5 hrs from New York sounds like a long distance! Unless I plan to stay in Newyork for atleast a week, visiting Adiron Rocks may be difficult!!! Wow, the pictures across all 4 seasons, make it an impressive place to visit though… Let’s see if future takes me here!

  • Megan Jerrard says:

    I would love to visit the Adirondacks, yes, 5 hours drive is a long one, but so worthwhile from the sounds of it! I’m a big fan of wildlife, nature and the outdoors, and love visiting National Parks, though haven’t made it to this one yet. I love that there is no entrance fee and that it’s just endless wild preserve. Your photo from above during fall is stunning – what a beautiful time of year to visit!

    Thanks for this post!

  • Karla says:

    I would love to visit the Adirondacks. I don’t care if it takes a while to get there— I think I can just spend more days there then. Everything you wrote about it is just great. These are the types of activities that I would engage in. I honestly love this place.

  • Abigail Sinsona says:

    Wow Adirondacks is truly a natural gem. The sheer size alone is impressive! And the fact that you have lots of activities to do regardless of the season makes it a must visit!

  • Karina says:

    Your photos are absolutely amazing! Truly breathtaking! 🙂
    I would love to do the white water rafting! That seems like such a great adventure. I’ve never really been to New York (just passed through it once) even though I’m American, so I definitely need to plan out a trip for that and include the Adirondacks, as well!

  • Tatum says:

    I love how you encapsulate all four seasons! I think it turns people away not being able to see that you can have fun no matter what the weather is outside! That park looks like something out of a movie, I am dying to visit!

  • Yukti says:

    Lovely pictures of Adriondacks. You have taken shots from different seasons which is lovely part of this post 5 hours journey from busy city of New York to this lovely and stunning place is so beautiful as this place is so relaxing and peaceful. Nice tips on food and accomodation.

  • aareeba says:

    OMG This place is truly beautiful <3 It's shame that I never heard about this place before. Your pictures made me want to plan a trip right now. Thanks a lot for letting us know about this beautiful place

  • Swati says:

    Such a pretty place and guess there are so many friends of mine who are unaware of this beautiful place and they have been staying in US for years

    We wanted to visit Adirondacks during winter when we used to stay in NYC. But the Nemo ruined all our plans. The trains were canceled for weeks…. 🙁

  • I did not know about adirondacks but I am glad I read through your blog. This has to be on my list whenever I am around States. The pictures got me hooked absolutely.

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