If you are yearning for a fun and exciting hiking adventure, look no further than the many scenic trails of the Adirondacks. This large mountainous area of upstate New York may not have the tallest mountains in the U.S. but is full of breathtaking hikes that range from easy two hour walks to 7+ hour summits.
In the Adirondacks, there are hundreds of trails to choose from, 46 of which reach an elevation of 4,000 feet. Keep reading to find out more about the 10 best hiking trails in the Adirondacks from the tough climbs to the relaxing nature walks.
Why the Adirondacks an Amazing Hiking Destination
The Adirondacks are a great hiking destination because they offer so much beauty and variety. Covering over 2,000 miles of scenic forest, you’ll find everything from rocky alpine peaks to tree-shrouded paths that wind past waterfalls and caves. No matter the type of hike you prefer, you’ll be able to find enjoyable trails here.
If you are a serious nature-lover looking for tough challenges and climbs, the Adirondacks also have you covered with their 46 peaks above 4,000 feet. Although the elevation of the mountains in the Great Range may seem small compared to the Rockies, hiking up the Adirondacks is well worth it due to the tough trails and sweeping views.
You can even take on the challenge of becoming a 46er by summiting all 46 of the Adirondacks’ tallest mountains!
Photo by Hazal Ozturk on Unsplash
10 Best Adirondacks Hiking Trails
There are so many incredible hikes in the Adirondacks, that it can be hard to work out which trails are the best. To help you make your decision, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most exciting hikes ranging from quick and easy trails to long and rewarding summits.
1. Mount Arab
Length: 1 mile
Mount Arab is one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks because it is quick and easy but has a steep and fun trail that ends in sweeping views of the surrounding area. The net elevation gain on this hike is around 700 feet and it is a great option for families and kids.
At the top, you’ll find one of the region’s signature fire towers and an interesting museum about the area’s history, making this trail the perfect introduction to the area.
2. Mount Haystack
Length: 18.5 miles
As opposed to Mount Arab which is great fun for people of all ages, Mount Haystack is the perfect challenge for experienced hikers who are looking for an adventure. This mountain is one of 46 peaks above 4000 feet and takes around 12 hours to hike roundtrip.
Hikers who choose this trail will not only be rewarded with sweeping views but will also catch a glimpse of the neighboring Mount Marcy, the tallest peak in the range.
3. Castle Rock
Length: 3.4 miles
Castle Rock by the Blue Mountain Lake is a relaxing trail that is great for bird watchers and includes a small summit. On this hike, you can choose to take the steeper and shorter path or the loop trail which is longer but easier.
Castle Rock is a perfect day hike option for families and anyone who doesn’t want to spend 10 grueling hours on a difficult trail. This is also one of the better places to catch a glimpse of the rare Adirondack bald eagle.
4. Mount Colden
Length: 12.6 miles
The Mount Colden hike is a fun and challenging experience that takes an average of 10 hours to complete. This one is recommended for experienced hikers because of sections like the Avalanche Pass where you’ll traverse ladders and boardwalks hanging high above the canyon or walk along pathways bolted directly to the rockface with nothing but water below.
Mount Colden is one of the most popular difficult trails in the region because it offers incredible views throughout but also from the top where hikers can take in the breathtaking scenery of rocky peaks in all directions.
5. Hanging Spear Falls
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
Length: 12 miles
Besides the mountains, the other major aspect of the Adirondacks that draws in so many travelers is the region’s stunning waterfalls. The Hanging Spear Falls trail is one of the more interesting and challenging waterfall trails. It follows the Opalescent River and ends in a picturesque 75-foot tall roaring waterfall.
Hikers will also pass a few other natural falls along the way. Before you start this hike, one thing to be aware of is that even though the trail starts easy, it ends in a steep and difficult climb up to the falls.
6. Cascade Mountain
Length: 4.8 miles
If you want to hike a mountain but don’t have a ton of hiking experience, Cascade Mountain is a great choice. This trail is perfect for beginners and is one of the only 46ers that can be summited without expending a lot of energy and time.
We recommend starting on this trail in the wee hours of the morning so you can reach the summit by sunrise for stunning 360-degree views.
7. Cobble Lookout
Length: 2.4 miles
Cobble Lookout is one of our favorite hikes because it offers alpine mountain views without the difficult trail and steep climbs. From Cobble Lookout, hikers will be treated to excellent views of Whiteface Mountain which is one of the tallest in the range.
The Cobble Lookout hike is great for both first-timers and experienced hikers. It is also a quiet hike without the busy trails and crowds that some of the more popular routes experience.
8. Gothics Mountain
Length: 11.6 miles
This 9-hour hike is not recommended for inexperienced hikers or children and is a challenging trip to the top of one of the highest mountains in the range.
If you do choose to hike this trail, you will be treated to unforgettable views from rocky cliffside trails. The views on this hike are not hindered by forests and trees as most of the mountainside is made of bare stone that was formed by an avalanche.
9. Mount Marcy
Length: 14.8 miles
Mount Marcy is the highest mountain in the Adirondacks and although that may sound intimidating, the hike up the mountain is long and gradual making this a very popular trail. As the tallest mountain around, the view from the top of Mount Marcy is spectacular.
10. Big Slide Mountain
Length: 9.5 miles
The Big Slide Mountain hike is a fun trail that is manageable for first-timers and families. This hike includes three small summits before it ends at the main summit that offers views of the surrounding mountains including the Gothics.
How to Choose the Best Hike for You
Because the Adirondacks cover such a large area of land, they offer plenty of trails for all types of hikers. Whether you want to head for the most difficult summits like Mount Haystack and the Gothics or take in the beauty of the forests and waterfalls at Cobble Lookout or the Hanging Spear Falls, you’ll be able to find trails that suit your hiking goals and level.
As always, before you go out hiking make sure you are prepared with all the necessary supplies and gear for your trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have some more questions? Take a look at what other hikers are asking below!
1. Are hiking trails open in the Adirondacks?
Yes! Hiking trails are currently open in the Adirondacks despite some COVID restrictions. Although the park is open, it’s important to know that some popular restaurants, hotels, and businesses remain closed.
2. What is the hardest hike in the Adirondacks?
Mount Haystack, the Gothic Mountains, and Algonquin are all considered to be the most difficult summits in the region.
3. Can you hike the Adirondacks right now?
Yes! Hikes are open with some limitations. No new camping reservations are allowed and all fire towers are closed (trails with fire towers are still open).
4. How long does it take to hike the Adirondacks?
The Adirondacks cover a huge swath of land, so hiking the whole reserve will take a very long time. Summiting one of the many mountains in the park can take anywhere from 7 to 12 hours.
5. Why are the Adirondacks not a national park?
The Adirondacks are a large area of land that includes a state park as well as many private and protected properties. The area considered part of the Adirondacks is much larger than most national parks and is more developed and less pristine.
6. What is considered the Adirondacks?
The Adirondacks are an area of old mountains and forests in northern New York that stretch from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain.
7. What state are the Adirondacks in?
The Adirondacks are located in New York state around four hours north of New York City.